Top 5 Coaches of the Decade

As a new decade begins, it is important to take a step back and reflect on all the history that was made over the past 10 years. The NHL has seen many coaches come and go over the past 10 years, especially within the past month or two of the current season.

In a time where the turnover rate among coaches is high and their leashes are shorter than ever, the accomplishments of the individuals on this list become even more impressive. Some of these coaches have led their franchises to multiple championships within a very short timeframe, while others guided their respective teams to their first ever Stanley Cup championships, ending decades of misery for their respective fanbases.

5) Peter Laviolette

Despite not winning a Stanley Cup this decade, Peter Laviolette has helped his team achieve a great level of success nearly every season. To begin the decade, “Lavy” led the Philadelphia Flyers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season behind the Philadelphia bench. He was successful for the next two seasons as well, guiding the Flyers to two very strong regular seasons, though the team lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals both years. Following Laviolette’s tenure in Pennsylvania, no other Flyers coach has been able to extract the same level of success, as he still remains the last Flyers coach to win a playoff round.

After a decent tenure with the Flyers, Laviolette was hired by the Nashville Predators in 2014. His hiring changed Predators hockey forever and helped turn Nashville into a fully-fledged hockey town. With him at the helm, the Preds have experienced great success and made the playoffs each of the past five seasons.

Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette
Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Despite failing to win hockey’s greatest prize, the Predators made a few deep playoff runs, even reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 before ultimately losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Laviolette’s impact on the Predators franchise and the Nashville market has been tremendous, helping transform a non-traditional hockey market into one of the league’s top fanbases, as well as a top destination for free agents and a place where players yearn to play.

Decade record: 374-226-82, .603 points percentage

4) Gerard Gallant

Though Gallant’s coaching record is not as extensive as some of this list’s other members, he has been quite successful in his short time behind the bench. In 2015-16, he led a perennially underachieving Florida Panthers team to the top spot in the Atlantic Division. However, his success in Florida did not last long, as he was infamously fired at the beginning of the following season.

The Panthers’ loss, however, was the Vegas Golden Knights’ gain, as he was hired as the first head coach in franchise history and led the team to unexpected and unprecedented success for an expansion franchise. Many pegged the Golden Knights to be embarrassingly bad and among the league’s bottom feeders, though Gallant and the Vegas players had no such plans.

Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights
Head Coach Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights poses for a portrait with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (L) and the Jack Adams Award at the 2018 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The ‘Golden Misfits’ achieved tremendous success in their inaugural season with Gallant behind the bench, proving all of the doubters dead wrong. The Knights were on fire all season long and reached the Stanley Cup Final before their eventual defeat by the Washington Capitals. The team’s torrid success continued the following season and they likely would have made another deep playoff run if not for a very questionable call in Game 7 of the first round.

Decade record: 190-121-39, .594 points percentage

3) Mike Sullivan

The 2015-16 season did not begin the way the Penguins intended it to, as Mike Sullivan was thrust into head coaching duty just 28 games into the season. Instead of panicking, Sullivan quickly took control and righted the ship, leading the Penguins to tremendous success and forever changing the history of the franchise.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Mike Sullivan
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Sullivan successfully guided the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in his first season on the job. However, he showed no signs of slowing his torrid pace and led the team to another championship the following season. Despite not repeating this level of success the past couple of seasons, he still made the playoffs both seasons and has certainly cemented himself among the greatest coaches in Penguins’ history.

Decade record: 174-92-34, .638 points percentage

2) Barry Trotz

For a long time, Barry Trotz was characterized as a good coach who could never get his team over the hump. This reputation remained true during his first three seasons as the Capitals’ head coach, consistently leading the team to excellent regular seasons, but ultimately losing in the second round of the playoffs each year.

Trotz finally shed the ‘good regular season coach’ label during the 2017-18 season when he led the Capitals to the promised land, helping the team secure its first ever Stanley Cup championship and thus ending over four decades of misery. However, while his success would continue, it was not with the Capitals.

Unable to come to terms on a new contract and with assistant coach Todd Reirden ready to take over, Trotz became one of the rare coaches to leave his team after winning a cup. With a championship now on his impressive resume, he cashed in, signing a lucrative ticket to become the New York Islanders’ next coach. With former captain John Tavares leaving in free agency to sign with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, many expected the Isles to falter.

Barry Trotz
New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Trotz had no such plans, as he transformed the Islanders into one of the NHL’s top teams, shocking the entire hockey world. The team went from having the league’s worst defense and goaltending the prior season, to the NHL’s best defense and goaltending during Trotz’s first season. The Islanders were a logical and popular regression candidate heading into the current season, though they sit comfortably in a playoff position thus far and show no signs of slowing down, thanks to Trotz’s intelligence and leadership.

Decade record: 446-253-87, .615 points percentage

1) Joel Quenneville

Joel Quenneville was a major part of the legendary Chicago Blackhawks dynasty over the past decade. Coach Q helped lead the Hawks to three Stanley Cup titles over the past 10 years, despite major roster turnaround due to salary cap constraints.

Joel Quenneville Blackhawks
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks, Nov. 9, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blackhawks emerged as one of the NHL’s most elite and dangerous teams as soon as Quenneville took the helm, consistently performing as one of the league’s best teams in both the regular season and playoffs. In his second season behind the Blackhawks bench, Coach Q helped the team secure their first Stanley Cup title since 1961. The Blackhawks would be the league’s team to beat for many years to follow.

Following a pair of earlier playoff exits, the Blackhawks made their return to the promised land, securing their second Stanley Cup of the decade in 2013. After a defeat in the Western Conference Final to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings the following season, the Blackhawks returned to glory one more time in 2015, capturing their third Stanley Cup in just six seasons.

Though the Blackhawks remained an elite regular season team over the next couple seasons, they could not continue their playoff success, as they were knocked out in the first round each of the next two seasons. Quenneville fell victim to an ageing and cap-constrained Blackhawks team that failed to continue the team’s past success and was ultimately let go just 15 games into last season. Now, he looks to bring the same level of success to the Florida Panthers and invigorate some signs of life into a struggling, non-traditional hockey market.

Decade record: 407-227-85, .625 points percentage

Honorable Mention: Craig Berube

While Craig Berube lacks an extensive coaching background and was left off the top five list due to a small sample size, he still deserves recognition because of his remarkable accomplishments. After a couple of tumultuous seasons coaching the Flyers, Berube did not get another head coaching opportunity until last season after he replaced Mike Yeo as the St. Louis Blues’ head coach less than 20 games into the season.

Craig Berube, Jake Berube
St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube, along with his son Jake, carry the Stanley Cup during a visit to his home town of Calahoo, Alta. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Many wrote off the Blues as they spent the first half of the season among the league’s bottom-feeders, and sat dead last in the NHL in January. While many of the teams surrounding them in the standings had their eyes set on the draft lottery, Berube and the Blues had other aspirations. From that point forward, the Blues went on a complete tear and rapidly rose up the standings, eventually thrusting themselves into playoff positions.

Armed with a fiery new coach and a red hot goaltender in Jordan Binnington, the Blues showed no signs of slowing down, ultimately reaching the Stanley Cup Final. They fought long and hard in the Final, eventually defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 and bringing home the Blues’ first ever Stanley Cup. Berube earned himself a nice pay raise and contract extension, and the Blues look to repeat this season, as they have established themselves as the Western Conference’s team to beat.

Decade record: 113-77-34, .586 points percentage