NHL’s Top 10 Coaches for 2023-24: Midseason Update

Prior to the 2023-24 season beginning, THW put lists together on the top 10 players for each position, as well as coaches. It goes without saying that it is a very tough list to do given how subjective it is, but nevertheless, we are here to do it once again.

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This list is not so much of a ranking as who we believe the top 10 coaches overall in the league are, but a mixture of the 10 we believe to be at the top of the charts through the first half of the season, paired with how we envision them working out in the future. With that said, let’s take a look.

10. Andrew Brunette

Many felt that the Florida Panthers made the wrong choice when they decided to hire Paul Maurice after Andrew Brunette led them to a 51-18-6 record as their interim head coach. The decision by the Panthers brass seems to have paid off, as they were able to reach the Stanley Cup Final under Maurice. Still, it was clear that they gave up a very good coach in Brunette, and the Nashville Predators are reaping the rewards.

Andrew Brunette Nashville Predators
Andrew Brunette, Nashville Predators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Coaching what was supposed to be a poor Predators team this season, Brunette has helped lead them to an impressive 29-25-2 record through 56 games. They are currently tied for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, a spot that few pictured them being in before the season began.

9. Bruce Cassidy

When he was fired by the Boston Bruins after the 2021-22 season, most figured Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t remain without a job for very long. That was the case, as he was scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights almost immediately afterward, and has continued to have tremendous success.

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In his first season with the Golden Knights, he led them to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship. While he is known to be hard on his players, he joined a team that was in some clear need of accountability after missing the playoffs the season prior, and was able to add just that.

8. Rod Brind’Amour

If this list were simply ranking the best coaches throughout the league, rather than how they have done through the first half of the 2023-24 season, Rod Brind’Amour would be much higher on this list. The 53-year-old has done a phenomenal job of turning the Carolina Hurricanes into Stanley Cup contenders since being named as their head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season. That said, they are struggling a bit this year compared to past seasons.

Other THW Positional Rankings:

While the Hurricanes do still sit second in the Metropolitan Division, they haven’t looked like their usual dominant selves through 55 games. Goaltending struggles have played a major part in that, but nonetheless, Brind’Amour’s current spot on this list is lower than it has been in the past.

7. Rick Bowness

Despite having to be away from the Winnipeg Jets for a month due to his wife having a seizure, Rick Bowness deserves a ton of credit for the team’s success. Much like the Predators, they were expected to be a team that finished near the bottom of the standings in 2023-24. Instead, they currently sit seventh in the NHL with a 34-14-5 record.

Rick Bowness Winnipeg Jets
Rick Bowness, Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bowness has gotten this team to completely buy-in, and the results thus far speak for themselves. What makes their first half of the season all the more impressive is that they have managed to continue racking up wins despite being without their best forward in Kyle Connor for a period of time. That in itself speaks to how good of a job Bowness is doing.

6. Paul Maurice

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, many felt the Panthers made the wrong decision when they chose to walk from Brunette in favour of Paul Maurice. Any detractors of the situation have since been silenced, however, as Maurice has had plenty of success during his short time with the Cats.

After barely squeaking into the playoffs last season, Maurice led the Panthers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Some thought it was simply a case of a team getting hot at the right time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case given their play through the first half of 2023-24. With a 37-15-4 record, they currently sit second in the Atlantic Division and look like a legitimate contender this time around.

5. Jared Bednar

Jared Bednar has been blessed with an excellent roster, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a phenomenal head coach. The 51-year-old has missed the playoffs just once in his seven seasons behind the bench of the Colorado Avalanche and has them well on their way to qualifying for the dance once again in 2023-24.

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Through 57 games this season, the Avs sit sixth in league standings with a 52-18-4 record. While they do have some great talent, they have also dealt with plenty of injuries, including to Gabriel Landeskog, who has yet to play a game this season. Despite injuries and some very underwhelming goaltender, Bednar’s great coaching has allowed the Avalanche to remain one of the league’s best teams.

4. Peter Laviolette

When the New York Rangers chose to hire Peter Laviolette this past summer, some were critical of the decision. The main source of complaints was that it was just another recycled coach getting yet another opportunity, while there were better, younger candidates available. That has quickly proven to be false.

Peter Laviolette New York Rangers
Peter Laviolette, head coach of the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Through 56 games, the Rangers own a Metropolitan Division-best 37-16-3 record. While the Rangers are a team with a ton of talent, Laviolette has really done a good job at getting them to play as more of a five-man unit, and it is resulting in plenty of success. Once Igor Shesterkin gets going, look out.

3. Rick Tocchet

Not many had thought the Vancouver Canucks would be in the running for the Pacific Division title, but that is exactly what has through the first half of the season. The Canucks, under head coach Rick Tocchet’s guidance, sit at 37-15-8 through 58 games.

For several years, it has been apparent that this Canucks team has had the skill, but they lacked any sort of structure to be successful. That has completely changed under Tocchet’s watch, as has their willingness to play for one another. Any supposed locker room issues that popped up with this team in the past are no longer since Tocchet came in late last season.

2. Jim Montgomery

To this point in NHL history, Jacques Demers is the only coach to win the Jack Adams Award in consecutive seasons. While there is still half a season to be played, Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery could very well become the second. The 54-year-old won the award in 2022-23 after leading the Bruins to a 65-12-3 record.

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With the retirements of both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci this offseason, the Bruins were supposed to regress in a big way. In fact, many thought they may miss the playoffs entirely with Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha serving as their top two centres. Instead, they are first in the Atlantic Division with a 34-12-11 record.

1. John Tortorella

It seems that whenever a team coached by John Tortorella struggles, the narrative begins that his old-school approach no longer works. Then, a short time later, the two-time Jack Adams Award winner shows the world that he is still one of the best in the business.

John Tortorella Philadelphia Flyers
John Tortorella, Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tortorella seems to thrive when coaching an underdog team, making him a perfect fit for the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that most expected to be in the running for the first overall pick at the 2024 Draft instead sits third in the Metro with a 30-20-7 record. Given their expectations entering the season, Torts serves as the favourite to win the Jack Adams at this time.