Prior to the 2022-23 season beginning, I 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, I am here to do it once again, albeit this time as more of a midseason update.
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This list is not so much of a ranking as who I believe the top 10 coaches overall in the league are, but the 10 I believe have done the best jobs with their teams through the midway point of the season. With that said, let’s take a look.
10. Sheldon Keefe
Because of the fact that he coaches the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe has been criticized at times this season despite the fact that his team is on pace for 109 points. While they may not reach last season’s total of 115, he has still done a great job, even with some of his top stars not playing like their elite selves just yet. (from ‘Damien Cox: Time for Maple Leafs to fire coach Sheldon Keefe and bring in Bruce Boudreau’, Toronto Star 02/13/23).
After last year’s 60-goal campaign, Auston Matthews has regressed in a big way with just 26 in 50 thus far. Meanwhile, Mitch Marner’s 66 points in 57 games put him on pace for 94 points, just two more than last season despite the fact he missed 10 games in 2021-22. If both are able to get back to last season’s level of play any time soon, expect the Leafs to get red hot down the stretch.
9. Bruce Cassidy
After being fired by the Boston Bruins this past year, Bruce Cassidy spent just one week on the unemployment line before being scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights. He was coming into a situation with plenty of pressure, as this was a team with high expectations that failed to make the playoffs in 2021-22.
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So far, so good for Cassidy, as he has the Golden Knights sitting first in the Pacific Division. His team had struggled through January but appears to have picked things back up this month and is currently on a five-game winning streak. Thanks in large part to their bench boss, they are a serious contender out of the West this season.
8. Jon Cooper
Having first been hired back in 2013, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jon Cooper is the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach, and for good reason. Not only has Cooper been able to lead them to Stanley Cup Championships in both 2020 and 2021, but he has also seemingly had them amongst the league’s best standings-wise each and every regular season.
The 2022-23 campaign has been no different in that regard, as the Lightning sit sixth in league standings with 73 points through 55 games. Their overall roster continues to be one of the most talented in the NHL, and with Cooper at the helm, no one would be surprised to see them win their third Stanley Cup in four attempts later this year.
7. Gerard Gallant
After an outstanding 2021-22 season which saw them advance to the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers had many doubting they could reach the same highs in 2022-23. After all, several players had career seasons, including Chris Kreider who entering the year had never topped the 30-goal mark popped off for 52.
Early in the season, those doubts appeared to be justified, as the Rangers struggled to gain any form of consistency. However, as Gallant has been able to throughout his lengthy coaching career, he quickly got them back on track to the point that they are once again being viewed as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. What is even crazier is that they have been able to have this success despite the fact that Igor Shesterkin hasn’t been all that good. If he heats up, this will be a scary, scary team to face.
6. Rod Brind’Amour
Since taking over the head coaching role ahead of the 2018-19 season, Rod Brind’Amour has consistently made the Carolina Hurricanes one of the hardest teams to play against in the NHL. They are a team who is relentless on the forecheck and makes life extremely difficult on each and every opponent due to their outstanding work ethic.
The one criticism this team has faced in recent seasons is that they lack a true superstar talent, but you wouldn’t know it simply based on their success over the past five regular seasons. That in large part is due to their coach, who was named the Jack Adams Award winner after the 2020-21 season, and for good reason.
5. Rick Bowness
After leading the Dallas Stars to a surprise Stanley Cup final run during the COVID shortened 2019-20 season, Rick Bowness was a part of two rather mediocre seasons before choosing to step away from the club after 2021-22. Many figured that may be the last we had seen from the now 68-year-old behind an NHL bench, but that wasn’t the case, as the Winnipeg Jets chose to hire him a short time after.
The hiring caught many off guard at the time, but those who had doubts quickly changed their opinions, as Bowness has this Jets team playing as well as they have in some time. After missing the playoffs in 2021-22, the Jets trail the Stars by just one point for first in the Central Division. His more relaxed, easygoing approach seems to be resonating with his players in a big way.
4. Dave Hakstol
When he was hired by the Seattle Kraken roughly a month before their expansion draft, many viewed Dave Hakstol as a sacrificial lamb in what figured to be a rough first few seasons. After all, his tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers was a complete disaster. He is quickly proving, however, that he is a much better coach than most had given credit.
After a rough opening season, the Kraken have taken many by surprise this season. In what was supposed to be another rebuilding year, they currently sit third in the Pacific Division and are just two points shy of the first-place Golden Knights. Much like the Canes, they are proving to be a very difficult team to play against, and Hakstol deserves a ton of credit for that.
3. Pete DeBoer
After missing the playoffs in 2021-22, the Golden Knights chose to fire Pete DeBoer. Many felt his firing was unjustified as the team’s struggles had more to do with roster issues than his coaching, and just a season later, he is proving to the world once again that he indeed remains a great coach.
In his first season with the Stars, DeBoer has them atop the Central Division. While that in itself is impressive, perhaps even more so is that he has players like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who were viewed by many as washed-up, making nightly contributions that have been imperative to the team’s success.
2. Lindy Ruff
Heading into 2022-23, expectations were once again quite low for the Devils, who despite years of struggles didn’t seem to have much boding well for them in the future. That outlook has changed drastically, however, as they got off to an incredible start to begin the season and haven’t shown any signs of slowing down.
After having a fan base who wanted him fired to begin the season, Lindy Ruff is now revered by Devils fans, as he is seemingly squeezing every bit of talent there is to get from this roster. While it remains to be seen whether or not they are deep enough to go on a lengthy playoff run, this regular season alone is enough to give fans plenty of excitement for what’s to come in future years.
1. Jim Montgomery
What a story it has been for Jim Montgomery and the Boston Bruins this season. After being fired by the Dallas Stars during the 2019-20 season and shortly after entering rehab for alcohol abuse, he was given an opportunity for a new head coach gig this summer in a move that is paying off in spades for the organization.
Entering the season, many thought the Bruins may struggle to make the playoffs given that they were expected to be without both Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy for the start of the year. Instead, through 56 games, they own a ridiculous 43-8-5 record. Their 91 points through just 56 games played have tied them with the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers as the fastest NHL team to ever hit the 90-point mark. Safe to say, if the season were to end today, there is little question as to who the Jack Adams Award winner would be.
Feedback on List
As there will certainly be some disagreement with this list, feedback is both welcomed and encouraged in the comments section. Whether you believe any particular coach is too high, too low, or think someone should or shouldn’t have been included, please let it be known below.