Did Al Arbour (coach of '80s Islanders Cup winners) produce an NFL-style 'coaching tree'?

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billbelinfl.jpgIn the NFL, it’s very common for a successful coach to develop a “coaching tree.” Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense produced acolytes such as Andy Reid while a man who seemed to be Walsh’ polar opposite – cantankerous, defensive-leaning Bill Parcells – brought us guys like Bill Belichick. If those “individual branches” beget more great coaches, then it starts to resemble those Russian dolls to the point that it gets more difficult to recognize the starting point.*

* – After all, many will say that Paul Brown gave way to Bill Walsh and so on and so forth.

Anyway, Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey came up with a great summertime diversion. He asked if Al Arbour – the great New York Islanders coach who helped the team win a staggering four straight Stanley Cups in the early ’80s – was responsible for a coaching tree of his own.

What did he find? For the most part, no. From Red Berenson to a legend like Bryan Trottier, most of the people who gave coaching a shot fell short of even being suitable bench bosses. I thought I’d focus on a handful of the guys who at least had semi-interesting (if not particularly successful) careers. For complete summaries of these coaches and others, click here.

Let’s begin with Terry Crisp.

Terry Crisp

As Coach: Calgary, Tampa Bay, 286-267-78.

Today Center Ice subscribers know him as the cowboy hat-wearing color man on Predators broadcasts. But in his younger days he was a successful coach in three years in Calgary, leading them to their only Cup in 1989.

alarbour.jpgLet’s move on to Dave Lewis, a guy who was an original member of the expansion team and also sported an … um, unfortunate mustache during his coaching days with the Detroit Red Wings.

Dave Lewis

As Coach: Detroit (2002-2004), Boston (2006-07), 135-83-21. Fortunately Lewis would lift the Cup three times as Bowman’s assistant coach in Detroit. But when Bowman retired, Lewis took the reins and was given less than three strikes in the ever impatient Red Wings country. (Funny how his tenure coincided with goalies the fans ate alive.) For a coach with a .604 winning percentage, Lewis was cut no slack in either NHL locale.

Next, here are Dominik’s thoughts on Terry Simpson, the guy who had to follow Arbour as the next head coach.

Terry Simpson

As Coach: Islanders (1986-88), Philadelphia (1993-94), Winnipeg (1995-96). Total: 159-168-41. It never really worked for Simpson as coach. Succeeding Arbour was hard enough, but it went from bad to worse and he didn’t fare any better with the Flyers or Jets.

When I think of Simpson I think of this game, an 8-0 Islanders loss at the St. Louis Arena that I witnessed in person — in childish horror — as my dad tried to gently explain that things wouldn’t be the same without Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin and Al Arbour. (Arbour would return as coach just days later.)

brentsuttersadface.jpgFinally, we have the never-grinning Brent Sutter of the famous Sutter hockey family. His brother Duane also pursued a head coaching job but didn’t last as long as Brent did.

Brent Sutter

As Coach: New Jersey (2007-09), Calgary (2009-present): 137-88-21*.

The most decorated of any Sutter brother coach (if you include World Juniors), Brent led Canada’s WJC team to consecutive gold medals while also managing his junior team in Red Deer.

[snip]

When he was finally ready to leave his WHL team behind and enter NHL coaching, it turns out he wasn’t ready at all: He spent two mostly successful but miserable seasons (regular season anyway) as Devils coach before doing a bizarre “retire” bait-and-switch to get back to Calgary close to home and under his brother the GM. Can’t really fault him on the desire, but the methods by which he moved from Jersey to Alberta were, ah, “unsound.”

So those were the coaches associated with the great Al Arbour who seemed to make the biggest impact. If that list is any indication, great NHL head coaches do not necessarily develop other great coaches. Then again, assistant/associate coaches haven’t been around much longer than Scotty Bowman, so perhaps that trend will change in the future. Especially when you consider the fact that coaches have a much bigger impact on the game than ever before thanks to video study, positional (sometimes “trap based”) defense and other innovations.

Former Avs tough guy Bordeleau signs with the Devils … in Cardiff, Wales

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 02:  George Parros #15 of the Montreal Canadiens and Patrick Bordeleau #58 of the Colorado Avalanche engage in a fight in the first period at Pepsi Center on November 2, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Patrick Bordeleau is on his way to play for the Devils — of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom.

The Cardiff Devils announced that they have agreed to terms on a contract with Bordeleau, who played 129 games in the National Hockey League with the Colorado Avalanche.

In his time with the Avs, from 2013 to 2015, the 30-year-old forward — who stands an imposing six-foot-six-inches tall and 225 pounds — scored eight goals and 16 points with 185 penalty minutes.

As you can see from the clip below, he was known more for fisticuffs than finesse.

That has the club in Cardiff all kinds of excited about this signing.

From the Devils:

Aside from his reputation as an enforcer, the level of skill and ability of Patrick Bordeleau arose the attention of Devils player coach Andrew Lord who is delighted to add him to the roster.

“Patrick Bordeleau brings an awesome dynamic of size, energy and physical play.  He skates well and will add a great presence to our forward unit while also playing quality minutes.  He played multiple seasons in the NHL and his experience and character will be huge for our group.”   

Last month, another former NHL tough guy, Jay Rosehill, signed in the EIHL with the Braehead Clan, which continued a trend that has seen a number of pugilists continue their careers in the UK.

Blues to name Pietrangelo 21st captain in franchise history

St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo (27) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks' in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
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Shortly after the Blues’ PR department unveiled a “major announcement” scheduled for Thursday, the Post-Dispatch broke news that Alex Pietrangelo will become the team’s new captain.

It’s a big honor for the talented defenseman, who joins the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Scott Stevens, Brian Sutter, Bernie Federko and Al Arbour as those that have captained the Blues.

Pietrangelo, 26, was taken fourth overall by St. Louis  in 2008 and has spent his entire professional career within the organization.

A staple of the Team Canada blueline and a two-time NHL 2nd team All-Star, Pietrangelo inherits the captaincy from David Backes, who wore the “C” for five years before signing with Boston in free agency.

Pietrangelo had previously served as one of Backes’ alternates — first earning his “A” in 2013 — along with forward Alex Steen, who’s served as an alternate since 2011. It’s logical to assume Steen will retain his role in the leadership group, but it will be interesting to see who gets the other alternate captaincy.

Poll: Is moving Larkin to center the right move?

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 11: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings leans on the bench during a timeout during the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 11, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Devils defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

It wasn’t that long ago — 2013, in fact — that Detroit had a wealth of options down the middle. Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg all played center with regularity.

Now, only the latter remains.

We bring this up because, earlier this summer, Detroit GM Ken Holland announced that prized rookie standout Dylan Larkin would be making the shift to center.

Larkin, who bucked tradition by making the Red Wings as a 19-year-old last year, enjoyed a banner freshman campaign, scoring 45 points in 80 games to finish fifth in Calder voting.

But a large chunk of that success came playing wing on a line centered by Zetterberg, who “took a lot of the responsibility off Dylan,” according to Holland.

The for/against debate here is pretty straightforward.

Holland said the “long-term” plan is to have Larkin be a center in Detroit, so why not get that process underway now? That move, combined with the addition of Frans Nielsen, would allow Zetterberg to return to the wing (and potentially play alongside Nielsen.) The more options head coach Jeff Blashill has at his disposal, the more creative he can get at forward.

But would it be too much, too soon for Larkin?

There’s already the looming specter of a sophomore slump, and it’s important to remember he faded down the stretch last season, as the rigors of a full NHL campaign took their toll. He was largely shielded from faceoff duty (and still finished at just 41 percent), only turned 20 just over three weeks ago, and Blashill could go Zetterberg-Nielsen-Luke GlendeningRiley Sheahan down the middle quite easily.

As per usual, we now turn it over to you. Vote away:

Under Pressure: Ken Holland

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

There’s no denying Ken Holland’s been feeling the heat in Detroit for a while now.

But this season, the temperature could become unbearable.

There are three pressing concerns as the Red Wings look to make the playoffs for a 26th consecutive campaign, all of which fall directly into Holland’s lap:

1) Can the Wings survive without Pavel Datsyuk?

2) What will they do in goal?

3) How will they fix their defense?

To address the first issue, Holland went out and spent $31.5 million in free agency on Frans Nielsen, a good-but-not-great center that turns 33 next season. Nielsen is defensively responsible and a fairly consistent scorer — a perennial 45-to-55 point guy — but lacks Datsyuk’s playmaking ability and deft skill set.

(Though to be fair to Nielsen, most do.)

Still, a solution’s a solution. Nielsen comes to Detroit in relative high regard, earning a handful of Selke votes every season, and was one of the best options available to replace Datsyuk, which was never going to be an easy task.

So onto the goaltending.

The situation at hand — with Petr Mrazek (presumably) the club’s No. 1, and Jimmy Howard now in a backup role — is tough for everybody involved. It’s tough for Howard, who is 32 and pulls in $5.29 million annually, an albatrossian combination with regards to potential trades.

It’s tough for Mrazek, who now faces the added pressure of making good money himself ($4M annually), but is still coming off a year in which he lost the starting gig to Howard, only to regain it halfway through the playoffs.

The situation is tough for Holland, too.

Sinking nearly $10 million into the position was all his doing, and he doesn’t seem to know how to get out of it. He’s flip-flopped on Howard — first saying he’s thought “lots” about trading him, only to later envision a scenario in which Howard sticks around.

Then, there’s the defense.

Holland’s made no secret of the fact he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” in the door, and was reportedly in talks with Anaheim about a potential Cam Fowler trade. But as we saw with Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to get Adam Larsson, the acquisition price for good blueliners is sky high.

Which could be why Holland hasn’t addressed the position yet.

At the time of writing, Detroit will enter this season with a top-seven group of Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.

It’s a good group, but one with warts. There’s not an elite level guy, and it’s not especially young. Green is 30, Ericsson is 32 and Kronwall’s 35… and was just dropped from Sweden’s World Cup team due to a knee injury.

Add it all up, and you’ve got a team with more questions than answers.

And a GM who sounds like he knows the pressure is on.

“I don’t know that there are more than five or six legitimate Stanley Cup contenders; we’re probably not in that group,” he said, per NHL.com. “After that five or six, there are 20 teams without much difference between them. We’re in that group of 20.

“Certainly there are lots of questions about our team.”