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.


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.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).