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.

Khudobin delivered an encouraging performance for the Bruins

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrate with goalie Anton Khudobin after he blocked a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner to win the game, 2-1, in a shootout during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Anton Khudobin gave the Boston Bruins a much-needed win last night.

He also gave Tuukka Rask a much-welcomed night off.

The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 2-1, in a shootout at TD Garden. Khudobin made 29 saves, plus two more in the shootout, including the game-decider on Jeff Skinner.

It was an encouraging performance by Khudobin, who returned to the Bruins net for the second time since a conditioning stint in the AHL. It was the first time this season that a Boston goalie other than Rask was credited with a win.

“Very good,” head coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, for the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track. Tonight, he showed that he was ready to play.”

Julien added, “No doubt, there’s a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we’ve got two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

The Bruins did not feel they had good enough backup goaltending the past two seasons, both of which ended outside the playoff picture. And so they bid adieu to Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson, bringing Khudobin back into the fold on a two-year contract.

Granted, one win isn’t enough to conclude that Khudobin will be fine. He’s now 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, and those numbers could still be much better.

But he’ll be back in there soon enough. The Bruins have 15 more games in December, and Rask isn’t going to play them all.

Blues ‘need more’ from Lehtera, who could be healthy scratched

Jori Lehtera
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Jori Lehtera received one of his lowest ice times of the season in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay — just 11:21 — and was demoted to the fourth line at Friday’s practice.

If that didn’t send a message, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered it shortly thereafter.

“We’re going to need more from him,” Hitchcock said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “The position we have him in, we need more from that position.”

Lehtera was signed to a three-year, $14.1 million extension after a solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. His offensive production sagged a bit last year (nine goals, 34 points in 79 games) and he’s gone through some difficult stretches this year.

The 28-year-old Finn had just three points through his first 15 games of the year, but did look as though he’d turned the corner recently. Prior to the Bolts game he had four points in four contests, including his first multi-goal effort of the season (potting a pair in a 4-2 win over Boston).

Clearly, though, Hitchcock thinks there’s more to give.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Hitch said he’s unsure if Lehtera will play on Saturday, when the Blues host the Jets. Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie both sat out against Tampa Bay, and either one could draw into the lineup.

The Lehtera development comes with the Blues playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and are just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.

Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

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— Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss the Penguins’ two-goalie situation, which GM Jim Rutherford recently admitted was not working as well as he’d hoped.

Nolan Patrick, the likely first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, is currently out with an injury. Tyler Benson, a top draft prospect last year who battled injuries, has some advice for Patrick: “I don’t think he should be worrying about the draft. People know what kind of player he can be. He’s played two years in this league already and he’s dominated. I think he should worry about making sure he’s 100 per cent when he comes back.” Benson was eventually selected 32nd overall by the Oilers. (The Province)

— A couple of weeks ago, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk got mad at the Ottawa Citizen newspaper after an editorial called on him to push for an outdoor game at TD Place. Yada, yada, yada, Melynk is now pushing for an outdoor game at TD Place. (Ottawa Sun)

Hampus Lindholm has been good defensively in his return to the Anaheim Ducks, but with only two assists in his first 11 games, you have to think he’ll want to start contributing more to the offense soon. Lindholm is now the highest-paid defenseman on his team, with a cap hit just over $5 million. And if the Ducks have to trade Cam Fowler at any point, they’ll need Lindholm’s offense even more. That’s just the pressure that comes with a big contract. We’ll see how he fares. (OC Register)

— In 2015-16, no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1969-70. So, how are things looking this season? Long story short, quite a bit better. Three of the seven Canadian teams are currently in a playoff spot, and the other four aren’t out of it yet. (TSN)

— What a surprise, the Winnipeg Jets hurt themselves with too many penalties last night against Edmonton. “Those early penalties and how much time we spent in the box early on killed us,” said Bryan Little. “Our PK couldn’t get it done.” This has been a problem for way too long now. Over the last three seasons combined, the Jets have gone shorthanded 686 times, the most in the NHL. Clearly, they aren’t good enough to play with such poor discipline, so perhaps they should figure it out. (Winnipeg Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Goalie nods: It’s Chad Johnson’s net in Calgary

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Chad Johnson, the Flames’ goalie of record in eight of their last 10 games, will once again be in goal when Calgary hosts Minnesota on Friday night.

Johnson, as we’ve written about on numerous occasions, was terrific for the Flames in November, going 7-3-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .939 save percentage. He essentially wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Brian Elliott, and closed out the month in style by posting a 39-save shutout against Toronto on Wednesday.

As a result, Calgary has clawed back from a disappointing start to draw within one point of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference (granted, the Flames have played four more games than the Preds).

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Just one other game this evening, as Montreal takes on the Sharks in San Jose. It promises to be a quality matchup as both teams are rolling with their No. 1s: Carey Price for the Habs, Martin Jones for the Sharks.