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When do you fire a former Stanley Cup winning coach?

Posted on May 27, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Rob Ficiur

Two weeks ago the Pittsburgh Penguins surprised the hockey world by firing General Manager Ray Shero and by not firing head coach Dan Bylsma (yet).  Shero and Bylsma won a Stanley Cup for the Penguins in 2009. The new Penguins GM will decide whether to fire Dan Bylsma or not.

In the 13 season from 1976-1988 only three teams and four coaches won the Stanley Cup. The 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky ended the Dynasty Era in the NHL and began what I call the Ultra-Modern NHL era. The NHL has changed since the Dynasty Eras. Free agency, expansion and salary cap are factors that have led to sixteen different teams winning at least on Stanley Cup in the last 24 years. 

In the 24 seasons of the Ultra-Modern NHL, 19 different head coaches have won the Stanley Cup. The followings are some of the interesting trends and numbers I found in looking at the past and future of these nineteen Stanley Cup coaches in this

1. Since 1989 (The Ultra-Modern NHL era) Only two coaches have won multiple Stanley Cups: Scotty Bowman (Detroit 3 and Pittsburgh 1) and Joel Quenville (Chicago – 2). 

2. In this, the 2013-2014 season, five NHL teams were coached by the same coach who had led that team to a Stanley Cup championship. Five other teams were coached by coaches who won Stanley Cup championships for another team. Once a Stanley Cup coach; always a Stanley Cup coach (or so teams hope).

How long had coaches been with their team before winning?

3. Three Stanley Cup coaches were hired mid-season and went on the win the championship that year. These were Larry Robinson (New Jersey 2000); Dan Bylsma (2009) and Daryl Sutter (2012). Robinson had it the toughest, taking over with only eight games left in the regular season. 

4. Six coaches won the Stanley Cup in their first full season with their new team. These include: John Muckler (Edmonton 1990); Bob Johnson (Pittsburgh 1991); Scotty Bowman (Pittsburgh 1992); Jacques Demers (Montreal 1993); Mike Kennan (New York Rangers 1994) and Pat Burns (New Jersey 2003). 

5. Longest time without a first Stanley Cup – Of the 19 Stanley Cup coaches, the longest any coach went before winning his first Stanley Cup is four years. The following four coaches were in their fourth year with the team before they won their first championship [with that team]; Scott Bowman (Detroit 1998); Ken Hitchcock (Dallas 2000); John Tortorella (Tampa Bay 2004) and Claude Julien (Boston 2011). 

When were coaches fired?

How long did the nineteen Stanley Cup winning coaches stay with their team after they won the Stanley Cup (before they were fired?) 

-Five coaches are still with their teams.

-Two coaches quit due to failing health (Bob Johnson died of cancer less than a year after Pittsburgh won the 1991 Stanley Cup. Pat Burns coached one year after leading New Jersey to the 2003 championship; after he developed cancer he never coached again)

-One coach – Scotty Bowman retired after winning the 2002 Stanley Cup. Then and there he announced he was retiring on top.

-Two coaches moved to other teams to become General Managers (or assistant General Managers): Scotty Bowman (Pittsburgh 2002) and John Muckler (Edmonton 1990).

-Mike Keenan never coached again for the New York Rangers after he won the 1994 Stanley Cup. Keenan had a dispute with management and resigned before the next season. (Not quite fired, but the team didn’t want him back)

-Calgary Flames fired Stanley Cup championship coach Terry Crisp one year after they won the championship. Barely had these coaches won the Stanley Cup and they were fired by their teams: The following were fired within two years of their championship: Mark Crawford (Colorado); Larry Robinson (New Jersey); Bob Harley (Colorado). The following were fired three years after being on top of the hockey world: John Tortorella (Tampa); Peter Laviolette (Carolina); Jacques Demers (Montreal); Jacques Lemaire (New Jersey); and Ken Hitchcock (Dallas)

-Four years is the longest a team has stuck with a Stanley Cup champion coach after the Cup year. Randy Carlyle, the winner of the 2007 Stanley Cup (the last Stanley Cup coach to be fired); coached Anaheim for parts of four more years before he was fired.

Coaching is about winning, and winning now. Five years ago is ancient history when teams are trying to maintain a winning culture and tradition. Once a Stanley Cup coach is fired, he is at the top of the list for another team who is looking to tap into his experience so that they can win. 

What about the General Managers who win Stanley Cups? What about the coach of the team who lost in the Stanley cup finals? How long did these men stay in their jobs before they were let go? Their stories will be the topic of a sports column in a week (or two).

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