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Thrashers Coaching Search Nearing Conclusion?

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At the end of the regular season, the Thrashers chose not to renew Head Coach John Anderson's contract, allowing new GM Rick Dudley to pick his own man. Dudley, who has been in NHL hockey circles for a long time, has taken a desultory pace in the coaching search. The truth is that there is no need to have a head coach in place for the NHL Draft because coaches rarely watch non-professional prospects and most of the players drafted are 2-4 years away from reaching the NHL. The key deadline is July 1st when free agency begins--players want to know who will be in charge of their ice time and their role within the squad. The one advantage of hiring a coach early in the summer is that it gives him more time to review game tapes from the prior year and think about how to plan for the next season.

So who will the Thrashers end up with? According to Chris Vivlamore, Dudley had a list of five candidates:

  • Scott Arniel
  • Craig Ramsey
  • John Torchetti
  • Don Lever
  • Bill Peters

We can scratch Scott Arniel off that list as he has been hired by Columbus Blue Jackets. So that leaves just 4 options left. Considering that the Thrashers hired their AHL affiliate as head coach last time (Anderson) I don't expect to see either Lever or Peters get the job this time around. Instead look for Dudley to turn to a familiar face. He has hired both Ramsey and Torchetti to help coach his team in previous stops in the NHL. Most outsiders seem to think Torchetti is the favorite, but Ramsey is also a strong contender. Assuming that Torchetti is indeed the favorite, he cannot be interviewed until Chicago's season is finished. The Stanley Cup will be awarded sometime in the next few days. I don't know if Dudley would want to speak to Torchetti immediately or give him a couple of days to celebrate the Cup win and prepare for the interview. It seems that all the interviews could be complete and a new head coach announced prior to the draft on the 25th of this month.

Torchetti had two short stints (39 games total) as an interim Head Coach in Tampa Bay and served many years as an assistant coach with Tampa, Florida, LA and Chicago. Ramsey has been a NHL head coach for one third of a season in Philadelphia and two-thirds of a season in Buffalo, he was an assistant in Tampa from 2004-2007 and is currently an assistant coach in Boston.

One concern is that neither of these men were able to parlay short stints as replacement NHL coaches into a long term NHL coaching jobs. Why did each organization hire someone different instead of retaining them? On the flip side, coaches can develop and improve as players do with the benefit of experience. It is possible that they were simply not ready to be a head coach back then and some additional time in the profession they are more prepared for the responsibility. One comment that Dudley has repeatedly made is how impressed he is with the knowledge of technical systems, let's hope the next coach of the Thrashers can figure out how to handle trapping teams better than the last one.