VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis said Wednesday he would need a few days to “clear his head” before he began his search for a new head coach. Presumably he has a couple swirling through that head, some with NHL experience and some without.
Here are five that might be on his list (when he starts compiling it, of course):
• DALLAS EAKINS: Currently coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs' American League affiliate, Eakins seems to be the flavour of the month in the up-and-comer category. (See previous up-and-comers like Jon Cooper and, before him, Guy Boucher.) Eakins, 46, was a journeyman defenceman who spent the 2003-04 season in the Canucks system playing for the Manitoba Moose. He was an NHL assistant for two years and has been Marlies' head coach the last four. He guided the Marlies to the American Hockey League final last season and was ousted in the second round in this year's playoffs.
• LINDY RUFF: The name of the former Buffalo Sabres' bench boss is on everyone's lips, mainly because he has been through everything the NHL has to offer other than winning a Stanley Cup. (Kind of like Alain Vigneault, don't you think?) Now 53, Ruff was the NHL's longest serving head coach until he was axed by the Sabres 17 games into the lockout-shortened season. Ruff reached a Stanley Cup Final — albeit 14 years ago — and lost three times in the conference final. He also won a Presidents’ Trophy but hasn't won a playoff round since 2006-07. His respect factor is high as he was a member of Team Canada's coaching staff in 2010 when it won Olympic gold in Vancouver.
• DAVE TIPPETT: Still employed by the Phoenix Coyotes, many feel he will be on the job market soon. Known for his stifling defensive systems, the 51-year-old Tippett was once a power-play guru with the Los Angeles Kings. The style he coached in Dallas and Phoenix may have been more out of necessity than choice. (Then again, Mike Modano might debate that.) Tippett spent three years in the NHL as an assistant and has been a head coach for the last 10. All 13 of his seasons have been in the Western Conference so he certainly wouldn't need any kind of tutorial on what's needed to win in the West.
• SCOTT ARNIEL: Gillis inherited Arniel as his farm team coach and then brought him back into the organization after Arniel's unsuccessful stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Arniel's record with the Jackets was an unappealing 45-60-18 but that may have been the function of a lesser roster and some shoddy goaltending. (Sergei Bobrovsky and the depth provided by the Rick Nash trade weren't there then.) Arniel, 50, is well known to the organization, coached some of the current players in the minors and did win in the playoffs at the AHL level, taking the Manitoba Moose to the finals in 2008-09. Cory Schneider was his No. 1 netminder that season.
• TOM RENNEY: Admittedly a long-shot, the 58-year-old Renney has been through a variety of coaching experiences since his first go-around with the Canucks from 1996 to ’98. Renney's playoff record isn't likely to sell but if the Detroit Red Wings overachieve this spring with Renney assisting Mike Babcock, maybe he becomes a little more sexy of a candidate. Former Babcock assistants Todd McLellan and Paul MacLean have been doing okay with their teams. Why not Renney next?
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