Potential Candidates for the Bruins’ Next Head Coach

( Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe )

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn

With the Bruins’ recent firing of Bruce Cassidy, the attention now turns to Don Sweeney and Cam Neely, as they are tasked with replacing a coach who made the playoffs every year he was behind the bench and won a Presidents’ Trophy, Prince of Wales Trophy, and the Jack Adams Award. This is no small task, especially with the current roster and prospect pool that Sweeney and the upper management have put in place.

In his recent press conference, Sweeney mentioned that previous NHL experience as a head coach is not going to be required in the search for a new bench boss. This is interesting because depending on which direction the team goes in with the new coach, the future plans could change drastically. The two options are either a coach with NHL experience or a coach without NHL experience.

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Now, I certainly don’t think they’re going to sign someone to be a coach with zero coaching experience whatsoever, but someone who has been the head coach at the college or even international level is still unproven in the NHL. With that being said, let’s take a look at some candidates. My BNG coworker Joe Travia tweeted a pretty good list earlier this week, so I’ll use that for some foundation.

No NHL Head Coaching Experience

I want to discuss the idea of hiring someone with no NHL head coaching experience first because I think it’s a bit more interesting. If the Bruins go in this direction, it could point to an entire organizational rebuild. It would be a massive change from the win-now mindset that we’ve gotten used to over the last decade or so, but it could lead to an exciting team in the future.

An organizational rebuild would essentially start with the coach and then consist of the coach working with the upper management (ideally) to build a new team in the way that they want it built. The coach wouldn’t be expected to win at first, but the idea would be to start putting down a foundation that could lead to years of success. It would also potentially mean moving some of the veterans, even someone like Brad Marchand.

Of the candidates that I’m going to look at, a bunch of them fall into this category. Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Nate Leaman, and Jay Leach. These are all guys who have previous head coaching experience but not at the NHL level. They also all happen to have experience in New England. Savard and Sturm, of course, were former Bruins. Leach also briefly played for the Bruins, but not to the extent that the other two did.

Marc Savard is one of the biggest what-ifs in Bruins, if not hockey, history. He was an amazing player before the blindside hit that knocked him out and started his battle with concussions. Marco Sturm was essentially Bergeron’s Marchand before Marchand was here. He was Bergy’s go-to winger and was an awesome player during the years that really turned the Bruins around. Both of those guys would provide a familiarity with the fans that would help offset some of the negative feelings that would come with a few years of being non-competitive potentially.

Jay Leach has been slowly but steadily working his way up to being an NHL head coach. After being an AHL assistant and head coach, he moved out to Seattle to be the assistant coach for the Kraken this season. A move back to Boston as the head coach would be very fitting for him, and his AHL experience could be a good fit for a job that would likely require him to coach up young players and build the team from the ground up.

Nate Leaman is my personal favorite option, I think. In his previous roles as the Providence College head coach and the USA World Juniors head coach, he has shown his ability to work with young players and achieve great success with them. He won the 2015 NCAA National Championship and the 2021 World Junior Championship Gold Medal. I think if the Bruins are going to rebuild, Leaman is a really exciting option and someone I would really get behind as a fan.

Previous NHL Head Coach

If the Bruins hire someone with previous NHL experience, it signals that the organization is looking to retool rather than rebuild and try to give Marchand and maybe even Patrice Bergeron one last chance to get a second Stanley Cup. A retool would attempt to keep the Bruins competitive while also replenishing the team and making the core younger. The guys I’m looking at in this category are David Quinn, Joe Sacco, Rick Tocchet, Pete DeBoer, and John Tortorella.

I’ll start with the easy ones; DeBoer and Tortorella are complete noes from me. Tortorella is a phenomenal coach, but he also brings a ton of drama. I really don’t want to deal with that in Boston. While he could get the Bruins to the playoffs and maybe even farther, I just don’t want to deal with any potential fiascos he may cause. DeBoer has gone to the Cup Finals twice, both in his first season with a team. He recently missed the playoffs with arguably the best roster the Vegas Golden Knights have ever had. To me, his resume is just too turbulent for a position that requires stability.

I’m also reasonably hesitant on David Quinn. He’s a guy who could honestly fit into either of these categories, as he’s only had one previous NHL job. I could actually see this appointment going well, but because of my unfamiliarity with him, I’m not too keen on it.

Joe Sacco and Rick Tocchet are both guys who I’d be okay with seeing behind the bench. Sacco has been a Bruins assistant coach for a long time now, and a step up to the head coaching spot would be pretty natural. He had a bit of success in Colorado as the head coach in the early 2010s but is still relatively unproven.

Tocchet is a guy who has been around the NHL forever. He began his career as a player in 1984 with the Flyers and has had stops in Tampa and Phoenix as a head coach. He hasn’t had great success as a coach, but he seems like a guy who fits the traditional Bruins culture well, and I’d be fine with the team giving him a shot.

Well, there you have it. That’s where I stand on the potential replacements for the head coaching spot right now. I don’t love the options out there with coaching experience, to be completely honest. While I don’t want the Bruins to go full rebuild, the guys that would suit that plan excite me a lot more. I don’t envy the Bruins’ front office and their task of making this decision, but it was ultimately their decision to fire Cassidy that put them in this spot. We’ll see what they decide to do in the coming weeks and months.

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