Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bruce Boudreau and the "empty tank"

When Bruce Boudreau was fired on Monday morning and replaced by Dale Hunter, Capitals General Manager George McPhee told reporters at Kettler, "I think Bruce came in here and emptied the tank. He gave it everything he could and did a really good job, but the tank was empty, and when that happens you get a new coach where the tank is full and see what happens."

It struck me as honest and heartfelt, but I didn't think much more about it until today when I was in the midst of a lively email discussion about the value of NHL coaching experience. In the email exchange, my brother wondered aloud ( text?), "I wonder what the average number of years of coaching experience is for Cup-winning coaches over the last 10 or 15 years."

Naturally I had to look it up, and what I found was not that interesting when looking at total NHL coaching experience, but far more interesting when looking at the number of years the coach was with their team before winning the Cup. For the "Fire Bruce" crowd it would provide significant ammo if, you know, the Caps didn't already fire Bruce.

Basically what you need to know is that, in the last 20 years, coaches who didn't win a Stanley Cup in their first four years with a team never ended up winning one with that team. And in that same span, only one coach tenured more than 4 years has won a Cup, and that was Scotty Bowman (twice). Boudreau was in his 5th season as the Caps' bench boss.

So it would seem that a coach only has 2-4 years of gas in the tank with any given team.

Here's the proof:

2011BruinsClaude Julien8 years4th season in Boston
2010BlackhawksJoel Quenneville13 years2nd season in Chicago
2009PenguinsDan Bylsma<1 year1st season in Pittsburgh*
2008Red WingsMike Babcock5 years3rd season in Detroit
2007DucksRandy Carlyle2 years2nd season in Anaheim
2006HurricanesPeter Laviolette4 years2nd season in Carolina
2004LightningJohn Tortorella4 years4th season in Tampa
2003DevilsPat Burns13 years1st season in New Jersey
2002Red WingsScotty Bowman30 years9th season in Detroit
2001AvalancheBob Hartley3 years3rd season in Colorado
2000DevilsLarry Robinson5 years1st season in New Jersey**
1999StarsKen Hitchcock4 years4th season in Dallas
1998Red WingsScotty Bowman26 years5th season in Detroit
1997Red WingsScotty Bowman25 years4th season in Detroit
1996AvalancheMarc Crawford2 years1st season in Colorado***
1995DevilsJacques Lemaire4 years2nd season in New Jersey
1994RangersMike Keenan9 years1st season in New York
1993CanadiensJacques Demers9 years1st season in Montreal
1992PenguinsScotty Bowman20 years1st season in Pittsburgh
1991PenguinsBob Johnson6 years1st season in Pittsburgh
*Bylsma coached the last 25 games of the 2008-09 season
**Robinson coached the last 8 games of the 1999-2000 season
***Those who were hoping the Caps would hire Crawford should look up what he's done since

Breaking it down further, over the last 20 years the average tenure at the time of winning the Stanley Cup is 2.6, and the median is 2.

As for the NHL experience factor, the average years of NHL coaching experience for Stanley Cup winners over the last 20 years is 9.65, which is skewed heavily by Bowman's 20, 25, 26 and 30. The median is 5.5.

As this relates to Dale Hunter, 8 of the last 20 Stanley Cups have been won by coaches in their first year with a team (40 percent!), but Bylsma's the only one who was in his first year as an NHL head coach. Five Cup winning coaches in the last 20 years have done it in their first NHL head coaching gig: Bylsma, Randy Carlyle with the Ducks, Bob Hartley with the Avalanche, John Tortorella with the Lighting (unless you count his 4 games as interim coach of the Rangers in 1999), and Ken Hitchcock with the Stars.

To look at it another way, my friend Will saw this data and immediately said, "So Buffalo is really f***ing up with Lindy Ruff."


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