While most of the attention of the hockey world is focused on the conference finals, five teams -- the New Jersey Devils
, Ottawa Senators
, Minnesota Wild
, Florida Panthers
and Dallas Stars
-- have their view in other places.
Those are the only teams with coaching vacancies, and as the summer nears, those five teams are zeroing in on potential candidates.
Big names and coaches working their way up the professional ladder all have been tossed into the rumor mill. Here are a few of the candidates whose names you might be hearing more of in the not-too-distant future.
-- He won the Stanley Cup in 1996, his second season with the Avalanche, and then guided the Canucks to the playoffs four times in seven seasons. His two seasons in Los Angeles and Dallas weren't as successful, but a team could take a chance on him.
-- The veteran coach won a Stanley Cup in Dallas in 1999 and got back to the finals the next season. He also guided Philadelphia to the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals and led Columbus to the only postseason berth in franchise history, in 2009. Critics say he struggles with younger players, but he's a proven winner. He could be a candidate for jobs in New Jersey and Minnesota.
-- Is he likely to coach again? Probably not. But he's retired before and come back. Could he be convinced again? With his track record of success, any team would like to have him on board.
-- He coached the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final as an eighth seed, but has been out of coaching since Edmonton fired him in 2009. His name has come up in connection with openings in New Jersey and Minnesota.
-- He also is in the running for the Minnesota job. He played junior hockey for Lemaire and has adopted many of his coaching traits. His background with Lemaire and Montreal -- he coached six seasons in the organization, including two with the Canadiens -- could make him a possibility in New Jersey. He does have a record of success, guiding the Pittsburgh Penguins
to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
Mike Haviland, Chicago
-- Here's how highly regarded Haviland is -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
chose him as his assistant for this season's All-Star Game. Haviland spent three seasons as the Hawks' AHL coach, where he groomed a number of players that went on to lift the Stanley Cup last year. He's been Quenneville's top assistant for three seasons, and his name has come up in coaching discussions before. Colorado tried to interview him prior to hiring Joe Sacco, but the Hawks wouldn't let him talk to them. The GM who made that call was Dale Tallon
, and with the Florida job open, Haviland seems like a favorite to land there. He's also a New Jersey native and a former Devils prospect, so that possibility exists.
Brad McCrimmon, Detroit
-- The long-time NHL defenseman recently resigned his post with the Red Wings after three seasons as an assistant under Mike Babcock. McCrimmon ran the defense for the Wings, but now wants to try for his own team. He shouldn't have to wait long for his phone to start ringing.
Kirk Muller, Montreal
-- The 19-year NHL veteran has been an assistant coach in Montreal since 2006, and appears to have gained enough experience to be in the running for a top job. New Jersey has a history of hiring coaches with Canadiens experience, plus he spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Devils. He also played his last four seasons in Dallas, where one of his teammates was Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk
. His name also has been linked to the Minnesota job.
John Torchetti, Atlanta
-- A well-respected long-time assistant, Torchetti has some head coaching experience. He had a big role in the Blackhawks' rise in his three seasons there as an assistant, and was Craig Ramsay
's top assistant in Atlanta this season. Tallon also is familiar with Torchetti from their days in Chicago, so he could be a possibility in Florida. He's worked in that market as well, spending a season and a half as a Panthers assistant coach and also interim head coach during the 2003-04 season.
-- The coach of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors of the Ontario Hockey League is a highly respected junior coach. He guided Canada to a silver medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship, got the Majors to the OHL finals this season and now is coaching in the Memorial Cup. The Majors are owned by Ottawa Senators
owner Eugene Melnyk, which could make him a possibility for the Senators opening.
-- In six seasons as coach of AHL Portland, he's led the Pirates to two division titles, two conference finals and won a coach of the year award. He's also credited with helping develop a number of key players currently with the Pirates' parent club, the Buffalo Sabres
. His teams have won 45 games four times. He's considered by some to be the top NHL coaching candidate working in the AHL, and it's likely his name will be associated with all five openings.
-- Gallant has experience at all levels of hockey, as a player and coach. He spent parts of three seasons as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets
, and also has been an assistant with the Blue Jackets and Islanders. Now in his second season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he led his team to the league title and a spot in the Memorial Cup. He's also developed nine players ranked on NHL Central Scouting's top North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft, including four who could go in the first round. His name hasn't popped up too much in the rumor mill, but that could change if the Sea Dogs win the Memorial Cup.
-- In his first season with the AHL Binghamton Senators, he's guided that team to the league finals. Prior to that, he coached the under-18 team at the U.S. National Team Development Program, and won a gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship. He's certain to be a candidate for the job in Ottawa. He also has a connection to New Jersey, having spent nine seasons as an assistant coach and scout for the Devils and coach of their AHL affiliate.
-- After 10 seasons as an assistant coach in the Pittsburgh organization, including five with the Penguins, Yeo took his first head coaching job this season, with the AHL's Houston Aeros. It's been a solid move, as Yeo has guided Houston to AHL finals. The Wild, the Aeros' NHL parent club, likely will consider him for their job.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK