When the Washington Capitals hired longtime Hurricane Arturs Irbe as goaltending coach
a few days ago, it got me thinking. For a relatively young franchise, Hartford/Carolina has produced more than its fair share of future coaches.
Of all the players who have suited up for the franchise at least once, 81 have gone on to coach at least one game in some capacity at some level of the game, including junior hockey, the minor leagues and the NHL. Of course, there are varying degrees of success – some didn’t coach for longer than one season – but there are some notable alumni still manning benches around the hockey world.
With 21 former players currently employed somewhere, here are some of the more notable ones who spent significant time in a Whalers and/or Hurricanes uniform during their playing days. For the sake of narrowing down the field, I’m defining “significant time” with a minimum requirement of 150 games played or three seasons with the organization. Canes/Whalers tenures are in parentheses.
- Dave Tippett (483gp, 7 seasons): Head Coach, Dallas Stars
- Joel Quenneville (457gp, 7 seasons): Head Coach, Chicago Blackhawks
- John Anderson (215gp, 4 seasons): Head Coach, Atlanta Thrashers
- John Stevens (44gp, 3 seasons): Head Coach, Philadelphia Flyers
- Jeff Daniels (272gp, 6 seasons): Head Coach, Albany River Rats
- Kevin Dineen (708gp, 12 seasons): Head Coach, Portland Pirates
- Ron Francis (1,186gp, 16 seasons): Associate Head Coach, Carolina Hurricanes
- Ulf Samuelsson (463gp, 7 seasons): Associate Coach, Phoenix Coyotes
- Randy Cunneyworth (216gp, 5 seasons): Assistant Coach, Atlanta Thrashers
- Dean Evason (412gp, 7 seasons): Assistant Coach, Washington Capitals
- Tom Rowe (115gp, 3 seasons): Assistant Coach, Carolina Hurricanes
- Steve Weeks (94gp, 4 seasons): Assistant Coach, Atlanta Thrashers
- Brad Shaw (210gp, 6 seasons): Assistant Coach, St. Louis Blues
- Brad McCrimmon (156gp, 3 seasons): Assistant Coach, Detroit Red Wings
- Doug Sulliman (221gp, 3 seasons): Assistant Coach, Phoenix Coyotes
- Doug Houda (142gp, 4 seasons): Assistant Coach, Boston Bruins
- Arturs Irbe (309gp, 6 seasons): Goaltending Coach, Washington Capitals
Narrowly missing out on the list were Windsor Spitfires Head Coach Bob Boughner and our own Tom Barrasso (did not play with team for long enough), Doug Jarvis (recently dismissed as an assistant by the Montreal Canadiens) and Nelson Emerson (former assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings who was recently moved to a player development capacity).
With four NHL head coaches and some “rising stars” who may well achieve that status before too long, it’s a pretty impressive list. It’s tough to tell why it worked out that way, but the organization’s long-standing valuation of character may have something to do with it. It’s rare that a player of questionable temperament passes through.
Of the above-mentioned players, most played exclusively for Hartford, which is understandable given that the Hurricanes are only approaching season number 12. The exceptions are Daniels, Dineen, Francis and Irbe, whose contributions fans in Raleigh will surely remember.
At the current rate, it’s only a matter of time before more join the coaching ranks. As for whom the next ones might be, I’ll open that up for discussion. Of the players currently on the Hurricanes roster, who might be the most likely to begin a coaching career at the conclusion of his playing days? Is there someone already departed or retired who you think could make a good leader?
Personally, it’s easy to point to veterans like Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney, the latter of which Paul Maurice has often cited as being able to see the game through the eyes of a coach. However, and I don’t mean to put words in their mouths, but I’m not sure I envision either of them wanting to go that route.
For my pick, I’ll go off the board a little bit and pick a younger player – Tuomo Ruutu. He earned the media’s “Good Guy Award” this past season not just for his willingness to answer questions, but also for the highly analytical and insightful manner in which he goes about it. He seems to really have his finger on the pulse of what’s going on and what’s going wrong, when applicable, which is somewhat rare for someone who speaks something other than English as a primary language.
On a somewhat unrelated note, Cam Ward is my pick for future general manager. He works the phone on fantasy football trades like no other.
Have other picks? Fire away.