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NHL: Head coaches with a new team have success in the NHL

The sports world often agrees that the presence of a new voice in a locker room can contribute to renewed life and more success within a sports formation.

If he had had a magic lamp at the start of the season, Bruce Cassidy would undoubtedly have liked to lift the Stanley Cup this season, his first behind the bench of the Vegas Golden Knights.

And his wish would have been granted since Vegas needed only five small games to dispose of the Florida Panthers of Paul Maurice, who was curiously in his first campaign as head coach of the Panthers as well.

The Golden Knights and the Panthers have therefore been able to take advantage of a new face behind the bench to experience success and reach the Stanley Cup Final this season, but what about the observation in recent years among the teams betting on a new voice behind the bench?

The numbers don’t lie: of the 20 head coaches who have led their team to the final in the last 10 spring tournaments (some on more than one occasion), 9 were first-season coaches behind the bench of their new crew. Among this group, Cassidy, Craig Berube and Mike Sullivan have all lifted the precious trophy in their first campaign with a new team.

The finding is even more striking in recent years. Five of the last six Stanley Cup Finals have featured at least one coach in his first campaign as head coach of his team. The only exception was last year’s final, between Jared Bednar’s Avalanche (6e season as Colorado head coach) and Jon Cooper’s Lightning (10e season as head coach of Tampa Bay).


Experience, but new environment

Be careful, however, not to jump to conclusions too quickly. When you take the search a step further, a new job with a new education almost never means a lack of experience.

While it’s true that coaches often seem to find success when they’re just getting started with a new team, they often have a lot of experience to help them.

Of all the head coaches to have led their team to the ultimate duel in the last decade, only Dominique Ducharme managed to pull off the feat in his first campaign behind an NHL bench. The other coaches all had some years of experience behind the tie, even though they were in a role with a new team.

In the last 10 years, head coaches to have reached the Stanley Cup have an average of 9.25 seasons of experience as a head coach in the Bettman circuit.

We can therefore conclude that a team could certainly benefit from a new face to manage its players… but that it still has an interest in selecting a coach with a little experience behind the tie.

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