Every week or two, I have a few thoughts. This week I consider Gary Lawless’ call for Alain Vigneault as coach in light of the news that he’s available and look at Cory Pronman’s newest draft rankings.
- Gary Lawless is mad. First he wants Byfuglien out, then he wanted Noel replaced by Alain Vigneault. Well, step one is complete. Alain Vigneault is available. In fact, there are a lot of big-name coaches in play this off-season, and with a somewhat underwhelming free-agent market, a few teams may make their biggest splash behind the bench.
- I think the fan base can afford to be a bit divided on whether Noel is a good coach. He has extensive experience grooming players. He’s well spoken and the media likes him well enough. The roster has clear problems from the net out and it’s hard to say whether a 9th place finish in the East is evidence of Noel getting a lot or a little out of his group.
- That said, with news that Burmistrov wants out, the epic mystery of his line combinations, and outrageously bad special teams, there is a fair argument that Claude Noel is not be the guy for the job. Certainly that’s my opinion.
- I like Alain Vigneault – I think he deserves credit for managing his roster to get the Sedins 100 points, and for turning Bieksa, Kesler, Burrows, and others into exceptional two way players from their humble beginnings as mistake prone bottom-of-the-roster guys. Vigneault boasts a .583 points % over his 800 game Head Coach career. He did very little with a mostly bad Montreal team in the late ’90’s, and did well with a good Canucks roster lately (6 of his 7 seasons, the Canucks won the Northwest Division). He has two President’s Trophies and three Jack Adam’s nominations (including 1 win). Impressive resume.
- Still, how about Dave Tippett? He holds a .617 points % through 738 games with less talented teams all in the significantly harder Pacific division. His post-season success is even less than Vigneault’s, of course. But he has one Jack Adams nomination (which he won) and three Pacific Division titles. One of them with the Coyotes, remember. Perhaps he’s better suited to squeezing wins out of an under-talented squad with a lot of replacement level bodies on the depth chart?
- The Jets haven’t shown a strong sense for windows of opportunity, or at least haven’t tipped their hand clearly about when their intended window begins. With that in mind, Claude Noel may be a necessary ‘fall man’ should the team slide up the draft board for 2014 (intentionally or not). Money – both paying Noel and some of his assistants to go away and paying a big name big bucks – may also be a factor in standing pat.
- This seems like the season to go hard after a difference making coach. They don’t come around every year. Were I a betting man, I’d bet the Jets quietly watch as better coaches find jobs before they’ve made a decision on Noel, trade Burmistrov after the draft for next year’s less valuable picks, and then replace Noel next year with an experienced but decidedly average coach (it’s Paul Maurice, let’s not kid ourselves).
- (Hilarious side note: Patrick Roy to take over the Avalanche?! I’d give so much to play in Conference A next year…)
- Cory Pronman came out with his new draft rankings this month. Pronman’s work at Hockey Prospectus is a must-read for draft watchers.
- The draft this year is being discussed as perhaps 60 players deep, with top flight talent 10-12 player deep (of course, because the Jets select at 13th). Some are comparing the first round to 2003 – a year with 16 NHL All-Stars to-be selected in round 1 and Marcel Comeau’s first draft as Head Scout of the Thrashers/Jets franchise.
- Famously, Corey Perry went 28th overall that year. Less famously, the Kings had two picks at 26th and 27th – taking Brian Boyle and Jeff Tambellini in a bid for the best Fat / Skinny combo seen since 1988. (In reality, of course, it was worse than the combo of Fat Kurri and haven’t-played-in-four-years Gretzky at the 2003 Old Timer’s Heritage Classic)
- Speaking of the Oilers, everyone’s favourite story from that year, of course, is when the Oilers traded down from the 9th ranked North American skater in Zach Parise to take Marc Antoine Pouliot (I’ve linked to his career stats in case you wanted an extended laugh). Keep that in mind while Craig Button is prattling about how the Jets should trade down in a deep draft. BPA, Marcel Comeau. Please, for the love of wins.
- Anyway, Pronman’s rankings: a lot has changed in the 10-16 area since we last had a look 6 weeks ago.
- Hunter Shinkaruk still sits at #10. The diminutive scorer was over-looked for the World Juniors this year, but scored 86 points for the WHL’s 9th highest scoring Medicine Hat Tigers, and 91 in his 17 year old season. Still, he’s a LW and along with the surging Swedish LW Andre Burakowsky, is unlikely to be targeted by a squad with Ladd and Kane written in pen on the portside of the depth chart for years to come.
- Interestingly, Darnell Nurse slid to #11 in Pronman’s rankings. Nurse should remind Jets fans of Marcel Comeau’s first ever pick as Head Scout – the sizeable, dependable, tradable Braydon Coburn. Both are left handed, defence first giants at a listed 6’5". Both made waves with their smooth skating and range as large defenders. Though Coburn’s scoring was very poor in his draft year, it was for a Winterhawks team with 192 goals and 19 wins. Coburn’s four years of junior he had 37, 19, 30, and 44 points (Nurse had 41 this year and just 10 last season). The Jets may see Nurse as a Ron Hainsey replacement down the road. Whether Nurse is available anywhere near #13 is unknown, however, as ISS currently has him ranked at #6 overall.
- On the opposite end of the scale comes Ryan Pulock – my personal hope for the Jets’ first pick. The right handed, offensively gifted defender is all over the map in various draft rankings. Pronman has him at #12 (ISS at 14, if you were curious) and notes that his upside is as a top pairing defenceman with an element of risk in his game. Pulock’s elite level shot and keen offensive instincts added to stong gap control and transitional play draws my mind to Washington’s John Carlson. Both put up similar numbers in their draft year (Carlson: 59 GP 12-31-43 in the USHL and Pulock 61 GP 14-31-45 in the WHL). Though Carlson is a little taller, both are thick at a playing weight that hovers above 210lbs. Carlson has to be considered a better natural skater, has a little more edge to his game, and was more polished defensively at 18 than is Pulock currently. On the other hand, Pulock’s 17 year old season saw him put up a whopping 19 goals and 60 points and his powerplay work is elite as much because of his exceptional decision making as his shot. What do you bet some pro level coaching adds some speed and physicality to his game to complete to comparison? Pulock and Trouba as a top pair could be exceptional in 2018.
- Pulock may even give the Jets the flexibility to move Byfuglien in time. I think we all want a happy Gary Lawless, and I’m not pinning my hopes on Vigneault.