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With Gerard Gallant now hired as the first head coach in Golden Knights history, the question must be asked: how important is an NHL franchise’s first coach to its long term success?
Below, we look at who the NHL’s other 30 franchise’s first coaches were, and what legacies they built.
RELATED: Gerard Gallant: 10 Fun Facts
Ron Wilson (1993-97)
Anaheim’s coach during its early era as the Mighty Ducks was Ron Wilson, who lasted four years before moving on to coach the Washington Capitals, where he was hired by a rookie general manager named George McPhee.
RELATED: What style coach is Gerard Gallant?
Tom McVie (1979-81)
One of the most well traveled men in hockey history, McVie was part of 19 different professional teams over more than 40 years as a player and coach. Some of McVie’s best success came when he coached the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets to a championship in 1979. When Winnipeg transitioned over to the NHL the following season, McVie never replicated the same success with the NHL Jets. The original Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona in 1996 and became the Coyotes.
Art Ross (1924-28)
The NHL’s first American franchise, the Boston Bruins’ first head coach was Art Ross, who today’s award for the NHL’s leading scorer is named after. Ross led the Bruins to the 1927 Stanley Cup Final as coach, before another star of hockey’s early years, Cy Denneny, took over and led the Bruins to a 1929 Stanley Cup championship. After Denneny’s one year behind the bench, Ross returned for a second tenure as head coach.
Punch Imlach (1970-72)
A legendary coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty of the 1960s, Punch Imlach moved down the road to coach the Buffalo Sabres in 1970, finishing out of the playoffs both years before moving out from behind the bench and focusing on being the team’s general manager. As GM, Imlach led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in their fifth season, 1974-75.
Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion (1972-74)
Before moving to Calgary in 1980, the Flames began their history as the Atlanta Flames in 1972. Their first coach was Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, who years earlier earned widespread credit as the inventor of the slap shot.
(Below: Geoffrion center, with current Nashville Predators general manager David Poile bottom left)
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 6: Head coach Bernie Geoffrion of the Atlanta Flames discusses strategy with general manager Cliff Fletcher the night before the 1972 Amateur Expansion Draft as (from left to right) David Poile, Aldo Guidolin, Les Moore and Donnie Graham look on June 6, 1972 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 6: Head coach Bernie Geoffrion of the Atlanta Flames discusses strategy with general manager Cliff Fletcher the night before the 1972 Amateur Expansion Draft as (from left to right) David Poile, Aldo Guidolin, Les Moore and Donnie Graham look on June 6, 1972 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images) B Bennett/Getty Images
Don Blackburn (1979-81)
Before moving to North Carolina in 1997, the Hurricanes were known as the Hartford Whalers. Don Blackburn coached the Whalers in their first NHL season, 1979-80, and led them to the playoffs, where they were swept by the mighty Montreal Canadiens.
Pete Muldoon (1926-27)
Major Frederic McLaughlin, the original Chicago Blackhawks owner, had as happy a finger on the firing trigger as any executive in league history. Despite Stanley Cups in 1934 and 1938, McLaughlin went through 14 coaches during his team’s first 18 years, including a converted MLB umpire. This nonstop carousel started with Pete Muldoon, who went 19-22-3 in the team’s first year before McLaughlin had seen enough.
Jacques Demers (1979-80)
Jacques Demers was the coach of the Quebec Nordiques when the franchise transitioned from the WHA to NHL in 1979, prior to its move to Colorado in 1995. Although Demers only last a year in Quebec, he later became a prominent head coach with the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. In Detroit, Demers is the coach that oversaw much of the development as a player of Gerard Gallant.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dave King 2000-03
Perhaps more notable for Golden Knights fans is that one of the Blue Jackets’ inaugural assistant coaches was Gerard Gallant, who had been hired into his post by his longtime mentor, general manager Doug MacLean. After MacLean himself stepped behind the team’s bench following King, Gallant was promoted and became the third head coach in Blue Jackets history in 2004.
Wren Blair (1967-69)
Before the Dallas Stars moved to Texas in 1993, the franchise had been known as the Minnesota North Stars since 1967. Wren Blair had two tenures as the team’s coach in its early years, sandwiched around the first NHL head coaching appearance of John Muckler. Muckler would later become a key part of the Edmonton Oilers’ coaching staff during the team’s run to five Stanley Cups in seven years from 1984-90.
Detroit Red Wings
Art Duncan (1927-28)
The Red Wings were coached by two different men in their first season, Art Duncan and Duke Keats. Neither amassed much of a record, leading to Jack Adams’ hire in 1928. The only person to win a Stanley Cup as a player, coach and general manager, Adams was so successful during his tenure that today, the Adams Award is presented annually to the NHL’s top coach.
Glen Sather (1979-89)
A journeyman player with several franchises, Sather first become Oilers head coach in 1976-77, when they were still part of the World Hockey Association. Transitioning with the franchise when it joined the NHL in 1979, Sather oversaw the Wayne Gretzky-era Oilers dynasty, winning four Stanley Cups in the 1980s, and a fifth as the team’s general manager in 1990.
(Below: Sather and Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington)
EDMONTON, CANADA – CIRCA 1984-85: (L-R) Owner Peter Pocklington and Head Coach Glen Sather of the Edmonton Oilers pose for a photo next to the Stanley Cup circa 1984-85 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devling/NHLI via Getty Images)
EDMONTON, CANADA – CIRCA 1984-85: (L-R) Owner Peter Pocklington and Head Coach Glen Sather of the Edmonton Oilers pose for a photo next to the Stanley Cup circa 1984-85 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devling/NHLI via Getty Images) Andy Devlin/Getty Images
Roger Neilson (1993-95)
The eccentric Roger Neilson coached more teams (8) than any man in NHL history, using his unique style to inspire innovation and overachievers for more than two decades. Some of Neilson’s most unsung work came with the Florida Panthers, who at 33-34-17 missed the playoffs in their first season, but had the best first-year record of any 1990s expansion team.
(Below: Neilson and 1994 first overall draft pick Ed Jovanovski)
Florida Panthers head coach Roger Neilson shakes hands with Canadian hockey player Ed Jovanovski in front of an NHL (National Hockey League) logo, shortly after the Panthers selected Jovanovski as the first overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft, Hartford, Connecticut, 1994. Jovanovski wears a Panthers jersey over his shirt and tie. (Photo by Brian Winkler/Getty Images)
Florida Panthers head coach Roger Neilson shakes hands with Canadian hockey player Ed Jovanovski in front of an NHL (National Hockey League) logo, shortly after the Panthers selected Jovanovski as the first overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft, Hartford, Connecticut, 1994. Jovanovski wears a Panthers jersey over his shirt and tie. (Photo by Brian Winkler/Getty Images) B Winkler/Getty Images
Los Angeles Kings
Red Kelly (1967-69)
As a player, Red Kelly’s eight Stanley Cups (four with Detroit, four with Toronto), are more than any player in league history that never played for the Montreal Canadiens. Kelly won only 55 of 150 games as Kings head coach, before moving on to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins early in that team’s history.
Jacques Lemaire (2000-09)
Often credited for revolutionizing the way defensive hockey is coached, eight-time Stanley Cup-winning player Jacques Lemaire was hired as the first coach in Minnesota Wild history in 2000. Lemaire won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2002-03, leading the Wild on a Cinderella run to the Western Conference Final.
Jack Laviolette: (1909-10)
An original member of the NHL in 1917, the Canadiens’ history actually dates back to 1909, in a league called the National Hockey Association. When the franchise was born, Jack Laviolette was the captain, coach and general manager, sharing coaching duties with Joseph Cattarinich. Although the Canadiens now have more Stanley Cups, 24, than any team in league history, their initial duo only went 2-10-0 in that inaugural 1909-10 season. Montreal’s first NHL coach was Hall of Fame goal scorer Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde.
Barry Trotz (1998-2014)
Hired a year before the Predators even began playing, Barry Trotz coached Nashville for 16 years, a record for a franchise’s first coach.
New Jersey Devils
Bep Guidolin (1974-75)
Before the Devils moved to New Jersey in 1982, the franchise called both Colorado and Kansas City home. Founded as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, the franchise’s first head coach was popular former Original 6 era player Bep Guidolin. With the struggling Scouts, Guidolin last until the team’s second season, when he was replaced by Hockey Hall of Famer Sid Abel.
New York Islanders
Phil Goyette (1972-73)
A former standout player with the Montreal Canadiens, Goyette only lasted 48 games behind the Islanders’ bench, losing 38 before being replaced by Earl Ingarfield. Before their second season, the Islanders replaced Ingarfield with Al Arbour, who, minus a brief hiatus in the late ’80s, coached the team until 1994. Arbour led the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.
New York Rangers
Lester Patrick (1926-39)
A legendary player in the early part of the 20th century, Patrick took over the Rangers before the team’s first game after his predecessor, Conn Smythe, was fired over a disagreement on whether to sign a popular player in the 1920s, Babe Dye. Patrick lasted 13 years behind the Rangers’ bench, leading them to Stanley Cups in 1928 and ’33, even temporarily strapping on the pads and playing goal during the 1928 Final.
(Below: Patrick after his rare appearance as a goalie in the 1928 Stanley Cup Final)
Portrait of Canadian-born professional hockey player, coach, and general manager Lester Patrick (1883 – 1960) of the New York Rangers, posed on the ice and dressed as a goalie, 1940. While coaching the Rangers during the 1928 Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Maroons, Patrick was forced to step in as goaltender after Lorne Chabot was injured in the game. Patrick was 44 years of age at the time. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Portrait of Canadian-born professional hockey player, coach, and general manager Lester Patrick (1883 – 1960) of the New York Rangers, posed on the ice and dressed as a goalie, 1940. While coaching the Rangers during the 1928 Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Maroons, Patrick was forced to step in as goaltender after Lorne Chabot was injured in the game. Patrick was 44 years of age at the time. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images) B Bennett/Getty Images
Rick Bowness (1992-95)
The Senators are a prime example of a franchise that was absolutely woeful in its early years before quickly transforming into a juggernaut. Rick Bowness was the team’s coach during its difficult early years, winning only 39 out of 235 games from 1992-95. Now an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bowness has been behind the bench as an assistant or head coach for more games than any coach in NHL history.
Keith Allen (1967-69)
Allen led the Flyers to a division championship in their first season, despite playing the latter half of the season without a home arena after a winter storm severely damaged the Philadelphia Spectrum’s roof.
George “Red Sullivan (1967-69)
One of the weaker teams (even by 1967 expansion standards) upon their entry into the NHL, the Penguins original coach, Red Sullivan, only lasted two years behind Pittsburgh’s bench. He was then replaced by another Red, Red Kelly, who won eight Stanley Cups as a player and once served in Canadian Parliament while still an active player.
St. Louis Blues
Lynn Patrick (1967)
The son of first Rangers coach Lester Patrick, Lynn Patrick was a Hall of Famer in his own right and the first coach in St. Louis Blues history. Patrick quickly stepped down as Blues head coach early in the team’s first season for an expanded role in the front office. Patrick also was moving aside for an up-and-coming rookie coach, Scotty Bowman, who is now the winningest head coach in NHL history.
(Below: Patrick (left) models an original mockup of the St. Louis Blues’ jerseys)
Canadian-born professional hockey player, coach, and general manager Lynn Patrick (1912 – 1980) (left) of the St. Louis Blues and the team owner Sid Salomon III model home and away uniforms, 1966. The team entered the NHL in 1967. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Canadian-born professional hockey player, coach, and general manager Lynn Patrick (1912 – 1980) (left) of the St. Louis Blues and the team owner Sid Salomon III model home and away uniforms, 1966. The team entered the NHL in 1967. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images) B Bennett/Getty Images
San Jose Sharks
George Kingston (1991-93)
The Sharks weren’t very good in the team’s early years, going 17-58-5 in their first season. Although Kingston didn’t last to that point, the Sharks quickly turned it around, winning playoff series in both 1993-94 and 1994-95.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Terry Crisp (1992-97)
A Stanley Cup-winning coach with the 1989 Calgary Flames, Terry Crisp was hired as the first head coach in Tampa Bay Lightning history by a former teammate, franchise founder and Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. Although only amassing a .333 winning percentage with the Lightning, Crisp wrangled the Lightning into the 1996 playoffs. Crisp was out as Lightning coach only a year later, however, and next tried his hand as a broadcaster with another expansion team, the Nashville Predators.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dick Carroll (1917-19)
Before being rebranded as the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927, Toronto’s NHL franchise was previously called both the St. Patricks and the Arenas. As the Arenas, coach Dick Carrol lead Toronto to a Stanley Cup in the league’s first season, 1917-18.
Hal Laycoe (1970-72)
Laycoe’s two years with the Canucks, when the franchise averaged 22 wins per season, were hardly memorable. A more memorable moment for Laycoe came in 1955, when as a Boston Bruins player he was the catalyst for what became known as the Richard Riot, where Montreal Canadiens fans rioted in the streets of downtown Montreal after Maurice Richard was suspended for punching a referee during a fight with Laycoe. The Richard Riot is now seen as the most culturally significant event in league history, inspiring political change in Canada.
Jim Anderson (1974-75)
In their first NHL season, the Washington Capitals posted the worst record in NHL history – 8-67-5. Jim Anderson, the team’s first head coach, didn’t take the losses well, fired after winning only four of the team’s first 54 games. Anderson was replaced by Red Sullivan, who had earlier been the first coach in Pittsburgh Penguins history. Regardless, the Capitals continued to flounder, not making the playoffs until 1983.
Curt Fraser (1999-02)
Before moving to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets 2.0 franchise began play as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. Curt Fraser was the team’s inaugural coach, winning a combined 64 games during the team’s first three seasons.