June 25 2013 09:50AM
With Dallas Eakins leaving the Toronto Marlies to join the Edmonton Oilers, it's created a vacancy in the Leafs' organization and so far, few details have emerged on how the team plans to fill it.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Affiliates tend to take a while to name head coaches. Eakins, for instance, wasn't named head coach of the Marlies until August 4 2009. Since the roster ends up being—in a perfect world—an extension of the NHL roster, you don't need to know who the coach is headed into the offseason.
A Toronto Star journalist (in keeping with editorial policy at the Nations, we will link to his story) who is generally plugged into the Leafs organization has a theory on who the new coach of the Marlies will be.
it wouldn’t be a bad guess to think Glen Gulutzan may have the inside track on being the new coach of the AHL Marlies.
GM Dave Nonis hasn’t officially interviewed the former Dallas Stars coach yet, and all Nonis has really said is that he wants a coach for the Marlies who is capable of becoming an NHL coach.
The 41-year-old Gulutzan was dismissed by the Stars after only two seasons and replaced by Lindy Ruff. Gulutzan was a candidate for a few other NHL jobs, but hasn’t landed anything.
Gulutzan was kicked out of the NHL coaching circle after the league's annual game of musical chairs. He coached for two years in Dallas and failed to make the playoffs. Eakins took one NHL opening, Patrick Roy took another and the rest were filled by NHL coaching vets. Generally I'd prefer younger coaches to more grizzled coaches, and at 41, I don't think Gulutzan is ingrained in old-school belief.
I liked him in Dallas. Coaches tend to take a lot of heat when the roster fails (and the Jack Adams Award each season tends to go to the coach of the team that did the best relative to the expectations of the hockey world, rather than the best coach) and coaches are insurance for general managers when they put together poor rosters. That said, Gulutzan and Joe Nieuwendyk were both out this year as the Stars did a complete house clean, but it's unfair to blame Gulutzan for the failures in Dallas while Nieuwendyk consistently put together underwhelming rosters.
So this would be a good opportunity as a stepping stone. In two years before Gulutzan came to the Stars, the team had a 46.9% Corsi Tied rate. In his two seasons, the Stars were pretty close to par, at 49.1%. He employed modern zone-matching tactics to give players like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Cody Eakin and Riley Smith more offensive zone time and oversaw the development of a real steady young defenceman in Brendan Dillion. The Stars cycled several AHL vets through the lineup (most of whom Gulutzan saw during his two seasons with the Texas Stars) like Philip Larsen, Jordie Benn, Tomas Vincour that found useful roles in the NHL.
As a coach of a minor league system that is going to see a lot of bodies go between the AHL and NHL in the next couple of years (we're looking at players like Stuart Percy, Jesse Blacker, Josh Leivo and Tyler Biggs) Gulutzan seems like a good fit to put all that together. The Stars were better off with him than without him, but he was thrown out with the bathwater and left teamless.