Once again, the hockey world was made a slightly louder place when Pierre McGuire hopped on Montreal’s TSN 690 this evening. While on, they asked him about 26-year-old Arizona Coyotes Assistant GM John Chyaka’s promotion to the big seat. In theory, Pierre’s opinion should have been more useful than usual here, seeing as he was hired as an NHL assistant coach at 29, an assistant GM at 32, and a Head Coach 2 months later. He was a young power broker in the industry before those were considered a thing.
The result, however, was pretty vintage Pierre.
Pierre McGuire on Coyotes analytics-related hire: “it didn’t work in Toronto.” #TSN690
— Conor McKenna (@mckennaconor) May 5, 2016
I want you to consider the following things before you place any value into Pierre McGuire’s opinion.
- Once claimed that no coach in the NHL could out-wit him. In his only year of being an NHL chead coach, McGuire won 23 of 67 games.
- Once bragged about shutting down Mario Lemieux in a game where his team gave up 7 goals, four of which came from Lemieux’s linemate Kevin Stevens.
- Heavily criticized the Montreal Canadiens for drafting Carey Price, suggesting that they should have picked Gilbert Brule in at the same spot.
- Ended up somewhere just barely short of an orgasm in reaction to a Dustin Tokarski save during a World Juniors broadcast. There’s nothing really wrong with that, I just wanted to point out that Tokarski grew up to be a not quite capable backup to Carey Price for a few minutes, making his NHL debut some time after Gilbert Brule gave up and headed to Europe.
- Managed to get fired from the Head Coaching position in Hartford by Brian Burke, a man who was so loyal to his coaches that that he refrained from departed from two separate teams without firing Randy Carlyle.
- Used William Nylander’s father Michael as a scapegoat for his struggles in Hartford, to the point of making up false stories as an excuse for sending him to the minors.
- Once suggested that any coach that uses an analytical approach to review their players should be immediately fired.
- Is suggesting that, by promoting Chayka, the Coyotes are starting the clock on a failed experiment that the Leafs began 20 months ago when they hired 27-year-old Kyle Dubas into… the same position that Chayka was in until now. Whatever, we’ll run with it. In those 20 months..
The Toronto Maple Leafs..
- Have gone from having a prospect pool where Matt Finn was considered their second-best prospect to one spearheaded by this year’s first overall pick (Auston Matthews, probably), William Nylander, and Mitch Marner, along with a solid 20 or so players what would have been in their previous top ten.
- Have gone from giving up the most shots ever in an 82 game season and being outshot more times by any team in NHL history to being in the upper half in the league in most shot-based metrics, thanks in no small part to a systems-savvy but numbers-accepting head coach in Mike Babcock.
- Have signed multiple low-cost, numbers-friendly free agents in the past two offseasons, only to turn them into useful players and, on occasion, flip them for more young assets.
- Have gone from “let’s sign David Clarkson and only lose out on keeping David Bolland because somebody offered him more than $5 million” to avoiding mid-tier free agents altogether and retaining players like Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri, and Jake Gardiner on obnoxiously team-friendly contracts.
- Have, under Dubas’ eye, seen the Toronto Marlies go from an upper-mid tier AHL team largely filled with mid-20’s veterans on their last gasp to posting the third best record in league history with a prospect-laden roster.
- Finished in 30th this year, but had a better record than last year and a better record than any last-place team since 2007/08. They also managed to put up those 69 points in spite of the league’s worst combined shooting and save percentage.
- Have shed the contracts of Clarkson, Phil Kessel, and Dion Phaneuf, all with the rest of the league knowing that they were high-priority removals, all while only retaining $1.2 million in salary and gaining multiple prospects and draft picks in the process.
One could keep going with the bullet points, but the core retort is that the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone from a team with ideas nestled in the dark ages with a dream of eventually achieving mediocrity to one with a prospect pool the size of the Amazon River, a successful farm squad, multiple examples of efficient short setting and undervalued talent acquisition, a much-improved systems game, and a bright core that appears to be relatively cost controlled for years to come, that can be supplemented with an artificially boosted bottomless pit of cap space.
That’s not just because of analytics-related hires; that requires a front office of many perspectives that works together. But… that’s the point, and that’s where many teams are going. The Coyotes are surely one of them; if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have added more hockey operations responsibility Dave Tippett and left the door open for another assistant GM. Stanley Cups aren’t won in a day, non-instant success doesn’t automatically equal failure, and both the Leafs and the Coyotes are probably going to be quite good in a few years.
More likely than not, McGuire is simply just scared of the day where somebody gets hired to coach or manage an NHL team that was born after the last day he was employed by one.