TopShelf: I am tempted to put this in the slam dunk category for Kevin Dineen.
- Proven ability to work with young talent? Check.
- Demonstrated record of finding success early? Check.
- Hockey career/pedigree that current players (ie: young) can remember? Check.
- Create some buzz among the few fans who are still paying attention? Check, more or less. At least more so than any other candidate.
The only thing that keeps me being completly convinced it is ol' number 11 is that Jackets GM Scott Howson is wise enough to keep an open mind and allow all the candidates to make their case, and then make an informed decision. Make no mistake, Dineen is a legit coach who will be assuming the helm of an NHL team much sooner than later, but any sentimentality fans and CBJ supporters may have for Dineen will not play into Howson's decision. If either Arniel or Boucher seem a better fit, they will get the job.
And yes, I left Claude Noel out of that sentence intentionally. If Howson thought he was the man for the job he would have hired him weeks ago and forgone the protracted search. I wish him well, and fear his return to the Predators organization. All signs are that the Jackets are looking to continue the recent NHL trend of hiring a head coach who embraces the concept of playing and winning with a large dose of young talent. The inability of Ken Hitchcock to do this was what led to the need for a new coach in the first place. Dineen, Arniel and Boucher have proven that they are capable of winning with youth, albeit at a level of hockey where all the players are young. But it is the way they have managed to lead those young players that is the key. Further bolstering Dineen's "kid-cred" is that before proving himself behind the bench, the Jackets organization thought enough of his ability to relate to young players that they made him their Director of Player Development. Dude just flat out knows how to relate to young players. And that is the name of the game in this coaching search.
Stick on the Ice:
First off, I was a little surprised by MacLean not making it to the second round of interviews. I'm sure that Howson has great reasons, but I'm eager to uncover the reasoning. In my opinion, MacLean was solidly in my Top 3 and probably in my Top 2. He knows the Central very well, he's been part of Cup wins in two Western Conference markets and he was a solid NHL player. Further, he played at least some role in Detroit developing its young talent as successfully as it has. I thought that he, moreso than any of the other candidates, would have brought the most immediate cache behind the bench. I'm not saying he was the best candidate, but I was just surprised to see him out of the running so early. I'm sure he'll be a little saucy the next time we face the Wings. I know this isn't much of a reach, but I do think it's going to be Dineen. With MacLean out of it, it comes down to the interim coach and several AHL coaches. I like Noel a great deal -- and I do believe that he's a capable NHL caliber coach -- but I just see the organization going with some new blood. So, if you buy into that theory, the decision comes down to one of several AHL coaches. Any coach that meets with consistent AHL coaching success has to know how to develop young talent and natural potential -- all the candidates have proven that. But Dineen has some intangibles that really complement his natural gifts as a coach and put him ahead of the pack. For starters, he is a known commodity within the organization and has already received the vocal - if not yet public - support of the locker room. He played the game at a very high level for nearly 19 years in the NHL -- I think that will bring a unique perspective to the locker room. Plenty of people in Nationwide Arena saw him punch opposing players in the face and score goals. He scored more than 350 goals and had more than 2200 penalty minutes. That is impressive. It's already been proven to the organization that the guy has heart and a real will to win. And he has a standing relationship with Tyler Wright, as the two played together 2000-2002. With all the young talent that Columbus has to develop, I see the relationship between Tyler Wright and the new head coach as critically important. Dineen also served as a development coach for the Jackets, so he has great insight on the intricacies of that job -- which I see as another positive. Last -- it was just reported on Puck Rakers (http://blog.dispatch.com/cbj/) that Dineen was the first to get a second interview. It could be due to scheduling logistics, but that cadence seems tellling. And Boucher really has some ground to make up since he's yet to even have his first interview. And if Arniel gets an offer from Atlanta, I don't see the Jackets getting into a bidding war.