As HBO play’s it’s highly rated NFL Hard Knocks series, audiences get to see the great work by NFL head coaches (this year is 1st year Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins Joe Philbin). However, that’s the pre-season. In December, HBO will run it’s third installment of it’s 24/7 series for the NHL as the Road to the Winter Classic. This year will feature two new head coaches, Detroit‘s Mike Babcock and Toronto’s Randy Carlye. Both coaches once coached the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks and are now going to be center stage of the NHL’s showcase regular season game in front of 100,000+ at Wolverine Stadium in Ann Arbour, Michigan. The question either coach will have to answer: will their charisma match those who came before them? Will the results be the same? Will they have success? Those are some of the factors that will shape this list.
4) Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins- After taking over the Pens in 2008, Bylsma won a Stanley Cup later in his rookie season. As the defending Stanley Cup champion and host of the 2011 Winter Classic, Bylsma showed the professionalism and determination that makes him a great coach. Despite that he’s ranked FOURTH on this list, Bylsma’s accomplishment’s shouldn’t be scene as the worst, but just the fourth best on this list.
3) Peter Laviolette Philadelphia Flyers - Laviolette won the Stanley Cup as the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, but this is the first time the public got to really know him. His third stop as a head coach in the NHL (Islanders, Hurricanes), Laviolette took his THIRD team to the playoffs and showed his own leadership of a reconstructed Flyers team that dealt their top two stars (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter) in the off-season. Laviolette was just as professional as Bylsma, but had a couple more opportunities to show his personality with his team. Laviolette was a former NY Ranger farm hand that got to coach against his former team in the 2012 Winter Classic. His fire was shown throughout the series whether the Flyers were winning or losing. During the Flyers worst loss in the the 24/7 run last December, Laviolette sounded more like a disappointed father and friend with good advice than a head coach of a popular sports team. Laviolette just made you want to lace up the skates and get on the ice until he shouted, “FULL SPEED! I WANT FULL SPEED!” Then again, he told Max Talbot his career goal total: zero. The two shared that laugh before Talbot returned to his nervous first game back in Pittsburgh where he played his whole career. Also, Laviolette showed a private moment of sorrow after 2012 Winter Classic loss as if he lost the game on the ice.
2) John Tortorella New York Rangers - For many New York Rangers fan, John Tortorella wasn’t the most favored by Rangers fans- simply because of his lack of playing the formerly popular player Sean Avery. That said, Tortorella was last season’s second star of the 24/7 run behind the eccentric Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgylov. Tortorella’s personality oozed through the TV through his profanity laden second period speeches or his inspiring pregame/third period pep talks. He was great as a motivator and a tactician- where hockey constantly is over-looked. HBO did a fantastic job with the 2012 Winter Classic, but Tortorella’s, “We’re gonna go right at ‘em”, resonated through the cable. His friendship with Liam Traynor showed the softer side to the “hard-nosed” coach as well as his no-nonsense style. Tortorella didn’t embrace the cameras, but man did the Rangers’ coach show his worth over the four weeks. His only blemish was ordering the Rangers off the ice and skip the handshake, but a tradition that was started by the Blackhawks and Red Wings isn’t likely to continue as the games get more nasty. The same was said for the previous Penguins walk-off from the Capitals.
1) Bruce Boudreau Washington Capitals - Boudreau is the only coach NOT on his Winter Classic team, but that’s not to say his four week run on HBO wasn’t memorable. Boudreau showed that he was hard, but soft. Colorful and… well colorful- just check YouTube’s swear meter. Boudreau was an anti-cliche’ swearing machine that you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. He was so “colorful” that HBO started making jokes to suit him. In the Capitals outdoor practice to prep for the Winter Classic in front of hundreds of fans, Liev Schrieber narrated that it wouldn’t temper Bruce Boudreau. Immediately Boudreau’s voice was entered, “Skate you, S*@T DOGS!!!” Unlike any other coach on this list, Boudreau kept his team together as they were losing and eventually claimed the top spot in the NHL. Boudreau was even charismatic when picking out Christmas gifts for his family. What more could you ask? If you don’t believe me, click this link!!!!