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2023/24 NHL season: Top five head coaches

The NHL is loaded with fantastic head coaches that are looking to help lead their team to a Stanley Cup championship. Among several, here are the top 5 NHL head coaches this season.

The NHL is loaded with fantastic head coaches that are looking to help lead their team to a Stanley Cup championship. Among several, here are the top 5 NHL head coaches this season.

Dave Hakstol

In their inaugural season, the Seattle Kraken collected just 60 points which was the second-least in the Western Conference. 

Just a year later in 2022-23, that same Kraken team make the playoffs and even beat the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round of the playoffs. If that turnaround does not indicate a heck of a coaching job, then nothing does.

Seattle has plenty of depth but they lack a true superstar which playoff teams typically have. Dave Hakstol has been able to bring together a mix of players taken from other teams in an expansion draft and help turn them into a playoff team in a very short time. 

That is not an easy task in 3-5 years let alone 2 years. Hakstol will look to continue to build on a solid foundation in Seattle.

Lindy Ruff

The New Jersey Devils had another massive turnaround last season from the year before. Lindy Ruff’s Devils in 2021-22 finished the season near the cellar of the Eastern Conference with just 63 points.

Last season, they finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Ruff was able to tap into the talent of New Jersey’s youth and keep the team’s play consistent all season long.

After a run that ended in the second round of the playoffs and an offseason of roster improvement, Ruff will have his guys focused on taking that next step.

Managing young superstars, grizzled veterans, and a competitive division is not an easy thing to do in today’s NHL.

Ruff has been able to pull the right strings and get these players to buy in which has resulted in this team shattering glass ceilings.

Paul Maurice

The Florida Panthers had a late-season turnaround that ultimately catapulted them through the playoffs all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Paul Maurice is a major reason for that turnaround and playoff run. Maurice took over the prior year’s President’s Trophy winning team that saw both team and coach turnover from the year before.

Once the players bought into their new coach, they played their best hockey of the season and got within three games of winning the Stanley Cup.

Florida had an up and down first half of the season with the team on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

It would have been easy to lose motivation and subconsciously pack it in for the year. 

All Maurice needed was an inch with this team and he took a mile. Players rave about playing for him and he has the Panthers’ locker room ready to make another run.

Rod Brind’Amour

The Carolina Hurricanes organization loves themselves some Rod Brind’Amour, and why wouldn’t they? He played 10 season for Carolina and was the captain on their lone Stanley Cup winning team in 2005-06.

Brind’Amour was a fantastic player and is proving to be a fantastic head coach. 

In his first two seasons as head coach, the Hurricanes finished 4th in the Metropolitan Division. In the last three consecutive seasons, they have won the Metropolitan Division.

The next step for Rod Brind’Amour and his Hurricanes are to make a deeper playoff run. They are set up well to do just that.

This is a great roster that respects and buys into the message of their coach who played 1,484 games in this league.

He has been there and done that and his guys know that. There are not many better coaches in the league to listen to than Brind’Amour and his results have reflected as much. Look for Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes to take that next step this year.

Bruce Cassidy

The defending Stanley Cup champion head coach got some nice vindication after a somewhat unceremonious departure from his prior job.

Bruce Cassidy led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals in one of his five very good seasons at the helm in Boston.

There were questions about whether or not players liked playing for Cassidy, but his team’s results typically spoke for his coaching style. That was reinforced in a big way with Vegas’ Stanley Cup win under Cassidy in June.

Cassidy now has two Stanley Cup Finals appearances and a win in the last five seasons. Since joining Boston as the head coach in the 2016-17 season, his worst regular season winning percentage is .652.

Cassidy has shown he is an effective coach in both the regular season and playoffs. As long as his message continues to resonate, his team will be successful.

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