Last week the Colorado Avalanche announced that Patrick Roy, the Hall of Fame goaltender who led the franchise to two Stanley Cup championships, was returning to the franchise as vice president of hockey operations…and head coach. Obviously, the move is two-pronged. On the one hand, it generates publicity and interest among a fanbase that is losing interest with each losing season. On the other hand, it gets the attention of Colorado’s core of young players. When a four-time Con Smythe Trophy winner says “this is how you win big games,” you tend to believe him.
But does success as a player guarantee success behind the bench? Today we’ll answer that question by taking a look at other hockey Hall of Famers who tried their hand at coaching in the NHL. Does history suggest Roy will be a success for the Avalanche? Click on to find out.
Former defenseman Brad Park (1968-1985) was a seven-time All-Star and a six-time runner up for the Norris Trophy. He made the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and in 1998 The Hockey News ranked him 49th on their list of the 100 greatest hockey players of all-time.
Unfortunately, his career as a coach was as poor as it was short. Right after retiring from the blue line, Park coached the Detroit Red Wings to a sad .200 winning percentage to start the 1985-86 season. Then he got canned.
11. Brad Park
Delvecchio played 1,549 games with the Detroit Red Wings from 1951 to 1974, many of them on the same line as the great Gordie Howe. The result? An excellent 456 goals, 825 assists, three Stanley Cups, 13 All-Star games, a 12-year sting as team captain, and three Lady Byng Awards.
As a coach, however, Delvecchio's record was less sparkling. He served several stints as head coach of the Wings, but his winning percentage in 245 career games behind the bench was just .335.
10. Alex Delvecchio
Everybody knows what Wayne Gretzky did as a player. The guy holds every major offensive record in NHL history. As coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, however, Gretzky was far from Great. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't great. In four full seasons behind the bench, the desert dogs finished above .500 once—and that was just one game above .500. So needless to say they never made the playoffs, either.
9. Wayne Gretzky
Bryan Trottier set a rookie record by scoring 95 points for the Islanders in 1975-76, and from there things only got better: 1,279 games, 524 goals, 901 assists, six Stanley Cups.
But Trottier's foray into coaching? That wasn't as successful. The guy pissed off Islanders fans by signing up to coach the Rangers in 2002, then he pissed off Rangers fans by instituting the neutral zone trap and winning just 45% of his games through the first half of the season. Shortly thereafter, Trottier was relieved of his duties.
8. Bryan Trottier
Phil Esposito is fifth on the all-time goals list with 717, so it's no wonder why they consider him one of the greatest hockey players ever. As a coach, however, he was only so-so. As general manager of the New York Rangers in 1986-87, he appointed himself interim coach that year and finished the season with a respectable 24-19 record. Then he coached two more games for the Blueshirts in 1988-89, going 0-2, before decided that coaching just wasn't his thing.
7. Phil Esposito
Denis Savard made it to the Hall thanks to his 473 goals and 1,338 points in just 1,196 games. The Blackhawks then gave him a shot at coaching midway through the 2006-07 season and he went 24-30, just decent enough to keep the job for 2007-08. And that season went pretty well: the Hawks went 40-34 and missed the playoffs by just a few points. Nevertheless, after starting the 2008-09 season with one win in the first four games, Savard got canned in favor of Joel Quenneville...who led the Hawks to a Cup in 2010.
6. Denis Savard
Bill Barber scored 420 goals for the Flyers from 1972-1984, and along with Reggie Leach and Bobby Clarke helped lead the franchise to two Stanley Cup championships. So hiring him as head coach in 2000 seemed like a good idea...and it actually was. After taking over 28 games into the season, Barber's flyers went 31-13-7 and he won the Jack Adams award as NHL coach of the year. Then, in 2001-02, his flyers went 42-27-10 and won the Atlantic Division, making the playoffs for the second straight year.
Unfortunately for Barber, the Flyers also got eliminated in the first round for the second straight year, and the itchy ownership in Philly wasn't going to stand for that.
5. Bill Barber
Bob Gainey is regarded as one of the best defensive forwards in NHL history, having won the Selke Trophy four times. That fact, combined with four All-Star selections and five Stanley Cups—plus a Con Smythe Trophy—got him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992.
However, as a great a player as Gainey was, his coaching record was pretty mediocre. He spend 415 games behind the bench for Minnesota/Dallas from 1990-96, but during that time he had just one winning season. Sure, he took the North Stars to the Stanley Cup Finals as a rookie coach in 1991, but that team's regular season record was 27-39-14, so in hind sight that looks an awful lot like a fluke.
4. Bob Gainey
Larry Robinson, one of the best hockey defensemen of all-time, had a strange NHL coaching career. He started as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils before taking over as head coach of the L.A. Kings...and finishing above .500 just once in five full seasons. After that, in 1999, he rejoined the Devils as an assistant coach again. And when Devils GM Lou Lamoriello controversially fired head coach Robbie Ftorek with just eight games left in the regular season despite a 41-20-8-5 record, Robinson took over, leading them to the Stanley Cup. The next season, Robinson stayed on as head coach, and the Devils were again a top team, going 48-19-12-3 and making the Eastern Conference Finals. But then, in 2000-01, after winning just 21 of the first 51 games, Robinson was fired.
3. Larry Robinson
If there is one case to look to for a prediction for Patrick Roy as coach of the Avalanche, this would be it. Why? Because Gerry Cheevers was also a Hall of Fame, Stanley Cup-winning goalie. He won Cups in 1970 and 1972, and he was inducted into the Hall of Game in 1985.
As a coach? Cheevers was pretty good. In four full seasons as coach of the Bruins they had two second-place finishes and two first-place finishes. Then, during his fifth season, he was fired 56 games into the season with a record of 25-24-7. So while the Bruins didn't give the guy a long leash, he certain earned one.
2. Gerry Cheevers
Jacques Lemaire scored at least 20 goals in all 12 of his seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, topping out at 44 in 1972-73 and totaling 366 in all. He's in the Hall of Fame for that, and for the fact that he was an integral part of the Canadiens dynasty that won the Stanley Cup eight times during his career.
Lemaire was arguably even better as a coach. Why arguably? Because although his 617 regular season wins puts him 9th on the list of all-time winningest coaches, he only has one Stanley Cup from behind the bench. That lone championship came with the Devils in 1995, the year after they lost a double-overtime Game 7 to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. After that, however, it's a long list of major disappointments in the postseason: second round loss in 1997 despite 104 points; first round loss in 1998 despite 107 points; first round loss in 2007 despite 104 points; first round loss in 2008 despite 98 points, first round loss in 2010 despite 103 points...you get the idea.
Still, those 617 wins and that one Stanely Cup make Jacques Lemaire a great coach, and definitely the best Hall of Fame player-turned-coach in NHL history.
1. Jacques Lemaire
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