Manitoba Moose Coaching Factory: Arniel next NHL head coach
The announcement of the Columbus Blue Jackets hiring Scott Arniel earlier in this week makes him the third current coach in the NHL, to have coached the AHL Manitoba Moose. The two previous coaches that have come from the Moose have been Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks and Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks.
It was only a matter of time before Arniel was going to get his crack at a job in the NHL; since winning the coach of the year award of the AHL in 2009 he’s been one of the more sought after coaches.
Even more impressive is the fact that neither of them has been fired yet; in the NHL where keeping your job as a coach for more than 3-4 years seems to be an amazing feat. Vigneault will be going into this 5th season as the Canucks head coach and Carlyle going into his 6th season with the Ducks.
Both of them have been relatively successful in the NHL during their coaching tenures so far. Carlyle has had tremendous success having won the Cup in 2007, plus one more Western Conference finals appearance; this season being his only real blemish on the record missing the playoffs for the first time.
Vigneault has not had as much playoff success as Vigneault, but still has made the playoffs 3 out of 4 years, every year making the playoffs winning the division + the 2007 Jack Adams award.
Of course for Vigneault, Caryle and Arniel have made it to the NHL because of what they have accomplished in the AHL with the Moose. When you look at the success of the Moose since 2005 which is when the trio of the current NHL coaches were behind the bench in Manitoba it’s fairly impressive.
Even though they never won the Calder Cup, they have still won at least 40 games and 87 points, along with 5 straight 98+ point seasons, 3 over 100 + making the playoffs every year; including a heartbreaking 4-2 loss in the 09 Calder Finals, an appearance in the 05 conference finals, along with winning a playoff series in every year except two.
Obviously the easiest way to assess the value of a coach is based on wins and playoff performance at the NHL level. But, when you assess the ability of a coach at the minor league level the way to analyze their performance is slightly different.
I would say more value is placed on the ability to develop the young talent in the organization they represent in the NHL; in the case of the Moose it’s the Vancouver Canucks. This has clearly been one of the key attributes for these coaches. In addition, they have all done a great job developing a system that gets the most out of their players even if they aren’t the most talented in the AHL or the NHL.
Most of these players developed where not high draft picks with tons of upside that were expected to have amazing NHL careers
All of these players have played down with the Moose, and have been in the NHL since, some even becoming key players:
• Kevin Bieksa (2004-2006) drafted 151st in 2001
• Alex Burrows (2004-2006) undrafted
• Alex Edler (2006-2007) drafted 91st in 2004
• Michael Grabner (2006-2010) drafted 14th in 2006
• Jannik Hansen (2007-2008) drafted 287th in 2004
• Ryan Kelser (2003-2005) drafted 23rd in 2003
• Mason Raymond (2006-2008) drafted 51st in 2005
• Rick Rypien (2004-2007) undrafted
All three of the previous Moose coaches have had a significant impact on the development of those players’ careers.
Vigneault coached the Moose the year the NHL was going through the lockout, at that time Burrows, Kesler, Bieksa and Rypien were all on the team. AV got tons of leverage out of these players and got them to buy into his system. When he got promoted to take over the Canucks in 2006 he knew that core group of players he had coached in the AHL could be relied upon at the NHL level.
Prior to Vigneaults one season with the Moose Carlyle was in charge and had the opportunity to coach many of those players. I am sure he had a crucial impact on the development of the now Canuck players.
The past three years Arniel has done a great job developing Grabner, Raymond, Edler and Hansen. Grabner was the only first round pick with high expectations. After a slow start in the minors he finally broke through and showed his skills with the Canucks this year. Raymond has reached his potential developing into a quality top 6 forward in the NHL. Edler is a solid stay at home defenseman with a bit of offensive touch, at 24 years old he’s still got room to improve and will remain a quality top 4 defenseman. Hansen is strictly a grinder, but for a 4th liner he has excellent speed with decent scoring touch.
Plus, there are a few more prospects that haven’t played for the Canucks full time yet that Anriel has coached over the past few years; in particular highly touted prospects Corey Schneider, Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder; along with upcoming defenseman Evan Oberg.
One common trend you see with these three coaches is their emphasis on defensive responsibility. In the NHL Carlyle and Vigneault have always tried to implement a physical, hardnosed style of play. I am sure Arniel will implement the same philosophy in Columbus; like he did in Manitoba.
In addition to the ability and coaching styles of the former Moose coaches other people deserve recognition in the franchises success. GM Craig Heisinger in particular deserves a ton of credit since taking over the position in 2002.
Even though the Canucks drafted most of the players; he has to be on the same page with Canucks management. There is a strategy put together in order to get the most out of these players and prepare them for the NHL.
There is only so much time the Canucks management can put towards the Moose and they become reliant on Heisinger; providing prospect reports, development and the coaches work with the players. He’s clearly delivered for close to a decade now. I am sure it’s only a matter of time he joins the former coaches of the Moose and finds a GM job in the NHL.
I am wishing Scott Arniel all the best in his quest to turn around the Columbus Blue Jackets and continue his coaching success in the NHL; like Carlyle and Vigneault did after their stint with the Moose.
The coaching vacancy in Manitoba may be one of the most sought after minor league coaching position in hockey history. At this point all you have to do is stick around, take advantage of the good Canuck prospects along with Heisingers stellar work; and you will be an NHL coach in a few short years.