Value of a Coaching Staff

Frisbetarian

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Dec 3, 2003
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What do you guys think is the value of a strong coaching staff in the NHL? How many more points would an average team with an exceptional coaching staff earn vs a club with an average staff? Or one with poor coaching?
 

Scoops Bolling

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Jun 19, 2007
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It's an interesting question. Of the Big 4 sports, I'd say the impact of coaching on wins and losses probably goes NFL-NHL-NBA-MLB in terms of most to least impact. But part of what makes it difficult, particularly in the NFL and NHL, is that you can't really evaluate a coach in a vacuum in those sports as roster construction will make a big impact on the efficacy of any given coach's strategy and management. Most coaches are going to have a given system that can only be adjusted so far (even a system predicated on flexibility like the BB Patriots won't deviate off its Coryell foundation on offense), and it's the same in the locker room; coaches tend to have their manner of management, and will only budge so far off of it. So if you're hiring a coach whose system is predicated on defensemen leading the transition and centers playing deep in the zone to provide support and a reset option and you give them a bunch of defenseman who are primarily defensive oriented guys who can move the puck but aren't the fleetest of foot along with a group of playmaking centers who aren't that defensively responsible...can you really blame the coach when the result is a bunch of turnovers leading to goals? To some extent yes, obviously the system doesn't work with the talent on the team and the coach needs to adjust, but at the same time, management is really the group that fucked up by putting the wrong combination of coach and players together. While a better coach can likely adapt their system better to the talent on hand, I'm not sure you can totally disentangle the system-roster dynamic; a qualitatively "worse" coach might get more wins with a given roster that well suits their system then a "better" coach whose system isn't suited to it.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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The obvious answer is to compare the records of teams before and after a midseason coaching change, but that leaves out a ton of factors, like reduced effort prior to a change from an unsuccessful staff and playing for contracts and favor with the new staff.
 

SoxJox

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Dec 22, 2003
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It also leaves out thee potential effect of player changes, depending on whether the coaching change occurred before or after the trade deadline. But I believe influences such as these are on the margins. Anecdotally, we've all seen vast improvements in some situations, water treading in others, and pure "I'm quitting" nosedives elsewhere. But certainly an in-depth study might prove enlightening - hockey or otherwise.

In some ways, it may also depend on the coach's tenure. Is it a coach who has an extended history with the franchise or a new hire within the past 2-3 years who ostensibly was brought in to "fix" things?

Lots of variables, some of which may combine to produce results that give the appearance that a coaching change had some effect one way or the other.

Me...I don't believe that a definite case can be made. But I admit that I am lazy enough to not do the research. Que sera sera.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Jul 22, 2006
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I wouldn’t possibly presume to put a number on it, but Id guess it probably adds a couple of wins over the season. I’d also guess it makes a larger impact in the playoffs, when game to game adjustments become such a factor.
Having elite coaching staffs in particular areas can be hugely beneficial too, right? A PP guru, or the best goalie coach, something like that.
good question tho chuck...I won’t be able to quantify it, but I’ll keep thinking about it.
 

Frisbetarian

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Dec 3, 2003
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Great responses so far. Thanks.

Any thoughts on Butch taking over from Claude? I don't want to influence anyone's opinions (so I won't say anything else), but this is an interesting example, imo.
 

lexrageorge

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Jul 31, 2007
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I do recall the Bruins teams under both Steve Kasper and Dave Lewis, probably the 2 worst coaches in the history of the franchise. So, while I cannot comment on the value of an elite coaching staff, I think it's safe to say that poor coaching can certainly derail a team.
 

tims4wins

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Jul 15, 2005
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I don't know much about hockey, but personally I think that for all the major sports, you have the elite 5-6 guys who are true difference makers, the 5-6 awful guys who actively make their team worse and should probably never have been hired, and the middle 16-20 guys who are more or less interchangeable (though they might have their own individual strengths). On balance, I think a bad coach (regardless of sport) can do more to actively hurt a team than a good coach can do to actively improve a team.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Jul 22, 2006
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Great responses so far. Thanks.

Any thoughts on Butch taking over from Claude? I don't want to influence anyone's opinions (so I won't say anything else), but this is an interesting example, imo.
I think the biggest difference was that Claude was a bit too rigid with his tactical approach and too slow to make adjustments. His man management skills were good if I recall but maybe not ready for the modern athlete- that 2011 team was pretty old school. Butch made immediate improvements in both of those areas.

to me the interesting study is Butch’s career path. In his first job he was qualified from an intellectual perspective but by all accounts came in way too hot and came off like an ass...I’ve heard that Washington team hated him and it was such a disaster that people around the league thought he’s never get hired again. But he then took a step back, worked on his approach, honed his skills at Providence, and clearly has become one of the better coaches in the NHL.

Jay Pandolfo and Joe Sacco were both known for being smart players and I’ve read good stuff on Dean. Goalie Bob has been killing it for years too. I think for a coach getting good assistants is huge, especially when you can delegate certain areas with confidence, knowing your general ideas are being communicated/taught through a slightly different filter.
 

ColdSoxPack

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Jul 14, 2005
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A coaching staff that dumbs the game down to neutral zone trap or left wing lock or dump and chase is good for the coach who is trying to keep his job but bad for hockey. The Bruins have had plenty of those. I like Butch because he is willing to let the offense flow when possible. It is frustrating when kids who have played hockey al their lives get the talent coached out of them. My 2 cents.
 

Over Guapo Grande

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Nov 29, 2005
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Great question @Frisbetarian . Nice to see you around these parts again. Bruce said this after last night:

"We’re coaches. We’re here for structure. We’re here to instill discipline, culture, how we want to play, identity, all those things. We didn’t have much of that in the first or second either. But the shooting part, once they’re on the ice, the execution falls on the player. We just have to buy in a little more. It was addressed. If we’re not, then we have to defend better than anybody in the National Hockey League every single night. Because it’s going to be a lot of 2-1 games if we’re not willing to put pucks on the net.”
I don't have too much to add as I never learned how to skate (picture a giraffe on ice to get a sense of what it looked like when I tried). But I think a coaching staff establishes a culture, and then the big part is getting buy in to that culture. A whole bunch of free-wheeling players may not exceed with Claude but could thrive elsewhere.
 

veritas

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Jan 13, 2009
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I think the difference between the best coaches and and average coach is less than people would think, in the regular season. Single digit points per season I would guess.

Playoffs I think coaching is significantly more important. Playing the same team up to 7 times in a row, there is a lot more coaches can do with adjustments and gameplanning. Sample sizes are just too small to show this statistically though. Bruce Boudreau seems like a coach who is less effective in the playoffs. But he only has 1 regular season worth of playoff games in his 15 year coaching career so it's hard to say for sure.

I also think that while coaches can't have a significant positive impact in the regular season, it's certainly possible for them to ruin a season. It's probably why teams are very conservative hiring, going with proven mediocre coaches over less experienced ones who may have more risk/reward. Doug Weight comes to mind as someone who just absolutely tanked a season.
 

FL4WL3SS

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Jul 31, 2006
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A huge part of what an NHL coach does is try to figure out which levers to pull and buttons to push when the team is struggling and similarly a good coach recognizes when you just leave shit alone.

I've seen great coaches that tinker too much and torpedo the team, especially in the playoffs.