By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) — It could not have been easy for Blackhawks general manager to send Dave Bolland packing after he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Boston Bruins just days after he accomplished the feat.
Yet, Bowman did not hesitate and Bolland will now attempt to exert some leadership for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bowman did not have to agonize at all over his most recent decision. In giving head coach Joel Quenneville a three-year contract extension, he has helped secure the team’s immediate future.
All Quenneville has done since he came aboard early in the 2008-09 season is win two Stanley Cups for a team that had not won even once since 1961.
“There’s no one we’d want coaching this team more than Joel,” said Bowman. “He’s done a fantastic job over the years. I think the record (222-106) speaks for itself.”
Quenneville’s straight-forward approach has worked well with his players. He is not a player’s coach, but he’s not a humorless curmudgeon, like Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings, either.
Quenneville is one of the best head coaches in the game. Here’s our ranking of the top five coaches in the game.
5. Barry Trotz, Nashville – Take a look at Trotz behind the Nashville bench, and it looks like Hollywood central casting got their assignments mixed up. Trotz can certainly play the role of the hockey coach, but he looks a lot more like the classic evil scientist character that James Bond might have to battle in order to save the world.
Looks aside, Trotz has been the Predators’ only coach. He has coached a strong defensive style over the years, and even though the Preds have not been one of the NHL’s most gifted teams, his teams have made the playoffs in seven of the last nine years. While they failed to get to the postseason in 2013, look for a bounce-back season from Trotz and the Preds.
4. Paul MacLean, Ottawa – This may be a bit of a reach because the 2013 season was only his second full year, few coaches have gained as much respect as MacLean. His Senators have made the playoffs in both seasons. They nearly upset the top-seeded New York Rangers in the 2012 Eastern Conference playoffs and they upset the Montreal Canadiens this year before they were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
What made MacLean’s performance notable was that his team was devastated by injuries. Most expected the Sens to be sellers at the trade deadline, but MacLean never allowed this team to lose confidence even though they lost Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza for long periods of time.
3. Claude Julien, Boston – Julien’s tenure in Boston has been quite successful, as he has been to the playoffs every year. He led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and would have had his second this year if they had been able to overcome the Blackhawks.
Julien is not an inspiring lockerroom speaker, but he excels at all other aspects of coaching. When it comes to strategy, matchups and teaching the game, he does not have to take a back seat to anyone, except perhaps our top-ranked coach. He is also among the most honest and decent men coaching in North American professional sports.
2. Joel Quenneville, Chicago – It’s his focus and intensity that has allowed Quenneville to become one of the top coaches in the sport. He does not let injuries or off-the-ice issues distract him from his job, which is to keep the Blackhawks winning. His adjustment vs. Boston in Game 4 – going after defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg — allowed the Blackhawks to turn the series around and win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
1. Mike Babcock, Detroit – He is the best and most consistent coach in the game. He is probably the NHL’s equivalent of Don Shula, the legendary Hall of Fame coach of the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins. Bum Phillips once said Shula could take “his’n and beat your’n, and then take your’n and beat his’n.” While Phillips was grammatically challenged, it’s clear what he meant and the same thing applies to Babcock.
In addition to being a Stanley Cup winner, he has also won Olympic gold as Canada’s head coach in 2010, and he was selected to serve in that capacity again in 2014. When it comes to motivation, teaching, strategy and matchups, Babcock is without peer.
No team gave the Blackhawks more of a run for their money than the undermanned Detroit Red Wings, and the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference are thrilled that the Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.