Tuesday, November 27, 2012

College Hockey's Five Best Coaches

These rankings are based on which coaches I would want to hire right now for a job if I was an athletic director with a job opening. There are other coaches who might have more career achievement or were top notch coaches, but are past their prime. This list is not to take away from great coaches like Jack Parker, Red Berenson, Don Lucia, Dean Blais or Jeff Jackson, but they wouldn't be in my top five list of coaches to hire right now.

1. Jerry York (Boston College) York is the oldest coach to make my list, but he is two wins away from being the all-time wins leader among college hockey coaches. He has not faded away, like many of the other older coaches seem to do. He has won three NCAA Championships since 2008. He has made countless Frozen Fours since 1998. He has produced NHL talent like there is no tomorrow. York, who also won the 2001 NCAA Championship at BC and the 1984 NCAA Championship at Bowling Green. His teams always seem to peak in March and April.

2. George Gwozdecky (Denver) Gwozdecky has won at both Miami and Denver, but has taken the Pioneer program to heights it hasn't seen in decades. He won the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Championship and has won an average of 25.5 games going back to the 2001-2002 season. He has also produced several NHLers and is once again the bench boss for one of the top teams this season.

3. Enrico Blasi (Miami) Blasi took a few years to get the Red Hawks back on track, but since then has led Miami to eight NCAA Tournament appearances since 2004. His teams have averaged 24.1 wins since 2002. He has also overseen the program as it built a new state of the art on campus arena.

4. Nate Leaman (Providence) Leaman resurrected the Union program after years of mediocrity. In his final season in Schenectady, the Dutchmen won their first ever regular season title. In his first year at Providence last season, they made the league playoffs after a dry spell, upsetting Lowell in the first round. His recruiting class this year at PC was one of the best in a while for the Friars.

5. Rick Bennett (Union) Bennett took over for Leaman at Union and didn't skip a beat. The Dutchmen repeated as Regular Season Champions, but also added the playoff title and a Frozen Four appearance to the repertoire. Both were the first in school history. He's a young, up and coming coach, who I believe will get a shot somewhere in Hockey East in the not too distant future, either at Maine or Northeastern.