Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ranking the Hockey East Coaches

These rankings are based on who an athletic director would hire if he could hire any coach in Hockey East at this exact moment.

1. Jerry York (Boston College) - This ranking is fairly simple. Jerry York is older and probably wouldn't coach for very long, but if I was an athletic director and could hire anyone, I'd take the Watertown, MA native even if it was only for a short period of time. York has picked up five NCAA Championships, four at BC and one at Bowling Green. He's produced numerous NHL players and besides the championships, his teams have made countless Frozen Fours.

2. Nate Leaman (Providence) - The former Union bench boss has really turned around the Providence program. Recruiting is up, talent is on the upswing and the team is in fourth place, at the semester break. The 2011 Spencer Penrose Award winner as the best coach in the nation guided Union to success never seen before in that school's history. He is in his second season behind the bench at PC and will bring the Friars to heights not reached since Lou Lamoriello was behind the bench.

3. Mark Dennehy (Merrimack) - The Dorchester native and BC alum is two wins shy of 100 as head coach of the Warriors in seven plus seasons. The last three seasons have seen Merrimack finish 6th, 4th and 5th, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament and an appearance in the Hockey East Finals. It was the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988 and it was the first time in school history making the Hockey East Finals. He is a great game manager and has done a solid job of recruiting western Canada, as well as picking up blue chip recruits in Joe Cannata and Stephane Da Costa.

4. Dick Umile (New Hampshire) - The Melrose native has led his alma mater since 1990, leading the Wildcats to 20+ wins in 17 of those seasons. The program reached an all-time high in the late 90s and early part of the 2000s. Umile seemed to reload consistently, alway having a few top notch forwards in each class and then some guys who would step up and fill shoes of the players lost to graduation. He would have been much higher up on these rankings in 2005, but the program has dipped some since, but it is still one of the premier programs in the country.

5. Jack Parker (Boston University) - The former Terrier captain, Parker is leading the Boston University hockey program for the 40th season this year. He has won three national championships, 1978, 1995 and 2009; 21 Beanpot titles and 7 Hockey East Championships. He is further down on the list because he is past his prime, and has to take at least some responsibility for the off ice issues that have maligned the BU program lately. Contrary to his counterpart at the other end of Commonwealth Ave, his performance has dipped significantly in the twilight of his career.

6. Norm Bazin (UMass-Lowell) - The former UMass-Lowell player, Bazin returned to his alma mater in 2011 after a successful stint as the head coach of Division III Hamilton College. He also has experience as an assistant at Lowell and Colorado College. In his first year at UML, the River Hawks went from last place to second place, and won an NCAA Tournament game before bowing out to Union in the East Regional Finals. UML is off to a slow start this season, but has had a brutal early season schedule with 5 games against UNH and BC. Winners of two in a row, this season should get better, and will solidify Bazin's position as an up and coming coach in the league.

7. Tim Whitehead (Maine) - Many Maine fans are calling for Whitehead's dismissal, and probably rightfully so. The once proud program has really fallen on hard times with the exception of last year's team that made it to the Hockey East championship game and the NCAA Tournament. The reason I rank Whitehead higher than the three below him is he has proven that with the right assistants, he can guide his teams to success. It is a tough task to follow such a legend as Shawn Walsh, one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. Whitehead did so admirably in the first few seasons following Walsh's untimely passing. He led the Black Bears to the 2002 and 2004 NCAA Finals, before losing in heartbreaking fashion in each. They made one more Frozen Four appearance before the program declined, with longtime Associate Coach Grant Standbrook moving on.

8. Kevin Sneddon (Vermont) - What a difference a few years make. A few years ago, Sneddon was a hot commodity. He had led UVM to the 2009 Frozen Four, and made it to the Hockey East finals the year before and the NCAA Tournament again in 2010. Since then, UVM has fallen on tough times, with a lack of scoring production and a goaltending issue last season. I still think Sneddon's stock could rise again, but for now, he is down on the list. With the team's inability to score again this season, he might have to find a job elsewhere.

9. John Micheletto (UMass-Amherst) - The first year bench boss has previous assistant coaching experience at Notre Dame, Union and most recently UVM. His first year was moving in the right direction until a three game losing streak at the moment. The Dartmouth grad hasn't had enough time to prove his worth, but for now, this ranking seems about right.

10. Jim Madigan (Northeastern) - The Northeastern alum had been out of coaching for nearly two decades when Athletic Director Peter Roby gave him a chance to take over for the departing Greg Cronin, who left for a job as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cronin had guided the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament and two appearances in the Hockey East semifinals, which had been a rare occurrence for the program. Madigan's first squad at NU missed the Hockey East playoffs and this year's team has struggled mightily after a 2-0 start. There have been some mid-season player defections and some recruiting de-commitments that have plagued him in recent months.