Does experience matter?

It seems everyone thinks that the habs next coach has to be a veteran NHL head coach. I don't necessarily disagree with this position, but I think experience should not be a mandatory requirement for Carbo's successor.

In part because I have no interest in the retreads mentioned on boards and in the media (Pat Quinn, really?) and also because I wanted to know if a coach with previous head coaching experience has an impact on his team's playoff success I decided to take a look at the Stanley Cup winning coaches of the past decade to see if experience is a factor when it comes to championships. Of course this is completely unscientific, but let's see what we can take from it.

2008- Mike Babcock: 2 years with the Ducks prior to being hired (but he lead them to  the finals as a rookie) it was his 5th season as a head coach.

2007-Randy Carlyle: No previous experience, 2nd season

2006-Peter Laviolette: 2 years with the Islanders, 4th season

2004-John Tortorella: No previous experience (except for 4 games with the Rangers in 2000) 4th season

2003- Pat Burns: A lot of experience with 3 teams, 13th season, first with the team.

2002- Scotty Bowman: Decades of experience with 4 teams, 30th Season, 9th with the wings

2001- Bob Hartley: No previous experience, 3rd season.

2000- Larry Robinson, 4 years with the kings, first "season" with team (he was hired late in the season and only coached the team's last 8 regular season games) 5th season

1999- Ken Hitchcock: No previous experience, 4th season

1998- Scotty Bowman

1997- Scotty Bowman

1996- Marc Crawford: No previous experience, 2nd season.


I went over a decade a bit, but that's because i wanted to make an average and Bowman being on the list 3 times would have skewed the results.

So we have 10 coaches winning the cup in 12 seasons. 5 of them were in their first coaching job, 3 had coached one team before and two had over 13 years of experience and only Bowman had won the cup before.

On average (excluding Bowman who's literally from another era) the cup winning coaches had : 4.66 years of coaching experience.

The coaches who had previous experience had spent 5 years with their previous teams (Burns' 12 seasons really drove that number up, without him it's 2,6 seasons) also they won the cup after 1.75 seasons with their new teams. Robinson was the only veteran who had a losing record as a HC the others had lead their teams to the playoffs multiple times except for Babcock who made it once in two years in Anaheim.

Coaches who were with their first team won the cup after 3 years.

Only Babcock and Carlyle are still with the same team.

20% of the coaches who won the cup had last names ending with "cock".

My sample is too small to draw any real conclusions (or include Scotty), but I think it's pretty significant that half these guys were rookies when they were hired. Obviously playoff success depends more on having players like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Niklas Lidstrom, Brad Richards, Mike Modano and Eric Staal on your roster than coaching.


In the end the Canadiens problem right now is that they don't have that kind of players not that their last few coaches had no experience in the NHL. They have a few guys who have the potential to be, but it won't be this year. Price could get hot and with a little luck the team could go far, but we're not talking about the Detroit Red Wings here.


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