Five coaches scored two success points during the 2010-11 Season according to my rating system: John Tortorella, Lindy Ruff, Jacques Martin, Joel Quenneville, and Terry Murray.
There are several ways a coach can earn a two-point season under my system:
1) Earning a winning season and a playoff appearance;
2) Earning a winning season and a point percentage of .600 or better but failing to make the playoffs; or
3) Earning a playoff slot and making it to the Stanley Cup finals but failing to win the Cup.
All five coaches featured here achieved two success points by leading their teams to a winning season and a playoff appearance. The best performance of them all was Terry Murray’s. Murray led the Kings in a hotly contested Pacific Division race that saw all five franchises vying for the divisional lead. Although the Kings finished fourth they were only one point behind the second place Anaheim Ducks. Terry Murray has gotten superb defensive work from his team. The Kings had the fifth best defense in the NHL.
Joel Quenneville was second best after Terry Murray. Forced to cope with the losses of key personnel via free-agency (including goalie Antti Niemi) the Blackhawks were toppled from their plinth as defending Stanley Cup champions. The Blackhawks struggled through a slow start and bouts on inconsistency before eking out an eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Hawks were eliminated in the first round but amazingly showed fire and character by rallying from a 3-0 series deficit to force a seventh game with the Vancouver Canucks. It will be interesting to see if the Hawks can improve in 2011-12 since they had to integrate a lot of rookie players into their line-up. If the crop of rookies can overcome their growing pains then the Hawks should be able to reclaim their supremacy of the Central Division once more.
The 2010-11 Season was a straight replay for Jacques Martin and the Montreal Canadiens, save for one thing: they failed to reach the Conference Finals like they did in 2010. The Habs were steady but unspectacular. A bad slump during last December cost the Canadiens any chance of winning the divisional title; also the Habs were unfortunate to have to face the eventual Stanley Cup champion Bruins in the first; going down in seven games in a weird series where they failed to win games three and four at home after winning the first two games in Boston.
Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo Sabres (after winning the Northeast Divisional title in 2009-10) failed to sustain their success; getting off to a terrible start, ending up in the basement during the early weeks of the season and not going above .500 until late January. Still Ruff got the Sabres to rally and by regular season’s end were playing tough gritty hockey. Even though they lost the first round to the Flyers they showed toughness and character throughout the series. The Sabres are still a young team in the process of rebuilding; the challenge being to find and maintain consistency.
John Tortorella’s New York Rangers were denied a playoff spot in 2010 but refused to be denied in 2011 even though they finished the regular season poorly going 19-18-2 in the second half of the season. The Rangers won with defense: being tied with the Kings for fifth place in overall defense. The Rangers (like the Sabres) are a young team in the process of rebuilding and coping with the growing pains of hockey maturity; struggling to achieve consistency.
Next week’s article will feature: the Treys.