As we continue to navigate through the potential list of head coaching candidates for the Columbus Blue Jackets, we take a look at a familiar face.
Pascal Vincent has served as the Blue Jackets' associate coach on former head coach Brad Larsen's staff since the 2021-22 season.
Vincent initially interviewed for the head coach role in the summer of 2021 before Columbus went forward with Larsen and Vincent decided to join the staff.
Now, two years later, the head coach role is open once again and Vincent could be a candidate this time around. Courtesy of Aaron Portzline in The Athletic on Sunday, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is certainly keeping the possibility in play.
It comes down to what kind of coach you are that determines if the look is fresh, not just if you have a familiar face. There’s only one guy holding the whistles. That’s the head coach. So I’m not dismissive of Pascal Vincent having a whole new voice because of how he would run things.
The Vincent File
- Born: September 22, 1971, Laval, Quebec, Canada
- Currently: Associate Coach, Columbus Blue Jackets
- 2011 to 2016: Assistant Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets
- 2016 to 2021: Compiled 155-139-31 record as the head coach of the Manitoba Moose (Jets), 2017-18 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award winner as the AHL's Coach of the Year after guiding the club to a 42-26-8 record with 92 points
Would they? Should they?
After already going with an internal hire last time around, from the veteran coach in John Tortorella to long time assistant, and a first-time head coach in Larsen, the idea of yet another internal hire without previous NHL head coaching experience might sound the alarm bells for the Blue Jackets fan base.
The optics might not seem right at this point in time to do such a similar hire just two years later.
But let's look at the candidate in Vincent, and paint the picture of why he could be a serious contender for the role.
Vincent has acted as head coach for the Blue Jackets in the past, including last season when Larsen was unavailable due to being placed in COVID protocol for three games.
Vincent also served as head coach on Mar. 19 in the 7-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights and in the Mar. 21, 7-6 overtime win over the Washington Capitals—Vincent's first win as a coach—as Larsen was away due to a death in the family.
Under Vincent was the implementation of Patrik Laine at the center position, in which the natural winger registered four assists in those two games before a season-ending injury. Laine has expressed interest in continuing to play center on a regular basis moving forward.
After acting head coach, Pascal Vincent, put him in the center position for the first time, Patrik Laine said he enjoyed the position shift, saying that he's willing to work on his face-off.#CBJ pic.twitter.com/d3VeMJmJeB— Bally Sports Columbus (@BallySportsCBUS) March 19, 2023
See what the new coach has to say. Laine wants to keep at it, he has said, but see what the new boss is thinking. And see what the roster looks like on the other side of summer.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 27, 2023
Prior to Vincent's time with the Blue Jackets, he worked in the Winnipeg Jets organization for 10 years. Vincent was an assistant coach to former Blue Jackets assistant, and interim head coach Claude Noel, and then Paul Marice, who took over for Noel behind the Jets' bench during the 2013-14 season.
Starting with the 2016-17 season, Vincent was appointed as the head coach for the Jets' AHL affiliate, Manitoba Moose. He went 155-139-31 in five seasons, making the playoffs once, and he took home the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL's Coach of the Year in 2017-18.
That 2017-18 season was Manitoba's first trip to the playoffs in four years—the first in their second tenure as the Moose after previously playing as the St. John's IceCaps—but were eliminated in the second round.
Winnipeg has a veteran core that runs the room. When I hear "experience is a factor" in hiring Rick Bowness, coaching since the Mesozoic Era, it tells me they don't trust an excellent candidate with no NHL head coaching experience like Pascal Vincent with managing that core, IMO.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 1, 2022
Vincent was among the candidates to interview for the Jets' head coaching opportunity last off-season, and he was a head coach for both the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (2000-08) and Montreal Juniors (2008-11).
Looking at how common it's been for teams to promote from within, there are a number of current head coaches around the NHL who served either as assistant coaches with the NHL club or were promoted to the parent club after coaching the AHL affiliate.
Rod Brind'Amour comes to mind as one of the more successful assistant-turned-head coaches in recent memory.
Brind'Amour, of course, spent a long career as a player, and it was with the Carolina Hurricanes where he captioned the franchise to their only Stanley Cup title in 2006. Upon retirement, he took on a player development role with the organization in 2010 and joined the coaching staff in 2011.
In 2018-19, Brind'Amour was officially named the head coach of the Hurricanes. He went on to lead Carolina to their first playoff berth since 2008-09, breaking a nine-year drought, before losing in the Eastern Conference Finals.
You may remember, Carolina made the playoffs that season as the first wild card, one point over the Blue Jackets, as Columbus only went on to sweep that historically good regular-season Tampa Bay Lightning team.
HISTORY!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 17, 2019
The Blue Jackets sweep the Lightning after Tampa Bay had a historic 62-win regular season! pic.twitter.com/EvupjuOvXi
Brind'Amour has gone on to lead the Hurricanes to the playoffs in every season since taking over as head coach, and his 'Canes currently lead the New York Islanders, 3-2, in their current quarterfinal series.
Former Columbus Chill player and later head coach, Don Granato, was named an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres in 2019. He took over as interim head coach during the 2020-21 season when Ralph Krueger was let go, and Granato has since become the official head coach. His Sabres look to finally shed the losing label and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11 after a breakout year this past season.
Jay Woodcroft worked inside the Edmonton Oilers organization and was promoted to head coach from within after Dave Tippett was fired in Feb. 2022. Woodcroft, who was coaching their AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, helped lead Edmonton to the conference finals last season and signed a three-year extension to remain as head coach.
Dean Evason is another assistant-turned-head coach for the Minnesota Wild. An assistant with the Wild in 2018-19, he was named the interim head coach during the 2019-20 season when Bruce Boudreau was fired, and Evason was made the official head coach in time for the 2020-21 season. The Wild made it to the qualifying round in 2020 and have been in the first round each of the last three seasons now, as they currently trail the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in their first-round series.
Lane Lambert was Barry Trotz's right-hand man from their days together with the Washington Capitals and then with the New York Islanders. After Trotz was fired following a disappointing 2021-22 season, Lambert took over as the team's head coach and has the Islanders back in the playoffs as they try to stave off elimination, trailing Brind'Amour's Hurricanes.
Mike Sullivan was inside the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, coaching the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Once Mike Johnston was fired during the 2015-16 season, Sullivan took over and subsequently led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
Craig Berube had experience inside the St. Louis Blues organization, coaching the AHL's Chicago Wolves starting with the 2016-17 season. He joined the NHL club as the associate coach in 2017 and stepped in as the interim head coach in the 2018-19 season, replacing Mike Yeo, and becoming the third interim head coach to win the Stanley Cup in the same season.
Jon Cooper was hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning to coach the then AHL's Norfolk Admirals (now the San Diego Gulls) and they won the Calder Cup in 2012. His Admirals set a North American pro sports record with 28 consecutive wins and he was the 2012 Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award winner. With the Lightning changing affiliates, he also led the Syracuse Crunch to the AHL Final the very next season.
Guy Boucher was fired by Tampa Bay during the 2012-13 season, and it was an obvious choice to tab Cooper as the next head coach of the Lightning. Of course, the rest is history as the franchise's winningest coach has gone on to make four Stanley Cup Finals appearances, winning two Stanley Cups.
Sheldon Keefe led the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, from 2015 to 2019 before taking over as the Leafs' head coach following the dismissal of Mike Babcock in the 2019-20 season. During his AHL coaching tenure, Keefe led the Marlies to the 2017-18 Calder Cup. The Maple Leafs have been one of the better clubs in the NHL under Keefe as they're a perennial playoff team and seek their first second-round playoff appearance since 2004 as they currently lead the Lightning, 3-2, in their series.
So as you can see, it's been done quite often. While there are obvious successes in place, it doesn't always work out so well, and every situation is different.
Dallas Eakins coached the Gulls (2015-19), the Anaheim Ducks affiliate, before taking over as head coach of the Ducks (2019-23) but was fired after finishing last place in the entire league. Though they are in play for the No. 1 pick, it'll be someone else coaching that new talent. Anaheim never finished above sixth in their division under Eakins.
On that note, some coaches might be better set up for success than others. Whether inheriting ready-to-win rosters or having accomplished everything at every level, leaving the NHL as the next obvious choice similar to the Lightning's Cooper.
Pascal Vincent will serve as acting head coach for #CBJ again tonight in Boston. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 and complete coverage of @NickFoligno 1000th game recognition tonight @BallySportsCBUS pic.twitter.com/LsxAUe3tA5— Dave Maetzold (@DMaetzMedia) April 2, 2022
While it seems like a veteran NHL head coach might be the way the Blue Jackets lean with their current situation, would they instead opt for an internal hire that might already have the best beat on the roster as currently situated?