March 15, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen talks with Florida Panthers center Shawn Matthias (18) during the second period against the Boston Bruins at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Best Of The Best: Coaches In The Southeast

March 11, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen yells out from the bench during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s be honest, right now there are some serious concerns and questions going on throughout the National Hockey League about yet another potential lockout. Unfortunately that is where all the news in the NHL is right now. While the news is certainly not looking good as of now, there is still some time for the two sides to negotiate. Nobody who has anything to do with hockey wants a lockout. Whether it is the financial side of it, the joy of playing, or even from just a fans side, if the league does lockout again, it will affect many people. No fan wants to go on say every day and continuously read articles about the lockout and seeing all the writers talk about how it will get better. The fans want excitement, they want to see players play and watch their team win.

You are all probably thinking that this is just going to be another article about the lockout, well it’s not. The purpose of me writing this article is to try and help everyone with getting their attention off of the lockout. What I’m going to do is take the five head coaches in the Southeast Division, and list them 1-5. Much like the previous articles I posted about the top five offensive players and the top five defensive players in the Southeast Division, the list will be in order from the 5th best to the 1st.

Enjoy :)

Number 5: Adam Oates, Washington Capitals

Oct. 27, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Jersey Devils assistant coach Adam Oates looks on during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

For the past few years Adam Oates has been working his way up the coaching ladder, but before he was a coach, he had another role in the league. From the years 1985-2004, Oates was doing what he did best, playing hockey. Over the span of 22 seasons in the NHL, Oates made his mark as one of the greatest hockey players of his era. His best season as a pro was during the 92-93 season with the Boston Bruins. In that season Oates scored a remarkable 142 points during the regular season and nine points in the four playoff games the Bruins played in that year.

It is no secret that Oates is one of the greatest hockey players during the past 30 years, but can he coach in this league. The answer to that is yes. Oates was first hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning as an assistant coach for the 09-10 season. During his tenure with Tampa Bay, his biggest focus was offense. That year he helped the Lightning’s power play rank soar up to ninth in the league. With a much improved offense, the Lightning fans and players both had something to look forward to going into the next season. However, after spending just one season with Tampa, Oates made the move up to New Jersey where he would spend two seasons as the Devils assistant coach. In those two years he spent in New Jersey, the Devils team saw much success, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Oates definitely has the potential to be a good coach in this league and with superstar Alex Ovechkin in Washington; the Capitals have the possibility to have a really good offense next year. It will be interesting to see how this season plays out for Washington. If the Caps have a good season Oates will definitely move up on this list, but until then, the first year coach still has something to prove.

Number 4: Claude Noel, Winnipeg Jets

Unlike the other two coaches, Claude Noel did not play in the NHL for long (played with Capitals for seven games). Instead of using 20 years to play the game, Noel has spent the past 20 seasons as a coach for the NHL, ECHL, AHL, and the IHL. Over the past 20 years Noel has accumulated a ton of knowledge of the game and is definitely one of the more knowledgeable coaches in the league. His previous stints as a head coach in the league might not have been all so successful, but with a young, hungry team in Winnipeg that wants to win.

Number 3: Kirk Mueller, Carolina Hurricanes

January 17, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Mueller (right rear) reacts as he listens to referee Mike Hasenfrantz (left) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the overtime period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Kirk Mueller has also been attached to hockey. Whether it was playing it in the NHL for two decades, or coaching a small university, Mueller has always been a fan of the game. Like Oates, Mueller began his NHL career in the mid 80’s and brought it into the new millennium, playing until 2003. For 22 seasons, including three with our very own Panthers, Mueller carved his name into the great history of the NHL. His career high for points in one season is 94, which he hit a total of three times and in the over 1,300 games that he played in, he accumulated a total of 959 total points. While he is not in the Hall of Fame just yet, there is always a possibility for him to be nominated in the near future.

Mueller has been a coach in the NHL since 2006, serving as an assistant for the Montreal Canadiens. It wasn’t until June of 2011 where he was named the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators AHL affiliate. Just a few months later, Mueller took the job as the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. His first season didn’t go as well as he had hoped. The Hurricanes finished 25-20-12 and ended up in last place in the Southeast Division. The only thing that is putting Mueller in front of Oates is the experience as a head coach. Although he failed to have a successful first season as a head coach in the NHL, this up and coming season is looking really promising for the Hurricanes.

Number 2: Kevin Dineen, Florida Panthers

I know a lot of you Panther fans might not agree with this and say that I should put him number one. However Dineen hasn’t earned that rank just quite yet. After his first season as a NHL head coach, Dineen helped turn around a franchise that has been down for the past decade. Dineen looked like a 20 year coach last year. Kevin Dineen is yet another coach to have played in the NHL for a long period of time. Dineen spent 21 years as a player in the league and although he wasn’t as successful as Oates or Mueller, he had a very productive career. One of the biggest reasons he is drawn to the game of hockey is because of his blood. Yes, his blood. His father and four of his brothers all played hockey.

After what was a good NHL career, Dineen decided to take become a coach. Just three years after retiring from the league as a player, Dineen was named the head coach of the Portland Pirates, which was the AHL affiliate of what was the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In his six seasons as a head coach with Portland, Dineen took the team to the playoffs 5 years, and led the team to two first place finishes within the division. After a successful tenure as an AHL head coach, Dineen finally reached his ultimate goal; being a head coach in the NHL. On May 31st, 2011, Dineen signed a contract with the Florida Panthers to become the franchises new head coach. In his first season as the leader of the Panthers, the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons. Although the Panthers failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs last season, the future is extremely bright for this young, energetic team. Hopefully the Panthers can continue their success and make making the playoffs a habit. Dineen is one of the best young head coaches in the league and if he continues to reach success, his coaching rank will definitely improve over the next few years.

Number 1: Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning

Dec 21, 2011; San Jose, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher walks across the ice to the locker room after the game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Tampa Bay 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

In my opinion Guy Boucher is the best coach in the Southeast Division. Although the Lightning failed to make the postseason last year, the team finished second in the division the year before and were able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, this was also his first season as a head coach in the NHL. This year, the Lightning players are coming into the season with the mindset that they have the best offense in the division. With players such as Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis running their offense, they might just have the best offense in the division. Entering his third season with the team, Boucher wants to have the same success as he did in his first season and with the talents level on this team being high and his ability to coach, they might just be on track for their third division title in the franchises existence.

So there ya have it folks, my take on the top five coaches in the Southeast Division. I would love to see your feedback and who you believe the top five coaches in the division are.

Thanks For Reading!

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Tags: Adam Oates Carolina Hurricanes Claude Noel Florida Panthers Guy Boucher Kevin Dineen Kirk Mueller Southeast Division

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