Los Angeles Kings assistant coach John Stevens is drawing considerable interest from the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, according to several reports. Though he is set to interview with New York, according to a report by Lisa Dillman of the LA Times, David Ebner of The Globe and Mail writes that he “is the perceived front-runner” for the Vancouver opening created when Alain Vigneault was fired in May.
What makes Stevens the Canucks’ front runner is his glove-like fit with the team’s needs, which are essentially twofold. First, there is a veteran core – led by the Sedins – which will likely remain unchanged despite president and general manager Mike Gillis’s talk of a “reset.” Stevens has NHL experience and the ability to manage a team that considers itself close to Stanley Cup contention.
Second, Vancouver will rely much more heavily on younger players next year. This is where fired Alain Vigneault was less strong, specifically because he unforgiving of mistakes – see: Zack Kassian.
Stevens won the AHL championship, the Calder Cup, in 2005. It is a trophy he lifted three times as a player, in 1988, 1991, and 1998 – and in 2011 was inducted into the AHL hall of fame.
There are three coaching openings in the NHL: Vancouver, Dallas and New York. Former Rangers coach John Tortorella has interviewed in Vancouver, while Vigneault has interviewed in New York and “is believed to have made a favorable impression” on general manager Glen Sather, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
Other potential candidates to fill the open positions are Glen Gulutzan, who was let go by Dallas after Jim Nill became the team’s general manager, Scott Arniel, who guided Columbus until midway through the 2011-12 season, and Lindy Ruff, who was dismissed after 16 seasons behind the bench of the Buffalo Sabres.
Mark Messier is considered to be “still in the mix” for the Rangers position, according to the Post’s report. Dave Tippett, who has previously expressed his desire to remain in Phoenix, may emerge as a preferred candidate should the franchise’s ownership stability and long-term commitment to the city of Glendale remain vague in advance of his contract’s expiration on June 30. The Coyotes have not granted other teams permission to speak with Tippett.