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Top 10 Best Coaches in NHL History

Ranking the best NHL Coaches of All Time as Scotty Bowman leads the way. Also where Barry Trotz, Toe Blake, Mike Keenan and more rank

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By Fan Rankings | August 16, 2022 - 09:58 AM

The big cheese, the bench boss, the man with the plan. NHL head coaches are the most loved and hated people on any team, they are usually the first to go when a team is struggling, too.

The sport of hockey has had some great coaches like Herb Brooks, Fred Shero, and Pat Quinn. Here are the top ten NHL coaches of all time. 



Honorable Mention

Lindy Ruff

Team(s): Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils (current)

Ruff was a long time NHL player with the Buffalo Sabres and their affiliates. In 1997, he made his NHL debut as a head coach with the Sabres.

He coached the Sabres until 2012 when he was fired by the team. He then went on to coach Dallas for four seasons and New Jersey for two seasons.

He won 782 career games and made 10 playoff appearances. He still has not won a Stanley Cup and he is currently the coach of the Devils.

Accolades:
  • Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year (1995)




Top 10 NHL Coaches

10. Mike Keenan

Team(s): Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames

Mike Keenan had a long coaching career, starting in 1984 with the Philadelphia Flyers. He then went on to coach the Blackhawks, Rangers, Blues, Canucks, Bruins, Panthers, and Calgary Flames.

In 1994, in one season with the Rangers, he won the Stanley Cup. In 2013, he shifted over to the KHL, where he won the Gagarin Cup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

He was fired the next season. He retired from coaching in 2017 after being fired by the Kunlun Red Star.

Accolades:
  • Stanley Cup champion (1994)
  • Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year (1985)




9. Pat Quinn

Team(s): Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers

Pat Quinn lived for hockey. Playing a decent amount of time in the minor leagues for the NHL, he did play quite a few games for the Leafs, Canucks, and Atlanta Flames.

He got his big break in coaching during the 1978-79 season with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he took the team to the quarterfinals twice and the Stanley Cup once.

He also coached for the Kings, Canucks, Leafs, and Oilers. Quinn coached 1,400 NHL games and never won a Cup.

Accolades:
  • 2x Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year (1980, 1992)




8. Glen Sather

Team(s): Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers

Sather also started his hockey career as a player, playing multiple seasons with the Bruins, Penguins, Rangers, Blues, Canadians, and North Stars.

He retired from playing in 1977 with the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA. He coached the Edmonton Oilers from 1977 to 1994, winning four Stanley Cups.

He came out of retirement for two seasons to coach the Rangers, they did not make the playoffs either season.

Accolades:
  • 4x Stanley Cup champion (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988)
  • Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year (1985)




7. Barry Trotz

Team(s): Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, New York Islanders

Despite being the coach of the Nashville Predators for about 14 years, he is best known for his four seasons as the coach of the Washington Capitals. During his time in Nashville, he took his team to the playoffs seven times.

It was not until his fourth and final season in Washington that he won a Cup. He then went on to the Islanders where they made the playoffs three times. He is currently not coaching and has 914 career wins.

Accolades:
  • Stanley Cup champion (2018)
  • 2x Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year (2016, 2019)




6. Dick Irvin

Team(s): Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens

Dick Irvin started coaching in 1928 after he retired from playing as a player, he played three seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks.

He got his coaching debut with the Black Hawks and after two seasons moved on to Toronto. He coached for Toronto and Montreal before returning for one more season in the 1955-1956 season.

In 28 seasons behind the bench, he took his teams to the playoffs 24 times and won four Stanley Cups. He had 692 career wins as a coach.

Accolades:
  • 4x Stanley Cup champion (1932, 1944, 1946, 1953)




5. Ken Hitchcock

Team(s): Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers

Hitchcock started his illustrious coaching career with the Dallas Stars in 1995. Previously he coached in the WHL, was an assistant coach with the Flyers, and coached the Stars IHL affiliate team.

In 1999, he took the Stars to the Stanley Cup and won. He was then fired by the Stars in 2002 after seven seasons with the Stars. He was also fired as the coach of the Flyers and Blue Jackets, both during his fourth season.

He then went on to the Blues, where he was fired after let’s call it six seasons. He did come back in 2017-18 to coach the Stars, and again in 2018-19 with the Oilers. He has 849 career wins.

Accolades:
  • Stanley Cup champion (1999)
  • Jack Adams Award (2012)



4. Toe Blake

Team(s): Montreal Canadiens

Toe Blake is one of the best hockey icons to ever grace the ice and arena the Montreal Canadiens and Maroons ever had.

After 14 seasons between the Canadiens and Maroons, he took a short four-year break before becoming the Canadians coach.

Toe won the Stanley Cup three times with both Montreal teams, then went on to win eight Cups in 13 straight playoff appearances with Montreal. Blake had 500 career wins.

Accolades:
  • 8x Stanley Cup champion (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968)





3. Al Arbour

Team(s): St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders

I will cut right to it. Al Arbour was the genius behind the four, almost five, straight Stanley Cup Wins for the Islanders.

As a player, he won four Stanley Cups in Detroit, Chicago, and Toronto. Arbour started coaching with the Blues in 1970, but was fired after three seasons.

In 1973, he took over for the Islanders, coaching them until 1994. He had 782 career wins and an insane 118 playoff wins.

Accolades:
  • 4x Stanley Cup champion (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)
  • Jack Adams Award winner (1979)




2. Joel Quenneville

Team(s): St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers

Joel Quenneville is the greatest coach in the modern NHL era. He started his hockey career as a player, playing for the Leafs, Rockies, Devils, Whalers, and Capitals.

He started his coaching career in 1996 with the St. Louis, he was fired in his eighth season. He then coached three seasons with the Avalanche before getting to Chicago.

In Chicago, he won three Stanley Cups before being fired in 2018. He did coach the Panthers for three seasons before resigning in light of the Blackhawks scandal. He had 969 career wins.

Accolades:
  • 3x Stanley Cup champion (2010, 2013, 2015)
  • Jack Adams Award winner (2000)




1. Scotty Bowman

Team(s): St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings

Bowman’s playing career was cut short due to injury, but he started coaching in 1967 when the league had their biggest expansion in history adding six teams.

In his first three seasons with St. Louis, he took them to the Stanley Cup, losing each time. He joined the Canadiens in 1971, where he won five Stanley Cups by 1979.

He coached about seven seasons in Buffalo before going to Pittsburgh and winning a Cup in his first season.

He then coached the Red Wings from 1993 to 2002, winning three Stanley Cups and retiring as a champion. He had 1,244 career wins and 223 in the playoffs. 

Accolades:
  • 9x Stanley Cup champion (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1992, 1997, 1998)
  • 2x Jack Adams Award winner (1977, 1996)





How would you rank these great National Hockey League Coaches? Rank below to be added in the NHL Power Rankings 

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