Skip to content

In the wake of Washington’s Hunter hire, here are some other junior-to-pro coaching leaps

Nov 28, 2011, 12:12 PM EDT

Comments Off
Dale Hunter Gerry Getty Images

With Dale Hunter leaving the OHL’s London Knights to take the Washington Capitals gig, let’s take a look at some recent head coaches that went straight from the CHL to the NHL.

These are direct leaps, of course. No “three years as an AHL assistant” grooming here.

Peter DeBoer

DeBoer spent 13 years in the OHL — six with the Detroit/Plymouth Whalers , seven with the Kitchener Rangers. On the heels of a wildly successful final season in Kitchener where he won the OHL championship and finished second at the Memorial Cup, DeBoer was tabbed by Florida GM Jacques Martin to be the Panthers’ bench boss in 2008.

Here’s an NHL.com piece profiling the hire:

Shortly after officially signing a multi-year contract as coach of the Florida Panthers, DeBoer’s first question from a reporter Monday touched on his fiery coaching style, which has been described as capable of putting the “fear of God” in a player.

DeBoer, sporting crisp pinstripe suit and neat haircut, just laughed.

“I think that different players need different types of motivation,” DeBoer said. “Sometimes the message has to change.

DeBoer was fired after three seasons in Florida, compiling a 103-107-36 record. He was quickly scooped up by the New Jersey Devils.

Brent Sutter

Sutter spent seven seasons coaching Red Deer (winning a Mem. Cup in 2001) prior to getting hired in New Jersey in 2007. After leading the Devils to a franchise-best 51 wins in 2008-09, he resigned from his post citing family reasons…only to resurface as the head coach in Calgary two weeks later (hired by his brother, Darryl, the Flames GM.)

With Calgary, he’s missed the playoffs in both seasons at the helm — but did compile a respectable 81-61-22 record over that time.

Here’s an old piece from ESPN profiling NJ’s hire of Sutter:

It’s a no-nonsense approach that Sutter had throughout his 17-year NHL career that included two Stanley Cup championships with the New York Islanders.

Sutter did whatever was necessary on the ice.

“There doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of love between the players and their head coach. There has to be a tremendous amount of respect,” Sutter said. “I demand respect. I demand hard work. I’ll do everything I can and I expect the same thing back from the players.”

So the obvious comparison between Hunter, DeBoer and Sutter is that all seem to have the tough-love/hard-ass/no-nonsense thing going for them. Which is to be expected from a coach coming from junior — at that level, the authoritarian routine works because coaches wield a huge amount of power.

But will it work at the professional level? The most obvious comparison is when college football coaches try their hand at the NFL level…where the success rate is minimal. Just ask Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino.

Or Pete Carroll and Steve Spurrier.

Or Dennis Erickson and Lou Holtz.

Featured video

Bettman hears the boos in Philly
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. S. Crosby (1892)
  2. L. Stempniak (1751)
  3. D. Roy (1490)
  4. A. Rome (1324)
  5. C. Franson (1323)
  1. R. O'Reilly (1317)
  2. D. Booth (1207)
  3. R. Nash (1142)
  4. P. Subban (1052)
  5. M. Ribeiro (1043)