Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mike Johnston: good coach?

This is a developmental league.  That goes for players as well as coaches, officials, equipment managers, etc.  I believe this is Mike Johnston's first head coaching gig - at least at a significant level of hockey.  From time to time you hear some criticisms of his work:

On a related note, here's an exchange between myself and Guy Flaming (regarding the 2014 WJC):

Here's an article by Daniel Nugent-Bowman about Pouliot playing on the top paring for Team Canada at the World Juniors:
Ekblad quietly watches how Pouliot approaches drills in practices or how he refocuses between shifts.
“You have to remember, there’s mentorship going on, but it’s going on in subtle ways,” said McGill, who works with Canada’s defencemen. “It’s not always verbal communication.” 
The guidance is paying off.
Hockeys future has a video interview with  Pouliot during the WJC tournament, which partially consists of asking him about some of the other talented kids we've been fortunate enough to see play here over the last several years.

Point being is that #51 looks to be erasing some of the criticisms of his play in the D zone, as well as the rap they don't coach that way in this town.  I'm writing this the day after Brendan Burke had a 174 minute shutout streak come to an end - and he's not doing that on his own, now is he?

Sometimes you hear things about star forwards, such as Nino Niederreiter & Ryan Johansen:

Then, on the same day, ran stories about Johansen rounding into form, as well as Nino scoring a nasty OT goal.  With those two high draft picks, you could argue that MJ did too good of a job.  

The Islanders & Blue Jackets thought both players were NHL ready for their 19 year old seasons, yet didn't play them in significant roles, which is about the worst thing you can do to a young hockey player.  There's reasons that both those teams have struggled for a long time, and these examples demonstrate two reasons why.

Mike Johnston has posted winning percentages of .632, .715, .708 in his first 3 full seasons.  He's followed that up with an .820 in his partial season (suspension) - the team finished with an .812 & a league championship.  So far this season they're putting up .731.  MJ can build & coach teams that win games.

In his first full season they got out of the first round - which hadn't happened much in the last few years here.  The next 2 seasons they lost in the finals before hoisting the Ed cup.  In a developmental league, he's been getting better every year to this point.  There may have been issues developing the right culture in his 2nd year of coaching teenagers at an elite level - that's entirely possible.  

Most of the players that work with him at this point he's had for their entire junior careers,  which you'd think would allow him to instill the values he wants them to live by.  He's presumably developed a better balance of letting the kids run, yet keeping them under the team's umbrella.  Being a peer, friend, and authority figure.  When to crack the whip, when to build the player back up.  Coaching these high end players at such a tricky stage of their lives has to be more complicated than you or I could ever understand.

If we judge WHL coaches by how their players fare in the NHL, that would make Jim Hiller or Don Nachbar look pretty poor , when I think most regard them as quality coaches.  

I'm buying what MJ is selling.

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