Hiring a coach once the season starts isn't an easy proposition. Assistant coaches from other teams are essentially off-limits, eliminating a pool of strong candidates that would include John Stevens, Kevin Dineen, Rick Bowness, Paul MacLean, Tony Granato, Kirk Muller and Davis Payne. There is not an obvious star coach in the AHL after Jon Cooper, Jeff Blashill, Willie Desjardins and John Hynes were promoted to the NHL in recent years.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acted fast to bring in John Tortorella, and there were some who wondered whether Tortorella would ever get another shot after things went sideways with the Vancouver Canucks.
But chances are good another head coach will be fired this season. Columbus won't be the only team to fall short of expectations.
With that in mind, and with Tortorella off the market, a look at five of the best available coaches shows it is not a deep pool:
1. Guy Boucher, SC Bern (Switzerland): "Available" might be a bit of a stretch because the window for Boucher to negotiate with other teams closed on June 1, but it is not like he's completely off-limits. There are ways around it if a team wants to make the investment and aggressively pursue Boucher.
He coached Bern to a second-place finish last season and a trip to the semifinals. And while being fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning wasn't pleasant, he now looks back at that part of his career with fondness. He realizes it was a great opportunity and learning experience for a coach so young.
"Everything about it was great for my family. It was great for life off the ice. It was great for hockey and my experience with Steve [Yzerman], [assistant GM] Julien [BriseBois] and the players," Boucher said when reached in Switzerland earlier this week. "You look back, we had a terrific run the first year, we knew it was going to be difficult after that. It wasn't something I wasn't expecting."
2. Todd Richards: The positive about being fired early in the season is that Richards immediately jumps into the pool of available coaches. Every coach will tell you they learn something with every job and when the dust settles, that will be the takeaway for Richards. He is still just 49 years old and leaves the Blue Jackets as the winningest coach in franchise history, as well as the first coach to win a playoff game for Columbus. He has a career record of 204-183-37 and until the start of this season, his teams always reflected his Midwestern blue-collar sensibilities.
3. Ron Wilson: Wilson hasn't coached in the NHL since being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012, but he has started to get the itch again over the past year or so. Part of the reason he accepted the opportunity to coach Team USA in the 2016 World Junior Championship was to prove to the hockey world that he's still got it as a head coach. If he leads the Americans to a gold medal in the World Juniors, it will go a long way in re-establishing credentials that already include over 1,400 games coached at the NHL level and 648 career wins.
4. Randy Carlyle: If a team is looking for someone with a Stanley Cup championship on their resume, Carlyle becomes the best option, with Marc Crawford also in the conversation. Carlyle won the 2007 Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks and is the last coach to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs, where they famously collapsed against the Boston Bruins in seven games in 2013. In 704 career games as a coach with the Ducks and Maple Leafs, Carlyle has 364 career wins. He has a points percentage of .574 in that stretch.
5. Craig Berube: Berube was fired after two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and posting a record of 75-58-28. In 161 career games, he has a points percentage of .553. He is scouting for Hockey Canada's management team as they prepare to build for the World Cup, but he would love to get back behind the bench. "I want to coach," he said when reached by phone last week. "I miss coaching."