The search for the next head coach of the Arizona Coyotes continues, with a number of people reportedly having spoken to the team in recent weeks.
With the Rick Tocchet era over in the desert and general manager Bill Armstrong keen to make a mark on the team in his own way, the process of lining up the ideal head coach is progressing.
Several names have been linked with the vacant Coyotes job, with some well-known faces across all levels of the game - from major juniors in Canada to the AHL and even in the NHL or on the international stage.
Per Craig Morgan, at least five people have been confirmed to have had conversations with the Arizona Coyotes recently.
The most recognizable name among Coyotes fans will be current St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, who has been a part of the organization for the past three years - earning a Stanley Cup championship ring alongside Armstrong in 2019.
Van Ryn has previously served as a development coach for the Coyotes and was the head coach of the team’s AHL affiliates, the Tucson Roadrunners, during the 2017/18 season - a year in which the team managed to claim first place in the Pacific Division and progress into the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
The 42-year-old London, Ontario native must be viewed as a frontrunner for the job due to his previous history with the franchise and his working relationship with Armstrong during their time together in St. Louis.
AHL experience is certainly a theme with a number of the coaches currently speaking with the team, with Benoît Groulx, Todd Nelson, and Jay Leach all also being named.
Groulx has been serving as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s affiliates, the Syracuse Crunch, since 2016, where he has worked with a number of the Lightning’s promising young prospects as well as some of their NHL veterans.
Since taking charge of the Crunch, Groulx has led the team to two division titles and even reached the Calder Cup finals in his very first year.
Groulx’s side fell short of lifting the minor league championship as they came up against a strong Grand Rapids Griffins side helmed by another Coyotes coaching candidate in Todd Nelson.
Nelson has led two AHL teams to the Calder Cup championship, also guiding the Chicago Wolves to the title during the 2007/08 season. Since 2018, the 52-year-old Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native has been an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars.
Leach, yet another with many years of experience in the minors, is coming off the back of two consecutive years where he has led the Providence Bruins to first place in the Atlantic Division, though in neither year were they able to compete in the post-season due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
The most recent name that has been added to the list has been André Tourigny, who recently worked alongside Coyotes legend Shane Doan to guide Team Canada to a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships.
Gerard Gallant, the head coach of Team Canada at the Worlds, recently signed a four-year contract to coach the New York Rangers, and Tourigny is currently without a team after spending some positive years with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League.
In back-to-back seasons from 2018 to 2020, Tourigny led the 67’s to first place in the East and took the team to the OHL finals, where they lost in six games to the Guelph Storm in 2019.
The ongoing pandemic meant that the team was unable to build on that strong post-season showing once again, as all playoffs were canceled.
The Coyotes clearly have an idea of the type of coach they are keen on, with a strong emphasis on development evident across all candidates. A decision on the new head coach does not appear to be nearing the finish line, yet the type of person that will be behind the bench in 2021/22 is certainly becoming clearer.