Maple Leafs Assistant Coach Candidates: Craig Ramsay, Perry Pearn, Rick Tocchet


According to John Shannon — note: the man who brought us the Roberto Luongo-(non)trade-got-Burke-fired report — the Maple Leafs are looking at two former NHL head coaches, Rick Tocchet and Craig Ramsay, as potential assistant coach hires. Check out our previous piece on Adam Oates here.

Craig Ramsay

Craig Ramsay has 17 years of NHL coaching experience and has mostly plied his trade as an assistant or an associate coach, thrice taking on the role as head coach – Buffalo in 1986-87 (interim), the Flyers in 2000-01, and the Thrashers’ final season of existence in 2010-11. Ramsey amassed a record of 103-98-17 as an HC, missing the playoffs with Buffalo (interim) and Atlanta and taking the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final after taking over half way through the 200-01 season.

Ramsay dons a Cup ring from his time as an associate coach in Tampa, where he spent seven seasons, a span that included four consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, two Southeast Division titles and a Stanley Cup. A Selke Trophy winner in his time as a player, Ramsay’s focus according to the press release following his dismissal was the defense and special teams.

For years, Ramsay served as the cooler-head counterbalance to John Tortorella’s presence in the Tampa Bay dressing room, a dynamic that apparently served the team well during the Lightning’s run of success. Defenceman Brad Lukowich suggested the relationship worked due to the presence of Ramsay, as well as goalie coach Jeff Reese and captain Dave Andreychuk, serving as a buffer between Tortorella and the players.

Said GM Rick Dudley (who later hired him in Atlanta) of Ramsay’s time in Tampa:

[quote_box_center]”The simple truth is I’ve never had a doubt Craig could be a coach in this league from many years ago. I brought him into Tampa because he understood exactly what was needed. … There’s never been a doubt in my mind. This was something that I thought was long overdue. When you look for a head coach you’re looking for somebody who can bring players to their optimal level as quickly as possible, and I’ve seen him do that before.”

Dudley is quoted as saying he wants a “teacher,” someone to be an “educator on the ice.” He wants a coach with “good communication skills, good teaching skills and good technical skills.” Ramsay is one of the best teachers in the game. He is patient, quiet, low-key, supportive, forgiving of mistakes and one of the best storytellers in a league filled with great ones. His technical skills are outstanding; he can match Dudley drill-for-drill and strategy-for-strategy. He also has the experience, resume and gravitas Atlanta needs in its next coach.[/quote_box_center]

Ramsay coached Phil Kessel in Boston, where he worked as an assistant between 2007-2010 before taking the head coach job in Atlanta. Ramsay reportedly ran the powerplay in Boston to mostly good results.

Most recently, Ramsay was an assistant to Kevin Dineen in Florida for two and a bit seasons. Dineen is also looking for an NHL job, making for an interesting possibility there. Ramsay’s responsibility was the Panthers’ horrendous 30th ranked powerplay; however, in 2011-12 and 2012-13 the Panthers’ PP finished 7th and 5th respectively.

In summary, Ramsay has an extensive track record of success as an AC as well as some success as an HC in Philly, and even a dash of general managing experience while in Buffalo. A good candidate who wouldn’t be unqualified to take over a bench if worse comes to worst.

Rick Tocchet

Tocchet’s NHL head coaching experience comes in the form of 148 games as bench boss of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and five games as the Coyotes head coach while Wayne Gretzky took a leave due to his mother’s illness.

Tocchet took over the Lightning bench from the fired Barry Melrose just 16 games into the 2008-09 season; it was his first season there in the role of assistant following a few years away from the game due to Operation Slapshot, a New Jersey State Police investigation into a gambling ring run by Tocchet. Tocchet pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling in spring of 2007, receiving two years probation.

Tocchet was fired alongside Tampa GM Brian Lawton after finishing fourth and fifth in the Southeast Division in 2008-09 and 2009-10, amassing a record of 53-69-26. Tocchet and Lawton were said to be at odds by the end of the 2009-10 season. Tocchet hasn’t coached since.

Tocchet expressed a desire to return to coaching just this week. There is some speculation the former Penguin, who won a Cup alongside Mario Lemieux in 1992, may be a candidate for a job in Pittsburgh.

Not much to go on here. He was involved with a couple of successful regular seasons in his first gig as an AC in Colorado back in 2002-03 and 2003-04, a job he accepted over a scouting position offered by the Flyers at the same time.

Perry Pearn

In addition to Adam Oates, another name that has been mentioned, this by Elliotte Friedman, is long-time NHL assistant coach Perry Pearn. Pearn’s connection to the Leafs is two fold: he coached Brendan Shanahan in New York in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and had previously worked alongside Randy Carlyle nearly two decades ago, when both were rookie NHL assistant coaches with the Jets in 95-96. Pearn has amassed a very good 654-470-168 record including a run of 15 consecutive seasons in the playoffs, a span that includes time with the Jets, Senators, Rangers and Canadiens.

Pearn coached alongside Ramsay with the Senators in the late 90s.

Most recently fired alongside Claude Noel in Winnipeg, Pearn’s name made the rounds in the media after a bizarre exit from Montreal in October of 2011. With the Canadiens off to a 1-5-2 start, GM Pierre Gauthier dismissed Pearn as assistant coach (just Pearn alone) and offered to reassign his role in the organization, an offer Pearn declined. Gauthier later fired Jacques Martin in December and promoted Randy Cunneyworth in his place before being fired himself in March of the same season.

Pearn was the special teams coach in Montreal, in charge of both the powerplay and penalty kill. At the time, the Habs were scoring at 9.4 percent on the powerplay – 29th in the League – but it was just eight games into the season. The season prior, in 2010-11, the Habs’ PK finished 7th in both the powerplay and penalty killing; in 2009-10, the Habs were 2nd on the powerplay and 12th on the penalty kill. Pearn seemed to take the fall as a scapegoat while Gauthier was starting to lose confidence in the coaching staff under Jacques Martin.

In Winnipeg, Pearn ran the penalty kill. At the time of his firing last January, the penalty kill was 12th overall, the only major category Winnipeg was in the top half of the League in.

Interestingly, Pearn has been fired twice alongside his head coach, in both Winnipeg (Noel) and New York (Renney), while the other assistants on staff kept their jobs in both cases. In Montreal, he alone was ousted in fall of 2011 while the head coach (Martin) and his other assistants remained. It could suggest Pearn has quite a bit of say behind the bench of his teams.