Posted by Darin Hayes on October 27, 2023
Introduction to the Best NHL Coaches
The National Hockey League is the premier professional hockey organization in the world. It attracts the top skaters, but the greatest coaches and strategists also aspire to be in the NHL. In this post, we will use the data of Hockey-Reference.com and Stahead.com to provide the statistical best NHL coaches of all time.
NHL Winningest Coaches
Victories are an essential measuring stick to determine the success or failure of a bench boss in hockey. These individuals provide a combination of superb strategy, player motivation, and team building that convert into the all-important point totals in the standings. They say the cream rises to the top; here are the head coaches with the most “W’s” in league history.
6-0, 180lb (183cm, 81kg)
Born: November 1, 1932 in Sudbury, Ontario ca
Died: August 28, 2015 (Aged 82-300d)
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Builder 1996
A list of the best hockey coaches of all time would only be complete with the mention of Coach Al Arbour. Arbour’s accomplishments as an NHL coach provided his teams with 123 post-season victories and 782 W’s during the regular season. This legend guided the franchises of the St. Louis Blues (1970-73) and the New York Islanders (1973-1994; 2007-08).
Being at the top of the standings has much to do with wins, but it is ultimately based on point totals. Coach Paul Maurice is one NHL Coach who is high on the point total list. Maurice led his teams to 817 regular season victories on NHL ice and accumulated 1871 points in the standings over his career as a coach. Paul served as the bench boss of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes (1995–2003, 2008–2011) and the Winnipeg Jets (2014–2021).
Coach Ruff is currently working the bench of the New Jersey Devils and is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. His 835 NHL victories going into the 2023-24 season as a headman stem from his time with the Devils and when he led the Buffalo Sabres from 1997 to 2013 and the Dallas Stars from 2013 to 2017.
Born: December 17, 1951 (Age: 71-303d) in Edmonton, Alberta ca
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Builder 2023
Hitchcock is currently on the top list for wins in NHL history, with 849 victories. He was named a 2019 Order of Hockey in Canada recipient. Hitchcock was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2023. Known for his demanding coaching style, this legend served as the head coach of the Dallas Stars in 1995 and led the team to the Stanley Cup in 1999. He also coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, and Edmonton Oilers. Coach has been recognized as a two-time NHL All-Star Game coach and has won numerous awards, including the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2012.
Coach Trotz is the former head coach of the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders. “Trotzy,” as he is fondly referred to, is known for his defensive-minded coaching style, which helped his teams win 914 times. He served as Nashville’s first coach in 1997, leading the Predators to their first playoff appearance in 2004 and their first division title in 2007. Trotz later led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. In the Big Apple, he helped the Islanders to two consecutive Eastern Conference playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021.
6-1, 200lb (185cm, 90kg)
Born: September 15, 1958 (Age: 65-031d) in Windsor, Ontario ca
Joel Quenneville was a former player and was the 21st overall selection in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft, picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs. His great defensive prowess produced for multiple NHL teams on the ice. As a great strategist and technician on skates, it was easy to see the transition to coaching. Quenneville was hired as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues in 1997 and led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2001. Coach later took on the same role with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008. He led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years in 2010, then repeated the feat in 2013 and 2015. He also served as the bench boss of the Colorado Avalanche (2006-2008) and the Florida Panthers (2019-21). During his time as a head coach, his teams won 934 regular season contests!
Born: September 18, 1933 (Age: 90-028d) in Montreal, Quebec ca
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Builder 1991
What can you say about this man? Bowman has chalked up an astounding 1,244 wins in the regular season and 223 in the Stanley Cup playoffs during his many stints as an NHL head coach. This legend has guided his teams to win a record nine Stanley Cup championships: five with the Canadiens (1973, 1976–79), one with the Penguins (1992), and three with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, and 2002). Coach Bowman has repeatedly proven that his style gets the most out of his players and unites them to a common goal of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, making him one of the greatest hockey coaches ever.
NHL Coaches with the Most Championships
As previously stated, Coach Bowman has the NHL coaching record with Nine Stanley Cup Championships. Here are a few others who have held the Stanley Cup almost as many times in their outstanding careers as NHL bench bosses.
5-11, 180lb (180cm, 81kg)
Born: September 2, 1943 (Age: 80-044d) in High River, Alberta ca
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Builder 1997
Coach Sather enjoyed, to date, the highest winning percentage of any NHL Coach in the post-season with at least 50 playoff games, with an astounding .705. His success is attributed to leading the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s.
5-11, 175lb (180cm, 79kg)
Born: June 14, 1901 in Owen Sound, Ontario ca
Died: February 17, 1990 (Aged 88-248d)
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player 1961
Hap Day was a former professional hockey player who played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Toronto St. Patricks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Americans and left the ice to become a coach. Day led the Maple Leafs to five Stanley Cup championships in the 1940s (1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, and 1949); for his great play and coaching, Day was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
5-10, 165lb (178cm, 74kg)
Born: August 21, 1912 in Victoria Mines, Ontario ca
Died: May 17, 1995 (Aged 82-269d)
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player 1966
Toe Blake is an example of another legendary player who succeeded as an NHL coach. After, he played 14 seasons in the NHL with the Montreal Maroons and Montreal Canadiens, winning three Stanley Cups. He then coached the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups in 13 seasons, the most by any coach in team history. (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, and 1968). He was also named the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 1964.
As you can see, this is truly a formidable list of great coaching legends! Whether it be wins, points, playoff victories, or bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup, these coaches have earned their salt in the annals of legends through strategy, team building, and motivating their skaters.
The answer to who may be the best NHL Coach has a handful of answers depending on the criteria one uses to examine the facts. Some may state Toe Blake, Glen Sather, or Hap Day are the best for what they did in winning championships in a short period with a single team. Others may look to Joe Quenneville or Scotty Bowman as the top coaches in history for what they did in long coaching careers with multiple franchises.
This question is a bit complicated. The NHL coach with the most losses is Paul Maurice, with 714 regular season losses as a coach. This hardly makes him a losing coach, though, because, as we have stated earlier, he has won over 800 games.