Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Crow Carries Their Soul

People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.

And sometimes he can make wrong things more wrong. Today we're going to take a look at Marc Crawford who fits a lot of the criteria that Steve Tambellini outlined yesterday for what he's looking for out of a new head coach (people that (1) have some NHL experience, (2) are still coaching a playoff team somewhere, (3) are outside of the organization and (4) have some rapport with Tambellini already). He has NHL experience, he's from outside the organization, he's worked with Tambellini in the past and he even has the ever seductive Stanley Cup on his resume. He also strikes me as a bit of an idiot. He calls Ales Hemsky Alex. Steve Moore. A man who saw value in Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu. A man who believed in Dan Cloutier. That voice. I'll make no bones about the fact that I start this investigation with some bias against The Crow.

First we'll take a look at how Crawford has done compared to his near contemporaries. I'm going to compare Crawford's performance at the NHL level with the coaches that immediately preceded him and the coaches that immediately followed him. The idea here is that the situation in terms of players is similar enough to give a reasonable gauge of the coach's performance. The idea comes from the Contrarian Goaltender who used a similar system in trying to determine the effect of Pat Burns' coaching style on goaltending. Marc Crawford has been hired and fired three times each which gives us six different situations to look at. If he was replaced midway through a year only that year's results are included. If he was replaced after completing a season, the next season's results are included:

The non-Crawford coaches are Pierre Page (1 time, 84 games), Bob Hartley (1 time 82 games), Alain Vigneault (1 time, 82 games), Terry Murray (1 time, 82 games), Mike Keenan (1 time, 45 games) and John Torchetti (1 time, 12 games). The only one that Crawford outperformed was Pierre Page back in 1994-95, although he wasn't completely trounced by anyone. These results aren't decisive by any means, but they do represent one piece of evidence that Marc Crawford is not a particularly good coach. The man clearly has NHL experience, but the quality of that experience is not particularly impressive. My concern is that the Stanley Cup he won in Colorado makes him look more attractive than he actually is.

Since he runs a blog at CBC, I thought that it would be interesting to throw around some of his comments on the Oilers in a post from February 26, 2009:

"When teams venture into Rexall Place in Edmonton, they match up against a team filled with players who compete at a different level than almost any other franchise in the NHL. Their standard in the key area of toughness and team play remain uncommonly high."

"It is this standard that amazes me and it is born out of the fact that the Oilers have remained a team that rarely leaves its family when hiring coaching and managing personalities."

"Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick, Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray, along with Dwayne Roloson, have played inspired hockey and they are the players that the coaching staff uses as the benchmark when analyzing the competitive level of players like Dustin Penner. No wonder he is constantly in the doghouse."

Is this a man you want as your head coach? No! I say it again: No! Yet the fact is, he measures up with many of the other things that Tambellini mentioned in his presser. Crawford and Tambellini spent time together in Vancouver with Crawford arriving close to the time Tambellini began to move up the food chain. Crawford began as coach in Vancouver in 1998, the same year that Tambellini became Vice President of Player Personnel. That team was pretty successful, somethign not easily forgotten for a man who saw his share of failure. Crawford also likes to play an offensive and physical style of game which seems like the direction Tambellini wants to go. Crawford has been named Coach of the Year in the AHL and in the NHL. Five division titles. A Stanley Cup. A winner. Oh no.


shepso said...

I ran some numbers on the Crow factor the other day. I can't remember where I put them, I think on LT's blog somewhere, perhaps it was on ON responding to something Willis said regarding Crawford, but he is not the man for this team and the numbers speak for themselves. I think any number of us could've coached the nordvalanche to a cup in '96, what with Roy, Forsberg and Sakic playing in the prime of their careers. Since them Crawford's coaching record has been remarkably average, with declining numbers in each of his seasons since his first in Vancouver. His reliance upon a bad goalie not withstanding, the guy has consistently underachieved in every situation he's been in and his reputation as an elite coach has gone dropped substantially, as has his colorado successor Bob Hartley's rep. I would hate to see either of them as short-list contenders simply because of the Stanley Cups on their resumes. Remember, Crawford is the guy who coached the first NHL level roster at the '98 Olympics to disaster, has been known to mess up really good team chemistry and rely for too heavily on a single line for success (see Bertuzzi-Naslund-Morrison) while not developing young talent into complete players (see Sedin, H and D, who only in the last 2 years under the current regime have become world class, ppg players). I would consider him a fine choice as an assistant coach, but as the head man, never.

Scott said...

I don't know that it's particularly fair to blame the development of the Sedins on Crawford. They were 25 in his last year and just entering into their prime years so that they've developed since he left shouldn't condemn him. Still, I wouldn't want Crawford here in any capacity. I don't think he would make a particularly good assistant and I don't think it's a job he would want. He does, however, remain a distinct possibility.

Black Dog said...

i think he is near the top of the list.

I think he's awful.

I would hope that Tambellini would look at how those Canuck clubs never really did anything an how bad L.A. was and decide not to throw in his lot with Crawford on his first ever coaching hire. He surely knows that if he rolls the dice and fails badly that he may be back as an assistant.

Scott said...

The thing is Black Dog, those Canuck clubs were consistently pretty decent which is the best he ever saw in Vancouver and he was there for a very long time. Sure, the one team in 1994 made it to the Finals, but they weren't as consistent as Crawford's boys. The thing to hope on is how bad things were in L.A. But I can see it now:

"Roloson is getting up there in age and he wanted a two-year contract. We decided it would be better to bring in a proven goalie to work with Jeff. Dan is a veteran goalie who's had a lot of success in this league and his hip issues have been dealt with. Plus, he's a guy the new coach is comfortable with."