The American Hockey League’s development model extends beyond players.
Twenty-three of the NHL’s 31 teams have a coach on staff who spent time in the AHL.
Anaheim Ducks coach Dallas Eakins rejoined that group after four seasons with San Diego, the team’s AHL affiliate. Coaches for each of the past four Stanley Cup champion teams (Joel Quenneville, Mike Sullivan, Barry Trotz, and Craig Berube) have AHL roots.
Here is a look at the new AHL coaches, each with a different background – and one team with a new, but familiar face.
Kevin Dineen, San Diego (Anaheim Ducks)
Eakins forged a return trip to the NHL by going through San Diego.
Dineen will try to duplicate that path. Eakins went back to the AHL after two seasons as coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Dineen coached two seasons with the Florida Panthers, before being replaced 16 games into his third season. The 55-year-old had a 56-62-28 record. He is part of the Quenneville coaching tree and was an assistant for four seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 2015.
Dineen spent three previous seasons with the Ducks organization, coaching in Portland, the former AHL affiliate. He won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s top coach in 2005-06, his first season. When Portland’s affiliation shifted to the Buffalo Sabres, he coached three more AHL seasons in that organization. He was 266-185-29 record and reached 100 or more points three times during that six-year span.
He coached Canada’s women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Dineen played 1,188 regular-season games and had 760 points (355 goals, 405 assists) with the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mike Eaves, Cleveland (Columbus Blue Jackets)
It’s been 26 years between stops in the AHL for Eaves.
Before Columbus hired him June 18, 2019, the 63-year-old had not worked in the AHL since 1992-93 when he was with Hershey, then an affiliate of the Flyers.
Eaves, who played 324 NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars and the Calgary Flames, was building an impressive resume in the interim.
He spent four seasons as an assistant coach with Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Penguins. From there he went to the University of Wisconsin for 14 seasons, where he reached the NCAA tournament seven times and won the national championship in 2006.
Scott Gordon, Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers)
Last season, Gordon was promoted from Lehigh Valley to replace Dave Hakstol with the Flyers on Dec. 18. He finished the season in Philadelphia with a 25-22-4 record.
After the Flyers hired Alain Vigneault as coach, Gordon elected to return to Lehigh Valley. Philadelphia was Gordon’s second NHL job; he coached parts of three seasons with the New York Islanders from 2008 to 2011.
The 56-year-old has the ninth-most wins (367) in AHL history. He won the Pieri Award in 2007-08 with Providence (Boston Bruins).
Kris Knoblauch, Hartford (New York Rangers)
Knoblauch is new to the AHL, but he brings a strong background in the NHL and Canadian Hockey League with him. The 41-year-old was a part of Gordon’s staff last season in Philadelphia, his second as an assistant with the Flyers.
His CHL tenure with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League and Erie of the Ontario Hockey League resulted in a 298-130-16-13 record in seven seasons. His Erie team had four consecutive 50-win seasons, a CHL record, and he had one league championship each in the WHL and OHL. Among his Erie graduates are NHL players Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome of the Blackhawks.
Mike Vellucci, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins)
The AHL’s reigning Pieri Award winner won the Calder Cup with Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) last season. Thirteen of his Charlotte players were recalled to the Hurricanes last season, and Charlotte had a league-best 51 regular-season wins and 110 points. His Charlotte team had the AHL’s best regular-season penalty kill and played a puck-pursuit game that was highly aggressive.
He served as a general manager along with his coaching duties with Plymouth (OHL). He worked in hockey operations for the Hurricanes and was also an assistant general manager. He added a role with Pittsburgh as assistant general manager after Bill Guerin departed to become general manager for the Minnesota Wild.
Ryan Warsofsky, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes)
Vellucci’s departure opened an opportunity for Warsofsky, the AHL’s youngest coach at 31.
Warsofsky inherits a markedly different Charlotte roster, but he can lean on his experience from his time as an assistant coach working with Vellucci.
Before Warsofsky landed in Charlotte, he had five seasons in the ECHL with South Carolina, where he was a coach and director of player operations. That run included a trip by the Washington Capitals affiliate to the Kelly Cup Final in 2017.