The search for assistant coaches is over. The Toronto Maple Leafs have promoted Marlies head coach Steve Spott to the big club, while also adding Peter Horacek to the fold.
Horacek has significant experience as a coach at the professional level, mostly as an assistant. His first gig came in 1987-88 as the assistant of the IHL’s Saginaw Hawks, but he’s also preformed these duties with the Flint Spirits (IHL), Orlando Solar Bears (IHL, now Toronto’s ECHL affiliate), and for just about a decade, the Nashville Predators.
Horacek’s first head coaching job was with the Nashville Knights of the ECHL, but has also ran the bench with the St. Thomas Wildcats (Colonial Hockey League), the Flint Generals (CoHL), as well as the Solar Bears, Trenton Titans (ECHL), and Milwaukee Admirals (AHL). He started out this year as the head coach of the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, but after the Florida Panthers had a rough start to the year, was promoted on an interim basis. The Panthers went 26-36-4 under him.
Horacek has one championship under his belt (won in 2001 with the Solar Bears), and hails from Stoney Creek, Ontario (just outside Hamilton).
You’re probably much more familiar with Steve Spott. He spent the past season as the head coach of the Toronto Marlies, replacing Dallas Eakins after he headed to Edmonton. In a year where many expected the Marlies to falter, they finished with 96 points and a division championship for the third consecutive year, to go with a surprising 10-4 run that brought them to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Prior to his time with the Marlies, Spott racked up 17 years of coaching experience, heading to the Plymouth Whalers before going to the Kitchener Rangers. He spent several years as an assistant between the two teams, before getting his first taste of an OHL head coaching job in 2009. From there, Spott’s first team failed to make the playoffs, but were in the 0.625 to 0.675 range for the years that followed, though they never made their way into the finals. Spott has also coached for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
Spott is another coach who encourages the “grit, character, and toughness” mould, occasionally to a fault. In the case of the Marlies, however, it didn’t often get in the way. He can lean towards players he’s familiar with from time to time (Andrew Crescenzi prior to the trade for Brandon Kozun comes to mind), so don’t be surprised if he steps up to bat for the younger kids, and to an extent, former Kitchener Rangers forward David Clarkson.
To be honest, I thought that the Leafs were going to take a serious run at Marlies assistants Gord Dineen and Derek King. They’ve been there forever and can help with specific special teams, but I guess that doesn’t line up in this situation. Reports are out that the Leafs were specifically wanting guys with head coaching experience, which I guess means that Randy Carlyle will be on the hot seat as the season progresses.
Whether the two are fit to replace him if a firing happens is a different question; both have little experience.Reports suggest that the Leafs wanted head coaching experience in this move. One has good success at a lower level, the other has NHL experience but didn’t go so well (mind you, his team was bad).
Systematically, they can’t be worse than last year. At least they don’t employ the same breakout or tap ins that give up the puck. The Marlies were a negative shots-for team as well, which leaves some room for motives. Cam will have more on Horachek in a bit.