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Penguins Unfilled Jobs Caught on Coaching Carousel; Two Have Ties to Dubas



Pittsburgh Penguins coaches, Sheldon Keefe

There is no organ music or bobbing plastic horses, but the NHL coaching carousel is nonetheless spinning. When it may stop seems to be as great a mystery as who will fill the four NHL head coaching vacancies, and the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to find themselves caught waiting for the teams to fill the big jobs.

The Penguins have already excused a couple of coaches this offseason, starting with AHL bench boss J.D. Forrest and then associate head coach Todd Reirden.

That’s two Penguins openings and two that remain open, as former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe remains on the market following his predictable termination by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Read More: Three Reasons Why the Penguins Should Not Hire Keefe

But the subordinate nature of the Penguins’ openings means they’ll likely have to wait to fill their openings while coaches interview for the head coaching positions.

Sheldon Keefe, Candidates

It would be wildly uncomfortable to have Keefe lurking behind Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, either as an assistant or the WBS Penguins coach. However, president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas has hired Keefe three times in his career, so it can’t be ruled out.

However, before Keefe would accept a secondary gig (and we’re still dubious that a Dubas reunion makes sense), the head coaching gigs must be filled.

The New Jersey Devils, Seattle Kraken, Winnipeg Jets, and San Jose Sharks have been running help-wanted ads in the Sunday papers for a few weeks, but only Travis Green (Ottawa Senators) and Craig Berube (Toronto) have filled vacant coaching positions thus far.

The LA Kings haven’t yet officially removed the interim tag from coach Jim Hiller, either.

The NHL’s Final Four begins this week, so there are still a few assistant coaches under lock and key. However, the only assistant coach among the four teams still playing that has drawn any buzz is Edmonton assistant Glen Gulutzan, who has two previous stops as a head coach (Dallas, Calgary).

Both of Gulutzan’s NHL head coaching gigs lasted two seasons, but he had a long run as a successful minor league coach in the ECHL (Vegas Wranglers) from 2003-09 and the AHL Texas Stars in 2009 and 2010.

Former WBS Penguins coach Alain Nasreddine is an assistant under Pete DeBoer in Dallas.

But no, neither is the name holding up this league-wide train. Nor is Keefe the guilty party for trying to catch a painted pony on the spinning wheel ride. Teams have had plenty of time to interview, beat the bushes, and begin to make assessments.

New Jersey is rumored to be close to tabbing their next coach this week, which could set in motion the chain reaction of hires. However, Berube was a candidate for several of the openings, and if his acceptance of the most high-pressure gig in the NHL didn’t flick forward the first dominos, perhaps we’re in for more waiting.

No less than a half dozen experienced NHL coaches are on the market, and one wild card remains out there: Joel Quenneville, who is currently not in the NHL’s good graces due to his handling of the sexual assault allegation in Chicago.

His name has been floated for a couple of the openings, and it’s been three years since the NHL made him persona non grata. He would need to apply for reinstatement, but it seems there is some momentum for that if a team decides to ask.

There are at least two with direct connections to Dubas. Keefe, and former Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith, who was an assistant in Toronto for four seasons before taking the Ottawa job. Smith is currently an assistant on Hiller’s staff in LA, but that seems tenuous until Hiller is officially hired.

Until some vacancies are filled and a few names come off the board, the Penguins are left to wait. After all, someone is waiting just for you—the spinning wheel, spinning true.