Until the Music Stops
Simply put, there are lots of available and experienced coaches, and few jobs. Lots of supply, limited demand.
Calgary, after dumping Brent Sutter, appears to be proceeding on a most leisurely pace. Ditto for Montreal, with new GM Marc Bergevin looking to replace Randy Cunneyworth. Washington is now on the lookout for a new bench boss with Dale Hunter having decided to return to the OHL's London Knights. And Edmonton? Who knows? GM Steve Tambellini's preferred strategy right now appears to be to let Tom Renney dangle for a while.
Two coaches currently under contract to the Maple Leafs, meanwhile, could factor into all of this.
Ron Wilson's name is being bandied about in Washington for a second try with the Caps, a team he coached from 1997 until 2002. GM George McPhee was in charge then and might have fond memories of Wilson's run to the Stanley Cup final in 1998; on the other hand, two first round exits and two years of missing the playoffs entirely would conjure up less positive memories.
Wilson, as we all know, has one more year on his Twitterized contract with Toronto. The Leafs wouldn't block him from talking to another team, and if hired the usual protocol is that the new team would assume responsibility for the final portion of his old contract. So there's a possibility for getting off the hook for some money here for MLSE, but just a slim possibility.
Then there's Dallas Eakins, who was actually a Washington draft pick back in 1985 (10th round, 208th overall.)
Eakins is already deep into contract talks with Leaf assistant GM Dave Nonis aimed at bringing him back to coach the AHL Marlies next season, but no deal has yet been finalized. He's done a superb job and in the recent series victory over Abbotsford totally outcoached Troy Ward, who may be a candidate for the Calgary job.
Brian Burke saw Eakins' lack of head coaching experience at the NHL level as an impediment to getting the Leaf head coaching job at least partly because of Toronto's media churn, and turned to Randy Carlyle instead. McPhee, however, has hired a series of coaches who didn't have NHL head coaching experience, including Bruce Boudreau and Hunter, and Eakins' record of a defensively strong team with the Marlies might be a logical transition from Hunter.
That said, there are many, many possible candidates in Washington, including assistant coach Jim Johnson. It's too early to say whether the Caps would be interested in Eakins.
From a Leaf point of view, getting Eakins under contract - the deal might stipulate he couldn't take an NHL job until the summer of 2013 at the earliest - would be a good publicity move both to bolster the Marlies program and to underscore the organization's commitment to a draft-and-develop program. The NHL may not start on time next season if new CBA talks go off the rails, but there will be an AHL season and young players requiring a solid working environment.
For his part, Eakins' family is settled in Toronto and he appreciates working for the Marlies is like coaching in the NHL without being in the NHL.
Make no mistake about it - he wanted the Leaf coaching job and believes he's ready for the NHL. But having seen other coaches jump at the first head coaching opportunity and then regret it, he may be more inclined to bide his time with the Marlies for now if a new contract can be worked out.