A look at Florida Panthers coaching candidate Marc Crawford

Ronald Martinez

We continue to take a look at the six men who could be the next head coach of the Florida Panthers. Next up, Marc Crawford.

According to reports, the Florida Panthers next head coach will be one of the these six men: There's Bill PetersGerard Gallant and Dan Bylsma, who we've already taken a look at (click on their names if you missed the articles), Tom Renney, Ron Wilson, and the subject of today's piece, Marc Crawford.

After completing his junior career with the Cornwall Royals, Marc Crawford spent much of the next seven years bouncing back and forth between the Vancouver Canucks, the club that drafted him in 1980, and the AHL's Fredericton Express. The left winger finished up his playing days in 1988-89 with a 53-game stint in the International League with the Milwaukee Admirals. The next season Crawford returned to Royals, who had moved from the QMJHL to the OHL in the interim, to take over head coaching duties for his old team. Despite two losing seasons in Cornwall, he was named head coach of the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs in 1991. His first season behind the bench resulted in 39-29-12 record and a trip to the Calder Cup finals, where the Maple Leafs fell to the Adirondack Red Wings. The next season saw the club finish 41-26-16, resulting in Crawford being named the AHL's coach of the year. His final year in St. John's saw the team go 45-23-12 and make a third-straight playoff appearance under his tutelage.

Crawford parlayed the very successful three-year stint with St. John's into his first NHL head coaching job, when he was hired by the Quebec Nordiques to replace Pierre Page. After missing the playoffs the previous year, the Nordiques finished 30-13-5, the best record in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the club was upset in the first round of the playoffs, sadly ending the Nordiques run in Quebec City.  The team was moved to Denver during the off-season, becoming the Colorado Avalanche. During the summer, Crawford won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year. The 1995-96 season saw the already-loaded Avalanche pick up Patrick Roy in a trade with Montreal and claim the franchise's first Stanley Cup with a 4-0 sweep of the upstart Panthers that spring. In 1996-97, the Avs went 49-24-9 and advanced to the Western Conference finals where they dethroned by the Detroit Red Wings. Colorado slipped a bit the next year, finishing 39-26-17, but still were tops in the Pacific Division. During the season, Crawford coached the Canadian Olympic Team in Nagano, Japan to a disappointing fourth-place finish. Crawford was questioned for his player selection during the shootout in the team's final loss to the Czech Republic, which cost them a medal. After Quebec was knocked out in the first round of the NHL playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers, Crawford resigned as the head coach of the Avalanche.

It didn't take long for the Belleville, ON native to resurface behind an NHL bench. Midway through the 1988-99 season, Vancouver hired their former player to take over for the fired Mike Keenan, who was let go 45 games into the campaign. The Canucks struggled the rest of the way, winning just eight games, and ended up last in the Northwest Division. The team improved, but missed the playoffs again during Crawford's first full season in 1999-2000. The following season, Vancouver started a run of four-straight postseason appearances with Crawford at the helm. The team was knocked out in the first round twice, advanced to the second round in 2002-03, before bowing out again in the opening round the following season. During his final season in Vancouver, the team finished with 42 wins but failed to make the playoffs, leading to his dismissal.

The Los Angeles Kings scooped up Crawford a month later. The partnership between the two sides was not a successful one as the Kings missed the playoffs both seasons that he was there. Los Angeles decided to let him go with one year remaining on his contract, bringing in Terry Murray as his replacement. After a year out of the NHL, the Dallas Stars came calling and Crawford spent the next two seasons coaching in Texas. The team finished 37-31-14 the first year and improved to 42-29-11 in 2010-11, but a season-ending loss to the lowly Minnesota Wild kept the team out of the playoffs, costing Crawford his job two days later. After a one-year hiatus, Crawford took his talents to Switzerland, where he led the ZSC Lions to the National League A championship in his second season behind the bench.

If the Panthers are looking for an experienced coach, Marc Crawford definitely fits the bill. He has pretty much done, and seen, it all in his 20 or so seasons as a head coach, amassing 549 NHL wins and eight trips to the postseason. The immediate minor-league success, quick Stanley Cup win, Jack Adams Award, and Olympic experience makes his résumé similar to that of Bylsma's. Unlike "Disco Dan", who never missed the playoffs, Crawford's last time leading an NHL team to the postseason was all the way back in 2004. I still think "Crow" has what takes, and that he would be a definite improvement over the inexperienced coaches the Cats have rolled out duing the Tallon era.

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