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Minnesota Hockey Head Coach Candidates: Fresh Blood Edition

Let’s look at potential options to replace Don Lucia who have no ties to Minnesota.

Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship
Ohio State’s Steve Rohlik would be a potential candidate for the Minnesota job.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Now that Don Lucia has stepped down as Minnesota’s hockey coach, the immediate question is who could be a potential replacement? It’s a big question, because Minnesota AD Mark Coyle will have to consider several factors as he navigates this search process. Many in the fan base would like to see some fresh blood in the program. They would like to find a coach that either has no, or limited previous ties to the University of Minnesota. At the same time, there is a strong core of Minnesota alumni that are still bitter that the Gophers hired a non-alumnus in Lucia. This group will be very vocal that his replacement is a ‘M-Man”.

Since there is no shortage of potential candidates we’re going to break down our profiles into two posts. This post will focus on potential candidates who have no ties to the U (the “fresh blood” candidates if you prefer). Our next post (which will drop later Tuesday or on Wednesday) will focus on potential candidates that have a connection to the University of Minnesota (either as former assistant coaches or as alumni). One thing seems certain, and that’s the fact that it’s unlikely Minnesota can hire a coach that will make everyone happy.

Candidates with NO ties to the U of M:

Steve Rohlik- Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach: Age 49

Rohlik is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Buckeyes and has had his most successful season this year. Ohio State finished second in the Big Ten and is a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes have ranked in the Top 15 nationally in both scoring offense and on the power play four of his five years at the helm. Prior to being head coach of the Buckeyes he was an assistant for Ohio State from 2010 thorough 2013, and was an assistant at Minnesota-Duluth from 2001-2010.

Rohlik is a St. Paul native and went to Hill-Murray for high school. He then went to play for Wisconsin Badgers in college, was a two-time captain and helped the Badgers win the 1990 NCAA Championship.

Jim Montgomery- Denver Pioneers Head Coach: Age 48

Montgomery in his fifth season as the coach of the defending NCAA Champion Denver Pioneers, and his team is primed to make another run for back to back titles this spring. Previous to coaching Denver, Montgomery was the coach and general manager of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL.

Montgomery played college hockey at Maine Black Bears where he is the Black Bears all-time leading scorer and teamed up with Paul Kariya to win the 1993 NCAA Championship.

Montgomery is a Montreal native, and would be an interesting selection a coach as he flirted hard with becoming the head coach of the Florida Panthers in the NHL after last season but returned to Denver.

George Gwozdecky-Former Denver Head Coach: Age 64

Gwozdecky was the head coach of the Pioneers prior to Montgomery taking over. He led Denver to back to back NCAA Championships in 2004 and 2005. He coached the Pioneers for 19 seasons before leaving the college game. He was an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lighting in the NHl until 2015 and is currently the coach of the Valor Christian High School team in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Gwozdecky was reportedly a finalist for the Michigan State Spartans opening last summer but did not get the job.

Gwozdecky is a Thunder Bay, Ontario native went to Wisconsin for college. He helped the Badgers to the 1977 NCAA Championship. Gwozdecky is currently 64 years old, which may be older than Mark Coyle wants to look for in a coach.

Nate Leaman- Providence Friars Head Coach: Age 45

Leaman is in his seventh season as the head coach of Providence. He led the Friars to the NCAA Championship in 2015. Prior to Providence, Leaman was the head coach at Union for eight seasons.

Leaman is a Centerville, Ohio native and went to SUNY Cortland for college. Leaman despite his coaching success may not be a strong candidate due to his lack of familiarity recruiting Minnesota and the Midwest.

Norm Bazin-UMass-Lowell Redhawks Head Coach: Age 47

Bazin is in his seventh season as the head coach of UMass-Lowell. He was led the Redhawks to Hockey East titles in 2013 and 2017. Bazin is a UML alum and played four years for the Redhawks between 1990 and 1994. Basin spent time as an assistant coach both for UMass-Lowell and Colorado College before coaching D3 Hamilton College for four seasons prior to taking the UML job.

Ben Barr-UMass Minutemen Associate Head Coach: Age 36

Ben Barr is in his second season as the associate head coach of UMass. Barr was responsible for recruiting one of the best freshman classes to UMass this season including Canadian World Junior Star Cale Makar and defenseman Mario Ferraro.

Barr spent two seasons before joining UMass at Western Michigan as the associate head coach. Prior to Western Michigan Barr was as assistant at Providence for three seasons and was responsible for recruiting the players that led the the Friar’s 2015 NCAA Title. Before that Barr was an assistant at Union and was partially responsible for recruiting the 2014 class that would lead the Dutchmen to the NCAA Title over the Gophers.

Barr is a Fairbault, Minnesota native and went to Shattuck St. Mary’s high school. He went to RPI for college and was the Engineers MVP in 2002-03.

Phil Housley-Head Coach Buffalo Sabres: Age 54

Housley famously was almost a Gopher after coming out of South St. Paul High School in 1982. He was selected sixth overall by the Sabres in the 1982 draft and went right from high school to the NHL the next season. Housley is the second leading American born NHL scorer in history with 1,232 points in 1,495 games. He is in both the Hockey Hall of Fame and US Hockey Hall of Fame.

Housley coached Stillwater High school from 2004-2013 after retiring from the NHL. He became an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators in 2013 and remained there until getting the Sabres head coaching job this season. The Sabres are in a bit of upheaval with a change in general manager and there is no guarantee Housley will remain the coach after this season.

Housley may not be interested in the job however with his wife Karin running for the Republican nomination to the US Senate from Minnesota in 2018.