5 First-Time Head Coaching Candidates New Jersey Devils Should Consider

The New Jersey Devils have a lot of candidates to choose from for a head coach, but should they forgo experience for someone who can bring a fresh perspective to the NHL?
2022 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship
2022 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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3. Todd Nelson
Current Job: Hershey Bears Head Coach

This one is cheating just a little bit because technically Todd Nelson has been a head coach on an interim basis. He took over for Dallas Eakins in Edmonton when he was fired in December 2014. The team went 17-22 and missed the playoffs. The Oilers couldn’t be that upset with his performance because it led to a number-one overall draft pick. That ended up being Connor McDavid.

Now, almost a decade later, Nelson hasn’t been given a chance at another NHL head coaching gig despite his immense success in the AHL. Nelson is the head coach of the reigning Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears. This season, the Bears are even better, winning close to 80 percent of their games going into the playoffs. 

Unlike some of the others on this list, Nelson has the age of a typical head coach. He’s 54 years old with years of professional hockey experience. He fought to keep his spot, even playing in the DEL and IHL to keep his career alive. 

Nelson just needs an opportunity. He’s already the eighth-winningest head coach in AHL history. Ironically, if he remains at Hershey, he would be chasing current Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen. However, he deserves at least a look as head coach.