The current formula for determining who coaches each of the four divisional teams at the NHL All-Star game is simple: whichever team leads their respective division in points percentage at the end of the day on January 5th, their head coach earns the All-Star nod. As it so happens, the NHL divisional standings at present time combined with today’s slate of games makes it impossible for any of the current divisional leaders to lose their top spot due to today’s results. As such, the NHL has decided to go ahead and announce ahead of time who will behind the bench at the upcoming 2019 All-Star Game in San Jose on January 25th-26th:
Jon Cooper, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (.805), is the obvious choice to lead the Atlantic team, as his Bolts not only lead the division, but the entire league – and it’s not close. Tampa’s current points percentage clip is inhuman, as the Lightning have taken home over 80% of their possible points this season. In that regard, they lead the next-best team, the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs, by 130 percentage points. The Lightning also lead the league in goals for per game and power play success, both by a wide margin, and are top-ten in killing penalties. Cooper has the Bolts rolling on all cylinders and will try to transition that success to his All-Star squad.
Heading up the Metropolitan team is first-year head coach Todd Reirden of the defending champion Washington Capitals. With Reirden taking over for Barry Trotz this season, the Capitals have avoided a Stanley Cup slump, currently leading the division with a .650 points percentage that is also tied for third-best in the league. Like Tampa Bay, Washington is similarly offensively inclined, holding a top-ten spot in the league in goals for per game, power play percentage, and shooting percentage. However, Reirden’s team has had their fair share of struggles defensively, partly contributing to why the Capitals have just a narrow lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins (.634), Trotz’ New York Islanders (.615), and the Columbus Blue Jackets (.613). Reidren will coach players from all three of those competing teams when he leads the Metropolitan unit at the All-Star game.
Tied with Reirden’s Capitals at .650 points percentage are the Winnipeg Jets and bench boss Paul Maurice. Maurice’s Jets have been one of the most impressive teams in the league dating back to the beginning of last season and currently top both the Central Division and Western Conference. Winnipeg is as well-rounded as they come, holding a top-eleven spot in goals for per game, goals against per game, power play, and penalty kill. The Jets are also enjoying some breathing room in the divisional race this season, with the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche currently struggling. Maurice will want to instill his well-rounded style into the Central squad, but no so far as to reignite any of the top players on his rivals.
Right behind the Jets in the conference title race and holding the fifth-best points percentage are the Calgary Flames (.643) and new head coach Bill Peters, who will lead the Pacific Divison’s entry. The former Carolina Hurricanes coach came over to Calgary this off-season and has found immediate success managing the ample talent on the Calgary roster. Of the four teams led by All-Star coaches, none have improved more from this time last year than the Flames, and Peters deserves a lot of credit for that transformation. Calgary is third in goals for per game and tenth in goals against per game, one of just three teams to hold top ten spots in both categories. Yet, special teams has not been as much of strength for the team, perhaps why Peters’ team has yet to pull away from the Vegas Golden Knights (.614) and San Jose Sharks (.607) in the division. Fortunately, special teams should not matter much in a 3-on-3 tournament for the Pacific team and Peters could add an All-Star game win to an already impressive, possibly even Jack Adams-worthy, season.