1. Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks
Let's see. Two years as an NHL coach, one surprise trip to the Western Conference finals, one Stanley Cup championship. Any questions?
2. Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres
Two years in a row Ruff has taken his Buffalo Sabres to the Eastern Conference finals. He'll have his hands full this season, but if anyone can get Buffalo over the hump after losing co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, it's Ruff.
3. Peter Laviolette, Carolina Hurricanes
The guy won a Stanley Cup two seasons ago playing a wildly exciting brand of hockey. He still gets top billing even if his squad fell off and out of the playoffs in 2006-07.
4. Michel Therrien, Pittsburgh Penguins
Tough as nails, Therrien defied critics who thought he wouldn't last a season under new GM Ray Shero by deftly handling youngsters Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and especially rookie of the year candidate Jordan Staal. Now, he's got to prove he's the real deal by taking them far in the playoffs.
5. Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks
We still don't know how Vigneault, the former Montreal Canadiens coach, managed to coax his team to the top of the Northwest Division and through the first round of the playoffs. The test is now to get them back.
6. Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
The pressure was on Babcock and the Red Wings last season and he managed to get a much grittier effort out of his talented squad than many thought possible. If not for a bad bounce or two, they would have beaten the Ducks in the Western Conference finals. They should be back to the conference finals again.
7. Tom Renney, New York Rangers
Renney has done a splendid job with the Rangers, first getting them into the playoffs in 2005-06 when no one thought it was possible, and then following that with a trip to the second round and a tough series loss to Buffalo. He's also done a masterful job of getting enigmatic star Jaromir Jagr to buy in.
8. Ron Wilson, San Jose Sharks
Lofty playoff expectations haven't been met by the Sharks, but Wilson has seen his squad win at least one playoff round the last three postseasons.
9. John Tortorella, Tampa Bay Lightning
Two first-round exits since the end of the lockout, but Tortorella's Lightning made the playoffs in four straight seasons and won a Stanley Cup in 2004.
10. Andy Murray, St. Louis Blues
Murray, a stickler for details, wore out his welcome in Los Angeles, but he turned things around in record time in St. Louis last season. Now the challenge is to keep the Blues on track and guide them back to the postseason.
11. Jacques Lemaire, Minnesota Wild
Is Lemaire getting more than he should out of a Wild team that has yet to win a playoff round since 2003, or is he holding them back? Discuss among yourselves.
12. Ted Nolan, New York Islanders Guess Nolan really can coach after all. The former coach of the year gets blacklisted from the NHL for a decade, and then takes a bunch of underachievers and malcontents to the playoffs.
13. Ken Hitchcock, Columbus Blue Jackets
Hitchcock doesn't have much to work with yet in Columbus and his Flyers did struggle mightily out of the gate a season ago, which ultimately cost him his job. But Hitchcock is still one of the game's great coaching minds.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Andy Murray starts his first full season behind the bench with the St. Louis Blues.
14. Jacques Martin, Florida Panthers
Martin guided the Ottawa Senators to the playoffs for eight straight seasons, but his reputation is now on the line in Florida, where the pressure is on to make something out of a pile of young talent.
15. Craig MacTavish, Edmonton Oilers
Surely it wasn't a fluke that the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers advanced to the seventh game of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. Or was it? This season will go a long way in answering that question.
16. Joel Quenneville, Colorado Avalanche
Quenneville's teams have never quite got over the hump. He'll get a chance to prove he can change that trend this season with a much-improved Avalanche team.
17. Dave Tippett, Dallas Stars
If you just considered Tippett's regular-season record, he'd be a top-10 coach every year. Unfortunately, the Stars' recent history of bowing out in the first round of the playoffs is what fans remember most about Tippett's teams in Dallas.
18. Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
The same can be said for Trotz, who has evolved along with his team in Nashville. But three straight first-round playoff exits, followed by a denuding of the Preds' lineup thanks to its ownership situation, puts Trotz in an unenviable position.
19. Bob Hartley, Atlanta Thrashers
Seems like a long time ago when Hartley and his Colorado Avalanche were hoisting the Stanley Cup in June 2001. After getting swept in the first round last spring, the pressure is on Hartley to get the Thrashers deep into the postseason. He remains hamstrung by poor drafting and development in Atlanta.
20. Glen Hanlon, Washington Capitals
Hanlon hasn't had much to work with in Washington, but he's instilled an impressive work ethic in his troops. Now, he's got some more tools and it will be interesting to see how much more Hanlon can get out of his new-look Caps.
21. Paul Maurice, Toronto Maple Leafs
The cerebral and even-keeled Maurice failed in his first bid to get the Toronto Maple Leafs into the postseason. Chances are this will be his last chance in the center of the hockey universe.
22. Guy Carbonneau, Montreal Canadiens
Carbonneau couldn't get along with Sergei Samsonov, and there were reports, courtesy of Alexei Kovalev and the Russian media, that there are rifts within the Habs' dressing room. None of which would have mattered had the Canadiens made the playoffs. But they didn't, and aren't likely to again this season.
23. Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
Whether he was treated unfairly in Montreal or New Jersey or not is now moot. Julien will have to turn around the Bruins ship or this could be the end of the line for him as an NHL head coach.
24. Marc Crawford, Los Angeles Kings
It seems like it was long ago when Crawford was on top of the coaching world, winning the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and then coaching the Canadian Olympic team two years later in Nagano. Expectations are high for the Los Angeles Kings to show dramatic improvement. Can Crawford guide them to the postseason?
25. Denis Savard, Chicago Blackhawks
GM Dale Tallon thinks Savard is the real deal after giving the coach a contract extension this summer. Savard's still got an uphill battle, but there is more talent in Chicago than it's seen in many years.
26. John Stevens, Philadelphia Flyers
Stevens inherited a bad hand in Philadelphia last season, but the Flyers didn't show much in the way of turnaround. Now, GM Paul Holmgren has broken the bank to get the Flyers back to the playoffs and Stevens had better not let that talent go to waste.
27. John Paddock, Ottawa Senators
Hmm, 1995 was a long time ago, but that's how long it's been since Paddock was an NHL coach. He's proven himself to be a fine, patient teacher of young players. Is he the man to take the Senators to that next step of a Stanley Cup championship? Because that's the expectation in the Canadian capital.
28. Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix Coyotes
We know, he's Wayne Gretzky. But he's also 69-85-10 in two seasons as an NHL coach. And unless Gretzky starts to channel Toe Blake this season, the Coyotes are headed for a near-basement finish once more.
29. Brent Sutter, New Jersey Devils
We know, he's a Sutter and he's like the Sidney Crosby of coaching prospects. But he never coached an NHL regular-season game before this season. Get back to us in April.
30. Mike Keenan, Calgary Flames
Sorry, until he shows he won't single-handedly destroy the Calgary Flames, "Iron Mike" gets a seat in the rankings basement.