Further looking into possible candidates for the Minnesota Wild head coaching job, the answer could come within the organization itself in the form of Tim Army.
Army was named the head coach of Minnesota’s AHL club, the Iowa Wild, in 2018, and currently has the squad in second place of the Western Conference as they look to make a deep run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Iowa has seen great improvement under the Providence College alum. In the team’s first five years of existence, they failed to make a single playoff appearance. However, in year one of the Army era, the Wild made their first trip to the postseason and even managed to win a playoff round against the Milwaukee Admirals.
Army had his professional playing career cut short due to injury in 1987, and then returned to the ice as an assistant coach at his alma mater at Providence from 1988 to 1993. He’s made stops in Anaheim (1994-97), Washington (1998-02), Colorado (2013-17) and Wilkes Barre/Scranton (AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins) from 2017-18 in the same role, and held the head coaching job with the AHL’s Portland Pirates from 2003-05.
Two out of three seasons in Portland saw two early playoff exits, with one coming in the qualifying round and the other in the first round.
Before coming to Iowa, his only other head coaching experience came when he returned to Providence (once again) in 2006, where he spent six seasons. In that time, the Friars were only able to muster one winning season.
The best way to approach the possible hiring of Army, however, is focusing on the here-and-now. This choice of hire would be a testament to the level of trust between the Minnesota Wild and Army’s ability as a head coach. Do they see him as only a developmental coach? Or do they believe he has the potential of one day leading an NHL club?
After former Wild general manager Paul Fenton was fired last July, this would be a chance for present-day general manager Bill Guerin to make an impact early in his tenure with the club. After all, Guerin was the general manager of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins when Army was in town, which means there is an in-depth understanding of what he brings to the table.
Of course, if the Wild do make this choice to stay in-house, it certainly would not qualify as the “sexy” move. With bigger names on the market — Peter Laviolette, Gerard Gallant and Mike Babcock, for example — many may be left scratching their heads with the hiring of someone with no NHL head coaching experience. But on the other hand, it would show a trust in the developmental abilities that Army possesses.
Much like in a baseball team’s farm system, organizations put great trust in their minor league head coaches to grow prospects and light a fire under them to perform at a level that can translate to the NHL. With the growth shown for the Iowa Wild under Army, it shows that he is capable of engineering a turnaround of a team, which is something the top tier team desperately needs.
These coaches are selected for their ability to develop, and those who come straight out of the AHL can use those tactics used during their time in the league and translate it directly to the big stage.
When listening to his plan for the Iowa Wild, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the day-by-day mentality that Army instills in his players. His words may have sounded “cliché” at some points, but they’re all relevant to the Minnesota Wild.
Another key aspect to what could make this an intriguing hire is the fact that the Iowa job has given him experience with micromanaging a team with a shorthanded roster. With call-ups and send-downs, coaches in the AHL are constantly in flux with their lineups and have to adapt to be successful.
If a barrage of injuries happen to come over the course of the season, Army can use these experiences to keep the Wild competitive on any given night.
With all of this in mind, what are your thoughts on Tim Army as a candidate for the Minnesota Wild? For a team on the brink of a rebuild, is it the best option to stay in-house? Or is it a better plan of action to move elsewhere?