The two paramount features of any coach who lasts in the NHL has two readily identifiable features. It doesn’t matter if they are a players coach or a disciplinarian. They can give horrid, boring press conferences or be great communicators. They can be first year coaches who paid their dues in the OHL, or be a retread who is in their third or fourth head coaching stint.

The two points every successful coach has short term or long, eastern conference or western are first an appreciation for the talent assembled on their roster and knowing where to deploy those men. The second is an identifiable system for the players to adhere to. Getting ‘the most’ out of given players isn’t even needed to have multi year runs with a single team.

Look at coaches who have won the Stanley Cup recently. The Pittsburgh Penguins under Mike Sullivan play a very specific form of defense you don’t see anyone else employ successfully. The Los Angeles Kings consistently took the ice with a system that made use of a rugged style, great defense, and you could have changed the uniforms and you still would have known who they were. The Chicago Blackhawks in good games or bad you know who it is, not by the names on the back or the logo or the front but by the style. Claude Julien has deployed a consistent, successful system of play as well.

In forty or so games under Bruce Cassidy, a head coach who was gone from the NHL for over a decade after a very short first stint in the NHL, what have we seen? Erratic play, disinterested or possibly just dismayed players, and nothing like consistency. We’ve seen marginal third line wingers like Riley Nash be deployed as top six centers. We’ve seen turnovers galore,  and a smorgasbord of confusion. Are we seeing anything extra out of any player on the roster? I don’t think so.

We’ve established the two fundamentals of good coaches who stick around, and coaches who win. So what do we call a coach who can’t do either of those things? Short lived. We call them short lived.

If you missed the rest of the list it is right here. The most engaging players in the world are ready to storm the ice. Make sure you know who they are.

5: Jonathan Drouin

A new city, a new team, a new coach and even a new position. Drouin was traded from an offensively focused team, under a coach who kept the pace uptempo in Tampa Bay, in Montreal he’ll be playing under a very strict defensive coach. He also enters the season one of the two or three best offensive forces on the Canadien’s roster. Last year it would have been hard to argue he was even fifth among the offensively blessed Tampa Bay Lightning, this year he’ll be playing center something he hasn’t done at the pro level. Will he thrive and finally give the Habs a lead center? Will he be only marginal in the position? Will he be back to wing before Thanksgiving?

4: Sean Monahan

Last spring Monahan was the only light, bright or otherwise, for the Calgary Flames in the playoffs. He scored four goals, and did it with a rather listless team around him. Will he ride that wave of individual dominance this year and become the team’s new heartbeat? Is he the true offensive successor to Jarome Ignila? How about being the emotional catalyst #12 was? How has his relationship with the rest of the roster changed after an almost universally shameful playoff disaster? Whatever a certain Twitter account might say, I don’t expect a boring year and neither should you.

3: Derek Stepan

Last year Stepan was anything but engaging, over the offseason he was central to the makeover of two teams. His former team is the perhaps the most rearranged team in the east, and the Arizona Coyotes absolutely made the most impactful changes in the west. Stepan is facing more than just a new town, and team. He is one of the oldest players on the roster in the desert and one of the few players to have NHL playoff experience. It is not a stretch to say he is the most battle test player in town still in his prime. Is a bigger role under fewer bright lights what pushes this guy to a new level? Or does he wilt in a small city much as Jeff Carter did during his brief stay in Columbus?

2: Matt Duchene

Despite being at the center of what is currently the longest running, most talked about trade speculation, he has not been moved. After nearly two years of running speculation he is still in the mile high city. The number of times observers have heard from “credible sources” that talks were in progress is high and likely to grow. He’s tried to put on a good face, but no reasonable person expected him to make it past the NHL entry draft in a Colorado Avalanche jersey. The fact that he has yet to land in another uniform is mind boggling. Every delay is value lost. How will he handle another season of speculation and questions? Will he decide to sit until a trade is executed? Where will he be playing the day after the trade deadline? On a team headed for the playoffs or in yet another meaningless game where most of a flaccid roster is counting the shifts until they get to go on vacation for the summer.

1: Jack Eichel

Eichel almost needs two spots on this list. One spot for things directly about him, and one spot for how those around him will react, behave, and where they end up. He just signed a long contract that left money on the table for signing other high end players. But he also has yet to turn in a full and healthy season. Sure last season he beat the previous years 81 game point total in twenty less games, but that’s still 22 games missed in two seasons without the wear and tear of the playoffs. Just making it 82 games will be a challenge. Crossing over into the next strata of offensive weapons is another.

The other half of the equation is; coach, players, and general manager. His linemate Evander Kane has been the center of much trade speculation. Last year’s coach, a Stanley Cup winner, was shown the door after a brief stay not so long after Eichel spoke about the season. More than one older, possibly wiser player’s have to be a bit miffed that they were called on the carpet by someone who won’t even be able to drink legally in the US for a while. If, and its a big if, Eichel instigated the ousting of Dan Bylsma than how secure are new general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley, both of whom lack the cache of a cup winner?

Every season brings us a new saga, hundreds upon hundreds of games, thousands of plays, innumerable shifts. First, last, and always there are the players. Thanks to league coverage we experience every moment and non-event of certain superstar’s season as if we were on the receiving end of Mike Milbury’s most notable near ice exploit. But there are nearly a thousand players to watch each season, and it can be hard to winnow out interesting players. A few of the stories worth knowing this year will begin in earnest when the puck drops in game one.

12: Josh Anderson

The subject of one of the very few long term contract disputes. He’s on a team that was up, down, sideways, and vastly entertaining last season. One of the better reasons to end contract talks early is to keep players on the ice and in the groove with rest of the team. Consistency was the most notable lack for the team last year. When teams can’t figure out how to get their talent back on the ice they are handicapping both the player and, if they don’t replace him adequately, the team. As it stands Anderson will be starting his race to midseason form a standstill while the rest of the team, and NHL has a quarter lap running start.

11: Corey Perry

Once a fifty goal scorer. Once a forty goal scorer. Once automatically considered the among the top players in the entire NHL. Once. Last year “Scorey Perry” barely did. With just nineteen goals despite playing all 82 he was 103rd in goals. A player making more than eight and a half million tripping and falling into less than twenty goals is appalling. His four goals in 17 playoff games wasn’t anything to write home about. Was the crash from 34 goals to 19 just a blip, or is he the first of the great players of the staggering 2003 draft to fall into ignominy?

10:  John Taveres

For better or worse we won’t hear the end of the John Tavares to everywhere rumors until he is either moved and signed longterm or signed by the New York Islanders (or is it Seattle Islanders?). The teams management hasn’t done much to make him stick around. The best player on defense is probably Johnny Boychuk, their goaltending alternates between trash-fire and merely bad, and aside from himself they might have two bonafide top six forwards. Ownership seems to think a viable arena is optional. What happens here will likely tell us where the franchise will be three and five years from now.

9: Jonathan Marchessault

Last year lightning stuck 30 times for an entirely unheralded, undersized, unassuming Cap-Rouge native. The former Tampa Bay Lightning player moved cross state and changed his fortune going from an unremarkable 18 points in 45 games to a breathtaking 30 in a Florida Panthers uniform. One of the players the Golden Knights acquired by trade, he will be playing for his third NHL team in as many seasons and his fourth overall.This year he in addition to a new coach, a new city, a new conference, and a brand new team he’ll be playing for a shiny new contract. He’ll be a UFA on July 1. Where he ends the season is anyones guess both on the map and the stats sheet.

8: Jaromir Jagr

All the reasons to sign him, and it took until October to do it. He’s good for butts in seats, merchandise, and concessions even against teams as wretched as the Avalanche. Leaving aside all the records he’s likely to hit this year, there is the question of how well he’ll adjust (if that’s the right word given his style of play) to another new team, another new city, and what he’ll do for you know, offense.

7: Malcolm Subban

The surname alone makes him noticeable. Close observers will note he’s one of the most athletic players around. Utterly mismanaged in his time in Boston, it will be interesting to see him thrive in a new situation. With him now in the western conference there is a small chance he will play against both his younger and older brothers in the same week. And while no one counts it likely, the chance exits two or more of them could be featured All Star weekend. While I won’t claim he’s the fantasy value of his better known brother, there are more than a few worse goalies in the NHL.

6: Evander Kane

The questions around this guy are nearly as endless as the talent. Is the off ice smoke racially charged nonsense or is he really a dick? Is he able to stay healthy enough for two or three seasons to have another year like last year or when he scored 30? Will he continue to mesh with Eichel to be one of the best duos in the NHL at full strength? Will he be retained on the team. His usually linemate has been signed to what is the new reasonable contract for high end talent. If he isn’t retained will they get the right return for him?

5-1 coming soon, in the meantime listen to the latest Two Man ForeCheck.