Follow the Author
Bench Bosses: The NHL's Coaching Elite Hardcover – October 27, 2015
Enhance your purchase
Bench Bosses is filled with compelling biographical narrative, innovative analysis, historical allusion, hockey folklore, humour, heartbreak, and tragedy. By introducing a creative new method for evaluating coaching success, professional historian and hockey columnist Matthew DiBiase settles many a debate. His hard-hitting prose and cogent analysis covers key aspects of coaching and definitively identifies the greatest offensive and defensive coaches, expounds on the best penalty-killing or power-play coaches and delves into statistics to determine the nastiest squads on the ice. His unique assessment method determines his selection of the top fifty head coaches of all time. DiBiase's in-depth hockey research delivers a powerful, gripping and informative look at the game's best of the best.
This seminal book tells the story behind the story of coaching success. It removes subjectivity and bias and provides a comprehensive overview of each coach's major career achievements and the contributions each has made to the game. In the writing of this book, the author personally interviewed many of the game's best known coaches and their players to get the most accurate and complete perspective of the sport and its coaching elite. Readers will enjoy hearing from such names as Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Jean Beliveau, Dick Irving Jr., and more.
“Bench Bosses takes you beyond the bench and into the minds of some of hockey’s greatest Generals. A great read for anyone and everyone who loves hockey and watching coaches lose their minds on referees.” – Jay Onrait, Fox Sports Live anchor, and bestselling author of Anchorboy
"If you are looking for a well-researched, comprehensive look at many of the best coaches ever to have coached in the NHL, check out Bench Bosses: The NHL's Coaching Elite by Matthew DiBiase." – Metroland
About the Author
MATTHEW DIBIASE is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research and works for the National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he handles reference requests from businesses, politicians, foreign citizens and special interest groups. He holds a M.A. in American History from Rutgers-Camden University and earned his journalistic chops at writing for his college newspaper. Matthew DiBiase has published numerous op-ed pieces with local newspapers in the South Jersey area and is a regular columnist at Inside Hockey Magazine, where his analyses, retrospectives, and think-pieces about the NHL can be read throughout the regular hockey season.
- Publisher : FENN-M&S (October 27, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0771025084
- ISBN-13 : 978-0771025082
- Item Weight : 1.8 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.68 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,280,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The answer is usually a matter of opinion, but many have tried to come up with a way to define the method of determining the best ever (blank) by some sort of analytical system. It's a way to take emotion and personal bias out of the equation.
The subject at hand here is professional hockey coach. Matthew Dibiase has come up with his own way of judging coaching performance, and he has applied those standards to the entire history of pro hockey.
The results come pouring out in the relatively large book, "Bench Bosses." Sort-of-spoiler alert: The guy who came out first by a wide margin wrote the foreward to the book.
Dibiase has done plenty of freelance hockey writing over the years, a break from his day job with the National Archives in Philadelphia. He can tell by this piece of work that he's smart and thorough.
Dibiase started with similar systems written for football coaches and baseball managers in other books. Then he did a little adapting so that the disappointing seasons counted negatively in the rankings; the others he studied stuck to achievements. Dibiase thought that came out better for hockey, as the sport has had some quirks over the years that required different standings - high percentage of teams making the playoffs, six-team leagues at times, and so on.
From there, you get a bunch of numbers for every pro major league coach in history, including rival leagues in the early days and the World Hockey Association in the 1970s. It's therefore easy to come up with a ranking.
From there, Dibiase goes through the top 50 thoroughly. You could probably argue a few points on who should be where, but the author has a thorough recap of the those coaches who reached the top of their profession. Interviews and references from books and interviews are included along the way. It's the best part of the book.
The final 175 pages or so are dedicated to what might be called "fun with numbers." We have the ratings by decade, ratings for every coach, all-star selections by coach, head-to-head matchups, etc. The bottom 10 coaches even get a chapter; Rick Bowness earned the distinction of being at the bottom, although he certainly had some bad teams to work with.
The biggest flaw for a project like this might be that it's tough to know how much of a team's success is determined by talent and how much is determined by coaching. For example, in 2018-19, the St. Louis was in last place when the Blues' season turned around after Craig Berube became the interim coach. Obviously, Berube has done something right. However, usually the issue isn't so cut and dried.
In other words, it's a chicken and the egg story. Were the Canadiens and Red Wings great teams because they were well coached, or was Scotty Bowman fortunate to be behind the bench with great players on his side? There's no way of telling, and certainly some coaches never had a chance to excel because of circumstances surrounding their team. However, the good coaches tend to be looking down on the rest of the league quite frequently.
This probably could have have used a little editing. Some of the statistics in the back don't come off as particularly useful or interesting. In addition, there are some high-powered words in the text that lost me, and Dibiase's fondness for the Philadelphia Flyers' teams of the 1970s seems out of place in what should be a dispassionate approach to the subject.
Still, "Bench Bosses" does an acceptable job of accomplishing its goal, and filling the reader in on some hockey history. That ought to earn a spot for it on some bookshelves of big hockey fans. Just keep in mind that this came out in 2015, so you'll have to go elsewhere for updated numbers.
Take that format and throw it out the window when picking up this book on the best coaches in the history of professional hockey. Hockey historian Matthew Dibiase devised a format that takes both positive and negative accomplishments by hockey coaches and ranked the best coaches from 1 to 50, with a few extra “honorable mention” coaches.
His methodology is simple in one respect – positive accomplishments such as playoff appearances and Stanley Cup wins are worth one point each while negative accomplishments such as a losing season or missing the playoffs lose one point each. Then a few tweaks to allow for items such as different requirements for these accomplishments through different eras and it makes for one of the best books about any sport for comparing eras.
Hockey fans and historians will appreciate the write ups for each coach, especially those about coaches from the early days of the sport like Pete Green, Art Ross, Frank and Lester Patrick and Ralph “Cooney” Weiland. Even if the reader has not heard of some of these coaches from many years ago, he or she will appreciate what that coach has meant to the game and what he accomplished after reading that coach’s passage.
Another reason that I believe that this is one of the best books about who is the best at what he does is that Dibiase includes accomplishments in other professional leagues – the Pacific Coast Hockey League and Western Canada Hockey League/Western Hockey League from the early 20th century and the World Hockey Association from the 1970’s. By including a coach’s accomplishments in these leagues as well, Dibiase gives a complete picture of what the coach achieved without shortchanging him because he coached in a different professional league.
Finally, the book doesn’t stop at just ranking these coaches. There are chapters describing who was the best coach in each decade, which coaches often came close to making the Stanley Cup finals but never made it, rivalries and separate short chapters on each of the aforementioned other professional leagues. That gives the book even more credibility as a complete comparison of these coaches over the history of professional hockey.
The book can be read for pleasure or can be used for reference as well. It is an outstanding record of the best coaches the game has known and should be on the bookshelf of every hockey fan and historian.
I wish to thank Mr. Dibiase for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.