NHL Handicapping: Coaches on the Hot Seat
by Trevor Whenham - 12/13/2011
It has not been a good year to be a head coach in the NHL — not if you like having a job, at least. We are only about 30 games into the new season, yet the firing of Terry Murray by the L.A. Kings brings the total of turfed coaches to five this year already. That’s a sixth of the teams in the league that have made a change, and it’s not even Christmas yet.
Joining the Kings in making a change have been the Hurricanes, Capitals, Ducks, and Blues. As crazy as that turnover is, it may not even be over yet. There are fully seven other coaches who are feeling at least a little bit of warmth beneath their seats. Let’s take a look:
Brian Sutter, Calgary Flames
The Flames are out of playoff contention now, but you can’t really say that they are underachieving given the roster they have. Still, given the lack of consistency — especially on offense — there is a need for this team to make some big changes.
They refuse to trade any of their big assets like Jarome Iginla to build for the future, so Sutter could be the fall guy if the team doesn’t find a way to be relevant in the playoff chase.
He doesn’t seem to be in imminent danger, but patience in Calgary is wearing thin among the faithful, so the calls for his head will grow with every frustrating performance.
Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Lightning
This is just Boucher’s second year with the team and he had a nice playoff run last year, so he shouldn’t be in too much risk — especially given how highly-regarded he was when he took the job.
Still, Steve Yzerman has given Boucher a lot of tools to work with, and he can’t really be enjoying watching this team struggle to score.
It’s not too late for this team given their talent, but they need to get things going very soon or there will be issues. If they don’t then Boucher could have to go.
Yzerman doesn’t have a whole lot of recent experience with losing, and he won’t want to start now.
Scott Arniel, Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus is just a bad team right now. Really bad. They have the fewest points in the league, and that’s not a fluke.
They made some nice changes in the offseason, but Arniel is not getting anything out of the assets he has, and they don’t seem to be making any big steps forward.
The best thing going for the Blue Jackets could be that the last time they made a splashy coaching change by bringing in Ken Hitchcock the success was limited.
Still, Arniel’s days are going to come to an end at some point because he just isn’t going to be able to turn this team around.
Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche
When Sacco took over for this team he did a great job in his first year, and they accomplished far more than you might have guessed possible.
Last year was less impressive, though, and this season has been fully underwhelming.
This is a young team with lots of talent, and I can’t imagine management spending a lot of time waiting for Sacco to figure things out as the window closes for them.
Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Devils
DeBoer is only in his first year with the Devils, but the team has changed coaches as much as some people change shirts in recent years, so that doesn’t really matter. The fact is that this is a pretty talented team that is only barely treading water this year.
They have been particularly unimpressive offensively given the talent they have.
DeBoer doesn’t have much NHL success to fall back on — he was disappointing in Florida as well, and that team has done a remarkable turnaround since he left — so patience could be in short supply in Jersey.
Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
With John Tavares at the forefront of a youth movement this was supposed to be a team moving in the right direction. The only direction they are moving right now, though, is in reverse.
This is a directionless team that can’t score and doesn’t seem to care. Capuano took over last year on an interim basis when Scott Gordon was fired in November, and the interim tag was removed this year.
It seems very much like that was the wrong decision, and surely even a GM as bad as Garth Snow has the ability to recognize that and do something about it.
Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Of all the guys on this list I think that Wilson is the least deserving, but the murmurs won’t go away so they can’t be ignored.
Toronto got off to a surprisingly strong start, but they have cooled off a bit recently, and given how some pieces have been overperforming it is quite possible that they will cool off even more.
That won’t be a good thing for Wilson — especially since the team was just sold and the new owners have no vested interest in him.
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