Ranking Bruce Boudreau and the Rest of the NHL Midseason Replacement Coaches
Seven NHL coaches who started the season have gotten the axe as a result of poor performances. This has seen minor-league coaches get promotions to the big show and brought back some of those who have been away from the game for a while.
Now that the league is approaching the All-Star break, it is time to see how these replacements have fared in their tenures as head coaches.
Have their new teams performed better, or do their statistics remain the same? Are there squads who have gotten worse?
Before we begin, here's a quick reminder of who was fired from which team. Each former coach's replacement is listed in parentheses.
Anaheim Ducks: Randy Carlyle (Bruce Boudreau)
Carolina Hurricanes: Paul Maurice (Kirk Muller)
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scott Arniel (Todd Richards)
Los Angeles Kings: Terry Murray (Darryl Sutter)
Montreal Canadiens: Jacques Martin (Randy Cunneyworth)
St. Louis Blues: Davis Payne (Ken Hitchcock)
Washington Capitals: Bruce Boudreau (Dale Hunter)
7. Todd Richards, Columbus Blue Jackets
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Richards is the newest replacement coach in the league after Scott Arniel was fired on Jan. 8. As a result, Richards is first on this list because he has not been in charge long enough to see if Columbus has really improved.
The Blue Jackets have a miserable record of 13-27-5, which puts them dead last in the Western Conference and the NHL for 31 points. They are 2-2 in Richards' first four games, having beaten the 11th-place Phoenix Coyotes and the 13th-place Edmonton Oilers.
Columbus is also dismal in just about every team statistical category. They are 26th in the NHL with 2.35 goals scored per game and 24th with 3.13 goals surrendered. Their special teams are also nothing to write home about, with a 24th-ranked power play (13.5 percent) and a 75 percent penalty kill (29th).
Richards has previous head coaching experience with the Minnesota Wild, but he failed to lead them to the playoffs.
The Jackets season was lost long before Arniel was fired, so Richards won't be able to do much to help with this team, especially with Jeff Carter out of the lineup with a separated shoulder.
6. Randy Cunneyworth, Montreal Canadiens
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Cunneyworth took over the Canadiens bench after Jacques Martin was fired on Dec. 17. At the time, the Canadiens had a record of 13-12-7 for 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They were 20th in the NHL with 2.53 goals scored per game and 28th with a 12.1 percent power play.
Under Cunneyworth, the Habs have gone just 4-8-1, bringing their points total to 42 and ranking them 12th in the conference. They are also last in the Northeast Division.
The offense (2.56 goals per game) and the power play (12.8, last in the NHL) have only marginally improved. However, Montreal is ranked 11th with 2.60 goals surrendered a game and second with an 89.1 percent penalty kill.
The team has four 30-point scorers, but after that, their totals drop off. Andrei Kostistyn, who is fourth on the Habs in scoring, has 18 points.
Montreal also has yet to win more than two games in a row since Cunneyworth took over.
However, he isn't exactly in the best situation. He's been criticized for not speaking French and found himself in the middle of a circus just last week, when Michael Cammalleri was pulled out of a game to await further instructions on a trade that sent him to the Calgary Flames.
Cunneyworth will do the best he can to help the Habs turn things around, but it's hard when the focus is on what language he speaks and not on how he can help the team salvage their season.
5. Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks
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Boudreau had a very short time on the unemployment line after being fired by the Washington Capitals. Former Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was fired on Nov. 30, and the Ducks wasted no time moving Boudreau to the west coast.
When Carlyle was let go, the Ducks were 7-13-4 and the second-worst team in the NHL. They have gone 15-22-7 for 37 points since the change, and they continue to sit in 14th place in the Western Conference. Boudreau's 8-9-3 record gives him a .364 win percentage.
Although Anaheim went 3-8-2 in December, things are looking up in January, as the team is 5-1-1.
However, their offense and defense remain in the bottom of the league. The Ducks should be scoring a lot more goals than they are, as they benefit from the talents of Ryan Getzlaf, NHL MVP Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. But, they are 23rd with 2.51 goals per game.
Their defense is also struggling, as they are 25th with 3.07 goals against.
On special teams, the penalty kill sits at 84 percent (eighth), and the power play is in the middle of the pack with a 17.3 percent success rate (18th).
Boudreau has shown success with turning struggling teams around before. He helped the Capitals win the Southeast Division after taking over for Glen Hanlon in 2007-08, and he won the Jack Adams as a result.
However, a miracle may not be in the works this year.
4. Kirk Muller, Carolina Hurricanes
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Muller came in to coach the Hurricanes after Paul Maurice was fired on Nov. 28, a day which became known as Black Monday, as Bruce Boudreau was let go from the Capitals the same day.
When Maurice was given the axe, the Canes were last in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 8-13-4. They were 28th in the NHL in defense, with 3.24 goals against per game, and 29th with a 12.2 percent success rate on the power play. Their penalty kill was a little better, as they were 18th at 80.2 percent.
Since Muller took over, the Canes have gone 7-10-4 for 18 points and a .350 win percentage. Their offense has improved, as they now score 2.62 goals per game as opposed to 2.40 when Maurice was in charge. Their power play has climbed to 15.1 percent (20th in the NHL), but their penalty kill (27th at 77.4 percent) and defense (28th with 3.27 goals against per game) have regressed a little.
However, Muller has helped the team play more energized hockey and brought on extra motivation. Team captain Eric Staal has also improved under Muller's tutelage, as he has improved to 34 points since the coaching change. Before the switch, he had just 11 points in 25 games.
A stick tap goes to Carolina Hurricanes Featured Columnist Mark Jones for his help with this slide.
3. Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings
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When Terry Murray was fired back on Dec. 11, Kings assistant coach John Stevens briefly took over as head coach before Darryl Sutter was hired.
The Kings were 13-12-4 in 29 games and sat in 12th in the Western Conference before Murray was let go. They surrendered 2.31 goals per game while scoring just 2.24 and ranking last in the NHL in offense. This was a hard pill to swallow with talent such as Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards suiting up.
Sutter has helped the team to a 8-1-5 record, giving him a ,571 win percentage and an improved overall record of 23-15-9 for 55 points and seventh in the Western Conference. The offense is still ranked last in the league (2.15 goals per game), but the defense is fourth (2.13 goals against).
Also, in January, four of the seven Kings losses have come by one goal. They have stayed competitive even in defeat, which is a positive sign as they look to maintain playoff position.
2. Dale Hunter, Washington Capitals
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Hunter, a former captain of the Washington Capitals, was called upon to take over his former team when Bruce Boudreau was fired. He had been coaching the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
When Boudreau was dismissed, the Caps sat in eighth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 12-9-1. Although the team still sits in eighth, Hunter's record is 12-9-1 for a .571 win percentage. The Caps have won three of their last five games and had four straight victories from Dec. 28 through Jan. 3.
The offense is ninth in the NHL with 2.82 goals scored per game, while the power play is seventh with a 19.3 percent success rate. Although the penalty kill is struggling (81.3 percent for 23rd), the defense is close to the top half of the league, as the Caps surrendered 2.84 goals a game.
The Caps have some more work to do to get back to the competition level expected of them, and they initially struggled when Hunter came in.
But now, they are slowly on the right track and could very well secure a playoff spot.
1. Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
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While it could be argued that Hitchcock is No. 1 because he has had the most time to turn his new team around, there is no denying how much the St. Louis Blues have improved with him in charge.
Davis Payne was fired Nov. 6 when the Blues were 13th in the Western Conference with a 6-7 record. Their power play was last in the NHL with a 7.5 percent success rate, while their penalty kill was 27th, working at just a 73.8 percent rate.
Now, there's a totally different picture.
The Blues are sitting in fourth in the West with a record of 27-12-6, giving them a 21-5-6 record under Hitchcock for a .843 win percentage. Although their power play still struggles at 13.8 percent, it is still an improvement that can be built upon. The penalty kill has significantly gotten better, as St. Louis is 15th in the league with an 82.6 percent rate.
They have had three four-game winning streaks since the coaching switch. Plus, in January, they have only lost one game, a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.
One of the players that has gotten better since Hitchcock took over is goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Under Payne, Halak was 1-6 with a 3.35 GAA and a .856 save percentage. But now, he is 12-7-5 with a .918 save percentage and is eighth in the NHL with a 2.08 GAA.
St. Louis is once again showing their potential, and don't be surprised if this consistently underrated team slips into the playoffs.