The countdown clocks are all on the verge of expiration: The 2013 NHL season is finally upon us.
Though the season may be shortened, the prize remains the same. Lord Stanley's Cup is still at stake, and all coaches are tasked with the ultimate goal of taking home the prize.
A shortened season will save no bench manager: because a championship can be won, the role of head coach remains the same. This means that head coaches who are not capable of winning a title could be let go.
Thirty head coaches will enter this season, some of whom are expected to compete for a Cup, and some of whom are tasked with building a team who can make a run in the coming years. However, some coaches have had their time, and they will need to see results if they are to remain with their current squads.
Here are six coaches who will be fired early on if their teams are not up to snuff.
When Joel Quenneville took the Chicago Blackhawks to Stanley Cup glory in 2010, his team seemed to be on the verge of becoming a dynasty. The young squad was centered around players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, and it looked poised to get better and better in the years that followed.
Instead, the Blackhawks disappointed, barely making the playoffs in 2011 and being ousted in the first round. The next year, they finished fourth in the competitive Central Division and appeared to get a lucky playoff draw, facing the Phoenix Coyotes rather than a division rival in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup.
Despite this stroke of good fortune, the Blackhawks fell to the Coyotes and were eliminated again.
A slow start in 2013 could mean the end of the line for Quenneville, as he undeniably has the tools to go much further in the playoffs than he has the last two seasons.
The 2011-12 season was the first time the San Jose Sharks did not win the division under Todd McLellan, and it was only the second time the team failed to make the conference finals.
Still, McLellan's Sharks have long appeared snake-bitten. San Jose is being further defined by its inability to win big playoff games, and McLellan has been unable to stop the reputation from growing.
Now, the years of little competition in the Pacific Division are ending. The L.A. Kings are defending Stanley Cup champs and the Phoenix Coyotes proved formidable last season. Without a hot start, the Sharks would easily be at risk for missing the playoffs entirely.
That would automatically put McLellan on the hot seat.
No NHL coach has been at it longer than Lindy Ruff, and the notion of a Ruff-less Sabres squad seems laughable.
However, the Sabres have finished better than third in the division only once since 2006-07, which is the same year that the team last won a playoff series. The team is being more and more defined by mediocrity.
The Senators, Maple Leafs and Canadiens are each in the midst of a rebuilding process, leaving the division open for Buffalo to compete with the Boston Bruins. If Ruff cannot get his team in the Northeast Division race early on, then the team has little choice but to move on from him.
Joe Sacco inherited a team in shambles in 2009-10 and amazingly took the Avalanche to the playoffs, where the team was eliminated by the San Jose Sharks.
Since then, though, Sacco has managed to do little with the squad. They have missed the playoffs two seasons in a row and have been far from a legitimate threat to compete in a very noncompetitive division.
Now, the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers are both teams on the rise, and the Vancouver Canucks remain a powerhouse. If Sacco cannot show that his young squad can keep up with the big boys in the Northwest, he won't last long.
The team may need to hit the reset button yet again.
As mentioned, Vigneault's Canucks are one of the league's true powerhouse teams. Despite this fact, the Stanley Cup has eluded Vancouver.
Vigneault has held his post since 2006 and has two Presidents' Trophies to his name, but with a roster that has included players like Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins, it's hard not to feel like Vigneault should have been able to do something more during his tenure.
This season, both the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers are poised to make huge strides toward competing for a division title, threatening to unseat Vancouver from the perch it has been on for four straight seasons.
If Vigneault's squad doesn't assert its Northwest Division dominance right out of the gate, questions will be raised about his long-term future, and Vigneault could be given his walking papers.
On paper, no team is better equipped to capture Lord Stanley's Cup than the New York Rangers.
The team finished first in the Eastern Conference last season and finished two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
The always-newsworthy Tortorella has certainly built a strong team, and he has Stanley Cup experience from his days manning the helm for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but a coach like Torts runs the risk of turning attention from the big show to a sideshow.
His handling of the media borders on unhinged, as he regularly captures spotlights after games by calling out the way referees treat "whining stars" or answering press questions like a toddler.
With a team structured around Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Rick Nash and one of the best defenses in hockey, Tortorella has no excuse not to get off to a great start to the 2013 season.
If the team falls flat and Tortorella begins acting out through the media, he'll soon be packing his bags and be on the first train out of Manhattan.