NHL

Breaking Down Every NHL Head Coach's Job Security

Lyle RichardsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Breaking Down Every NHL Head Coach's Job Security

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Being an NHL head coach is among the most demanding jobs in professional sports. It can be rewarding, especially when a team is successful. It can also be highly stressful, especially if the club is struggling. The coach almost always gets blamed when the team does poorly and rarely gets credit when it's playing well.

    There's a saying that coaches are hired to be fired, which seems to apply to NHL coaches. Most last only a few years with the same team. Some of the most respected, longest-serving NHL coaches have worked for several clubs throughout their careers. 

    Coaches can be fired for doing a poor job, but sometimes they become scapegoats for management incompetence. Guiding a team to perennial regular-season success is no guarantee of job security if they fail to succeed in the playoffs. 

    Here's a look at the 30 current NHL head coaches, their notable achievements, current problem areas and what their respective futures hold beyond this season.

Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Since Boudreau's hiring midway through the 2011-12 season, the Ducks have significantly improved. They're approaching the Olympic break with the league's best record. Yahoo! Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports they also have the league's best winning record when their opponents score first.

     

    Problem Areas: Despite Boudreau's regular-season success, he's yet to coach an NHL team past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Ducks' special teams (16thon the power play, 14th on the penalty kill) are middle of the pack.

     

    What the Future Holds: Given the Ducks' constant improvement under Boudreau, his job is secure.

Claude Julien, Boston Bruins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Since Julien's hiring in 2007, he has coached the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Final appearances in three years, including a championship in 2011. Under his guidance, they are among the NHL's elite teams.

     

    Problem Areas: Power-play consistency (especially in the playoffs) has been an issue throughout Julien's tenure, though it has improved this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: During the 2013 playoffs, The Associated Press' Howard Ulman reported Julien had the full support of general manager Peter Chiarelli. Given the Bruins' ongoing success, don't expect that to change any time soon.

Ted Nolan, Buffalo Sabres

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Nolan won NHL coach of the year honors in 1997 during his previous tenure with the Sabres. Since Nolan's return, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports the Sabres' goals-against has dropped and half their losses have been by only one goal.

     

    Problem Areas: He has a reputation for clashing with management. The Sabres remain the league's lowest-scoring team. He's been unable to motivate slumping forwards Ville Leino and Drew Stafford. It remains to be seen if he'll return as coach next season.

     

    What the Future Holds: New Sabres GM Tim Murray said he'd like to remove the “interim” label from Nolan's title. Until that happens, Nolan faces an uncertain future with Buffalo.

Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames

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    George Nikitin/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Hartley has years of NHL coaching experience, including a Stanley Cup championship with Colorado from 2001. He earned praise from the Flames front office for his efforts improving their rebuilding roster. And he works well with younger talent.

     

    Problem Areas: Hartley had only 37 wins in his first 100 games behind the Flames' bench. Calgary remains among the league's worst teams this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: The Flames' woes have more to do with their lack of talent than Hartley's coaching. The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak reports he has the support of Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke. That should ensure his continued employment through next season under a new general manager.

Kirk Muller, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Under Muller's coaching, the Hurricanes' goals-against total is lower this season compared to last year's. The Raleigh News & Observer's Chip Alexander reports they've improved on faceoffs, take fewer penalties and lead the league in takeaways.

     

    Problem Areas: Their scoring has dropped this season, as has their shots for and against. They're struggling on their special teams, and overall consistency remains an issue.

     

    What the Future Holds: During Muller's tenure, the Hurricanes have yet to make the playoffs. If they fail to clinch a berth this season, his job could be in jeopardy.

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Quenneville has coached the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup titles since 2010. Under his tutelage, the Blackhawks are among the NHL's highest-scoring teams. The players have completely bought into his system.

     

    Problem Areas: CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers reports the Blackhawks are struggling in shootouts this season and are currently in the midst of a midseason slump. They're middle of the pack in goals-against per game (14th overall), while their penalty kill (79.6 percent) ranks 25th overall.

     

    What the Future Holds: Despite their problem areas this season, the Blackhawks remain a Cup contender under Quenneville's coaching. His job is secure.

Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Though Roy's a rookie NHL coach, the Avalanche have made significant improvements during his short tenure. He's quickly earned his players' respect. The Avs are among the league's highest-scoring teams and sit among the top clubs in the Western Conference standings.

     

    Problem Areas: Roy has a reputation for losing his temper dating back to his playing days. The Avalanche defense has given up the sixth-most shots against per game (32.1).

     

    What the Future Holds: With the Avalanche on pace for their best record in years, Roy's legend in Colorado continues to grow. Expect him to be a front-runner for coach of the year honors.

Todd Richards, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Since taking over as head coach in 2012, Richards has turned the once-struggling Jackets into a potential playoff contender. His guidance has enabled them to overcome a slow start to this season. They recently ran up a franchise-record seven-game winning streak and are now among the league's highest-scoring teams.

     

    Problem Areas: Richards has yet to guide an NHL team to the playoffs. The Jackets are among the league leaders in shots against per game (30.7).

     

    What the Future Holds: The Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace credited Richards for being the steady hand behind the Blue Jackets bench. His job is secure.

Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Ruff coached the Buffalo Sabres for 15 seasons, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 and winning coach of the year honors in 2006. Since taking over as the Stars head coach, they've shown significant signs of improvement.

     

    Problem Areas: He hasn't been able to get much offense from his secondary scorers. Their power play has dropped from 18th overall last season to 23rd this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: The problem areas are attributable to the Stars' status as a rebuilding club. Ruff is among the NHL's most respected coaches and has the confidence of GM Jim Nill. Regardless of where the Stars finish this season, he'll return next season.

Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Babcock coached the Wings to consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009, winning the Cup in '08. He preaches a puck-possession system, which is key to the Wings' success. He's among the NHL's most respected coaches.

     

    Problem Areas: The Wings are going through a transition period this season, giving more playing time to younger players. The website Man Games Lost reports the Wings are third in man-games lost to injury (245) this season. That's not Babcock's fault, but it presents a challenge for his coaching skills.

     

    What the Future Holds: Whether or not the Red Wings make the playoffs, Babcock will remain their head coach beyond this season.

Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Eakins joined the Oilers last summer as a respected minor league coach. Earlier this season, CBC.ca's Tim Wharnsby commended Eakins for his communication skills and thoughtfulness.

     

    Problem Areas: Far too many on the rebuilding Oilers, most of which cannot be blamed on Eakins. Still, the Oilers have failed to make any noticeable improvement under his watch. He's been criticized for promising winger Nail Yakupov's regression this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: The Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest recently reported Eakins expressed concern he could be fired by season's end. That doesn't bode well for his future in Edmonton.

Peter Horachek, Florida Panthers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Horachek brings nine years of experience as an assistant coach with Nashville to the rebuilding Panthers. Their overall record improved after Horachek took over on November 8.

     

    Problem Areas: Despite their modest improvement under Horachek, the Panthers are all but out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. They're among the worst teams in the league in goals per game (28th), goals against per game (27th) and special teams (30th on the power play, 29th on the penalty kill).

     

    What the Future Holds: Horachek is currently coaching the Panthers on an interim basis. It remains to be seen if he'll return after this season.

Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Sutter was recently honored for coaching his 1,000th NHL game. He guided the Kings to a Stanley Cup in 2012 and to last season's Western Conference Final. They are currently among the league's top defensive teams.

     

    Problem Areas: The Kings are struggling to score, sitting 29th in goals per game (2.26) and 28th on the power play (14 percent). Since December 23, they've won only five of their last 21 games. They're in danger of losing their grip on a playoff berth in the very tough Western Conference. 

     

    What the Future Holds: Despite the Kings' struggles, Sutter doesn't appear in danger of losing his job. 

Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Yeo coached the Wild to the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, their first appearance in five years. Before joining the Wild, he spent five years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup in 2009.

     

    Problem Areas: The Wild are 25th in goals per game (2.34) and 20th on the penalty kill (80.4 percent). Consistency has been an issue, as the club has gone through various winning and losing streaks. Each losing skid sparks speculation over Yeo's future behind the Wild bench.

     

    What the Future Holds: Wild management have thus far stuck by Yeo. Making this year's playoffs should improve his job security.

Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Coached the Canadiens to second overall in the Eastern Conference last season. He also coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.

     

    Problem Areas: The Canadiens are slumping offensively this season, sitting at 24th in goals per game. Earlier this season, the Montreal Gazette's Jack Todd criticized Therrien's handling of superstar defenseman P.K. Subban. The Toronto Globe & Mail's Sean Gordon reports the club's recent struggles has Therrien on the hot seat.

     

    What the Future Holds: If the Canadiens fail to make the playoffs, or are eliminated again in the first round, Therrien's days could be numbered in Montreal.

Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Trotz is the only coach the Predators have ever had. He's long had the support of GM David Poile. He's a great teacher, and his players are devoted to him.

     

    Problem Areas: The Hockey News' Ken Campbell speculates the Predators' recent struggles could force Poile into a coaching change. The Predators are among the NHL's lowest-scoring teams and could miss the playoffs this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: Trotz isn't to blame for the lack of offensive depth provided to him. Still, he could become a scapegoat should Predators ownership pressure Poile to shake things up at season's end.

Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Devils

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: DeBoer coached an underdog Devils team to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. The Devils are among the league leaders in defensive play and special teams.

     

    Problem Areas: They are also struggling to score, sitting at 26th in goals per game and last in the league in shots on goal per game. That's hampering their efforts to reach a playoff berth. SNYDevil.com's Jeff O'Connor reports Devils fans believe he favors veterans over young players like Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson.

     

    What the Future Holds: DeBoer cannot be faulted for the Devils' lack of scoring punch. The fact that they remain in playoff contention improves his chances of returning behind the bench next season.

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Capuano coached the Islanders to their first playoff appearance in six years last season. His players have bought into his system and believe in themselves.

     

    Problem Areas: Their playoff hopes are fading fast. The Islanders are 29th in goals against per game (3.22) and have the league's second-worst penalty kill (77.6 percent). Much of that is due to a lack of quality goaltending and injuries to their defense corps. 

     

    What the Future Holds: Earlier this season, there was speculation Capuano would be fired. The New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis reported management doesn't consider him the problem. It remains to be seen if it will still feel that way by season's end.

Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Vigneault's a former NHL coach of the year who guided the Vancouver Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. After a slow start in 2013-14, he has the Rangers in playoff contention. They're among the top 10 clubs in offense and special teams.

     

    Problem Areas: The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes Vigneault never had confidence in now-former Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Vigneault was blamed for being unduly harsh on the young defenseman. He was also criticized earlier this season when the Rangers were slow to adjust to his system.

     

    What the Future Holds: Given how much the Rangers have improved over the course of this season, Vigneault's job is safe.

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: MacLean won NHL coach of the year honors in 2013. He quickly turned the young, rebuilding Senators into a playoff club. After a poor start to this season, he's rallied them into playoff contention.

     

    Problem Areas: The Senators aren't very good defensively, ranking among the league's worst teams in goals against per game and shots against per game. They're among the bottom third in the league on the penalty kill.

     

    What the Future Holds: No matter where the Senators finish in this season's standings, MacLean's job is safe. He's still considered a key part of their rebuilding process.

Craig Berube, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Berube helped the Flyers overcome a poor start to climb into playoff contention. CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio recently praised Berube's efforts in bolstering the Flyers' once-woeful defensive play. Berube has quickly earned the players' confidence, which is reflected in their improved play.

     

    Problem Areas: Berube is still adjusting to being a head coach at the NHL level. The Flyers' overall scoring remains down compared to last season. They still struggle at times in their own zone. 

     

    What the Future Holds: Despite the Flyers' recent inconsistencies, they've come a long way from where they were earlier in the season. Even if they miss the playoffs, Berube will be back next season.

Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Tippett helped turn the once-mediocre Coyotes into a perennial playoff contender. He coached them to their first ever Western Conference Final in 2012 and has the Coyotes in playoff contention this season. He recently reached his 450th career coaching victory.

     

    Problem Areas: The Coyotes' defensive game is a shambles this season. They rank 23rd in goals against per game (2.91), 27th on the penalty kill (79.6 percent) and are giving up the seventh-most shots against per game (32.0).

     

    What the Future Holds: Tippett signed a five-year contract extension this past offseason. Coyotes management has full confidence in him.

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Bylsma coached the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2011 as coach of the year. He's kept the injury-ravaged Penguins atop the Eastern Conference this season and recently set a team coaching record for most wins.

     

    Problem Areas: Since 2009, the Penguins have failed to return to the Cup Final. Bylsma was criticized during last year's Eastern Conference Final for failing to adjust his lineup against the Boston Bruins.

     

    What the Future Holds: Having signed a two-year contract extension, which begins next season, it's clear the Penguins front office remains confident in Bylsma.

Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: McLellan has coached the Sharks to two Western Conference Final appearances and has kept them among the league's top teams. He has the respect of his players and holds the Sharks' record for most coaching wins (255 and counting).

     

    Problem Areas: Over the past two seasons, the Sharks have gone through lengthy winning and losing streaks. Despite their regular-season success, McLellan has been unable to get them into the Stanley Cup Final. They're sitting 18th on the power play this season.

     

    What the Future Holds: There's been no rumblings suggesting McLellan's job's in jeopardy. Another early playoff exit, however, could test management's patience.

     

Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Hitchcock ranks high among the longest-serving and most well-respected coaches in NHL history. He has over 640 career coaching wins and 71 playoff wins, including a Stanley Cup title in 1999. He also won coach of the year honors in 2012. Since joining the Blues, he's played a significant role in turning them into a Stanley Cup contender.

     

    Problem Areas: Though he's toned down his style, Hitchcock can still be very demanding. Scoring forwards sometimes find it difficult to adapt to his two-way system.

     

    What the Future Holds: Hitchcock remains vital to the Blues' long-term success. He will be coaching them for the foreseeable future.

Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: In his first full season as Lightning coach, Cooper has turned the Bolts into one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. He's done a magnificent job keeping them focused after they lost superstar Steven Stamkos earlier this season to a broken leg.

     

    Problem Areas: The Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero reports the Lightning must improve their shot-blocking. Their special teams rank among the league's bottom third.

     

    What the Future Holds: NHL.com's Brian Compton believes Cooper is currently the leading candidate for coach of the year honors this season. Given the fine job he's done with the Lightning in 2013-14, he could have a bright future in Tampa Bay.

Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Carlyle coached the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2007. Last season, he guided the Maple Leafs to their first playoff appearance since 2004.

     

    Problem Areas: Despite Carlyle's emphasis on two-way play, the Leafs lead the league in shots-against per game (36.3) and are among the worst on the penalty kill. They've been streaky throughout the season. The Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk recently criticized him for favoring physical play over speed.

     

    What the Future Holds: The Toronto media has at times suggested Carlyle should be fired. GM Dave Nonis has stood by his coach. If the Leafs miss the playoffs, expect the demands for his firing to return.

John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. He preaches an aggressive, physical, defensive style. Torts coached the New York Rangers to four playoff appearances in five years and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012. Under his coaching, the aging Canucks performed better than expected during the first half of this season.

     

    Problem Areas: Tortorella's fiery temper can get the better of him. He was recently suspended six games for an intermission altercation with the Calgary Flames. The Canucks' performance plummeted in his absence and hasn't improved since his return. They're barely clinging to a playoff berth in the Western Conference.

     

    What the Future Holds: Tortorella's in the first year of a five-year contract. Regardless of where the Canucks finish in the standings, his job is secure.

Adam Oates, Washington Capitals

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Oates guided the Capitals to a division title last season. He is credited with rejuvenating Alexander Ovechkin by switching him from left to right wing. He also helped to convince Mikhail Grabovski to sign last summer with the Capitals.

     

    Problem Areas: Consistency has been an issue this season. The Capitals are struggling defensively, ranking among the league's worst in goals against per game, shots against per game and penalty-killing.

     

    What the Future Holds: The Capitals' woes this season are due to poor goaltending and lack of skilled defensive players. Oates cannot be blamed for that. He should return as head coach next season.

Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    Notable Achievements: Maurice has years of NHL head coaching experience. In 2002, he guided the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final. Since his hiring in mid-January, the Jets are 9-2-0 and surging up the Western Conference standings.

     

    Problem Areas: Despite the Jets' recent turnaround under Maurice, their goals against per game (20th overall) remains high. Their power play (25th overall) also needs improvement.

     

    What the Future Holds: Since he's a midseason replacement, Maurice is expected to return behind the Jets bench next season. Their continued improvement bodes well for his future.

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