8 NHL Coaches on the Hot Seat
Paul Maurice has the Winnipeg Jets on the fringes of this year's playoff race. It's a fantastic turnaround; a team that looked done in mid-January (19-23-5) has gone 11-5-4 under the watch of a new head coach. It has all but guaranteed that Maurice will get a new contract, should he decide that he wants to remain in Winnipeg.
It's also the kind of turnaround that should make coaches inside the NHL nervous and those on the periphery excited. It's late enough in the year that most coaches will finish the season with their current teams, but several are likely coaching for their jobs at this point, and the summer will doubtless see several changes as general managers will hope for the kind of instant turnaround Maurice has authored in Manitoba.
Who is in danger of losing their job? The following slideshow looks at eight coaches who are at least at some level of risk in their current positions.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and current through March 13.
8. Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers
Current Record: 23-35-8, 54 points
The Situation: The Edmonton Oilers have been very bad this season, as they have in years passed. The record has come around lately, thanks to some inspired goaltending (primarily from recent acquisition Ben Scrivens), but the team continues to get hammered in terms of both shots and scoring chances against.
Dallas Eakins was supposed to right the ship, but he's arguably seen inferior results to those posted by the team under its last two head coaches.
The Verdict: Barring a historic slide (even for the Oilers) the rest of the way, Eakins is likely to return next season. His assistants may not be safe, but it seems extremely unlikely that the Oilers will fire the coach yet again when the problems seem to be exacerbated by the revolving door at that position.
7. Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens
Current Record: 35-25-7, 77 points
The Situation: Michel Therrien has courted controversy this season with his roster decisions—in particular, his treatment of franchise defenceman P.K. Subban.
More troubling, however, is the Canadiens' slump since a hot start. The team is still living off a 19-9-3 run to begin the season and has gone just 16-16-4 in the 36 games since. There's a theory that hard-nosed coaches may start hot but eventually hit a best-before date; it may be that Therrien has reached his.
The Verdict: It's hard to imagine general manager Marc Bergevin firing Therrien unless the Canadiens really implode down the stretch.
6. Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames
Current Record: 26-33-7, 59 points
The Situation: It always has to be unsettling for a coach when the general manager who hired him is dismissed. Bob Hartley was brought in for the start of 2012-13 by then-GM Jay Feaster, and with Feaster gone and the Flames GM position in flux, that link is now gone.
More than that, it's always dangerous coaching a rebuilding team. At the end of this year, Hartley will have helmed Calgary through two losing seasons, and his new boss may decide to start fresh.
The Verdict: Working in Hartley's favour are comments made by Brian Burke in a recent interview with TSN 1050, where he suggested that Hartley should get votes as coach of the year. With Burke in his corner and reasonable results given the roster, it's a good bet that Hartley survives the offseason.
5. Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
Current Record: 28-28-10, 66 points
The Situation: Barry Trotz has been the guy behind Nashville's bench since the team's first game. He and general manager David Poile have seemingly marched in lockstep throughout the franchise's entire history. Yet cracks may be showing.
The Tennessean's Josh Cooper suggests that recent comments by Poile are suggestive, as was a decision made about Trotz's staff over the summer:
The two men have always displayed a united front, showing that they’re together in their views of the team. But when Poile fired assistant Peter Horachek last summer and hired Phil Housley, it was the first sign of discord between the two men in a long time. Will Poile ask Trotz to coach a different way? Has he changed his view of Trotz, the only coach in team history?
The Verdict: It would be a surprise if the Predators were to dismiss Trotz, but it's no longer unthinkable. Nashville is now poised to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, something that hasn't happened in more than a decade.
4. Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Devils
Current Record: 29-24-13, 71 points
The Situation: Peter DeBoer is in his third season with New Jersey, and he's had decidedly mixed results. In 2011-12, the Devils surprised everyone with a run to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2012-13, the club was 10 games under .500 and missed the playoffs by seven points.
This third year could still go either way. New Jersey is two points back of the final wild-card berth in the East and has played one more game than the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Verdict: One wonders whether DeBoer's future with the team is going to be decided by whether or not the Devils reach the postseason. General manager Lou Lamoriello has never hesitated to pull the trigger on a coaching change when he feels it is needed, and another year outside the postseason might convince him.
3. Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
Current Record: 25-33-9, 59 points
The Situation: Jack Capuano is now in his seventh season as a head coach at the AHL or NHL level and has never advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs. Three times he's seen his team lose in the opening round, three time he's missed the postseason—and he looks poised to add a fourth.
More than that, he's overseen an extremely disappointing season this year. In 2012-13, the Islanders looked to be taking a step back toward respectability, and that's disappeared this season.
The Verdict: There is plenty of blame to go around in New York, and ownership, management and the players all deserve their share. Unfortunately for Capuano, when there's plenty of blame to go around, the coach generally loses his job.
2. John Tortorella, Vancouver Canucks
Current Record: 30-28-10, 70 points
The Situation: John Tortorella was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Vancouver Canucks, a harsher voice that would rally the team after poor performances under Alain Vigneault. He's been a difference-maker, but not in the way Vancouver hoped.
The Canucks have had some ups and downs but were decent early. However, they have fallen to 7-17-3 in the new year and look poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since the hiring of general manager Mike Gillis in the summer of 2008.
The Verdict: In an editorial calling for his dismissal, the Vancouver Province insisted that the Canucks must "buy out the rest of Tortorella's five-year, $10-million contract" now rather than later. Could the Canucks balk at paying the $8 million remaining on that deal for nothing? Perhaps, but it still seems likely that Tortorella walks the plank.
1. Kirk Muller, Carolina Hurricanes
Current Record: 28-28-9, 65 points
The Situation: Kirk Muller is in his third season as the Carolina Hurricanes' head coach, and the team has never seen the postseason under him. The Hurricanes went 25-20-12 in 2011-12, when he replaced Paul Maurice midseason, slipped to 19-25-4 in 2012-13 and are out of the playoff race once again.
There has been no forward movement, and coaches with three disappointing seasons under their belts generally don't get a fourth try.
The Verdict: It would be a big surprise if Muller were to be retained as Carolina's head coach next season.