3 NHL Coaches Who Deserve the Axe After Postseason
With the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs in the books, the hard work continues for four elite teams. At the same time, four others will start the long offseason summer by assessing the positives and negatives of the 2013-14 campaign.
While there's plenty of disappointment to go around from the recently departed teams, there will undoubtedly be changes within the hierarchy of the organizations. It's not always fair, but most of the time those changes start behind the bench, with the head coach.
Of the 12 teams that have now been bounced from the postseason, three coaches stand out among their peers and should expect to have their head on the chopping block within days.
Todd McLellan: San Jose Sharks
Another year, another heartbreaking end to a season for the San Jose Sharks. Just like last season, they were dispatched in seven games by the rival Los Angeles Kings. But this year the story hurts more for the Bay Area faithful.
It reads like a reoccurring nightmare; the particulars are a little different, but the ending is always the same. This time around, the Sharks cruised out to a 3-0 series lead in the first round against L.A., but then the unthinkable struck again. The Kings rallied and stunned the Sharks by winning four straight to move on, becoming just the fourth NHL team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
Local media outlets such as the San Jose Mercury News didn't hold back in the aftermath, calling the Sharks' breakdown another epic collapse.
|Team||Year||Regular-Season Finish||Playoff GP||W||L||Result|
|SJ||2008-09||Presidents' Trophy winners, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in Pacific||6||2||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (ANA def. SJ 4-2)|
|SJ||2009-10||1st in Western Conference, 1st in Pacific||15||8||7||Lost in conference final (CHI def. SJ 4-0)|
|SJ||2010-11||1st in Pacific||18||9||9||Lost in conference final (VAN def. SJ 4-1)|
|SJ||2011-12||2nd in Pacific||5||1||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (STL def. SJ 4-1)|
|SJ||2012-13||3rd in Pacific||11||7||4||Lost in conference semifinal (LAK def. SJ 4-3)|
|SJ||2013-14||2nd in Pacific||7||3||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (LAK def. SJ 4-3)|
In 62 career postseason games, McLellan is 30-32. His teams have been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs three times over his six seasons at the helm, including twice in the last three years.
It's honestly tough to say whether the first three seasons or the last three seasons have been more disappointing.
Early on, the Sharks were annual contenders for the Presidents' Trophy but failed twice to advance out of the Western Conference Final. The last three years, however, have seen a decline in play as a few of the Sharks' veteran stars have aged and the Kings and Ducks have risen to the top of the Pacific Division.
McLellan got the benefit of the doubt last season for a few reasons, the first and most obvious being that the 2012-13 campaign was a shortened one due to the lockout.
But while the Sharks suffered the same playoff fate this season as last season—a seven-game series loss to the Los Angeles Kings—the two series couldn't have been any more different.
Last year the teams met with a trip to the Western Conference Final on the line. The home team won every game, with L.A. capturing the crucial Game 7 in a thrilling 2-1 victory to send the Sharks packing.
This year, in the first round, the Sharks looked destined for revenge as they went up 3-0 on the Kings. They then got blanketed the rest of the series, and home ice meant little and less in Game 7 as they were blown out 5-1.
McLellan, at below .500 in the playoffs, hasn't been getting the job done for a while now, and the devastating blow the Sharks were dealt this postseason should be the final straw. While he is a prolific coach in the regular season, his playoff career with the Sharks hasn't been good enough.
With aging stars and reliable veterans likely to head out the door via retirement or free agency, McLellan should be joining them rather than heading back behind the bench in San Jose.
Dan Bylsma: Pittsburgh Penguins
After ousting the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games during the first round, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked like they had things figured out. They cruised to a quick 3-1 series lead over the New York Rangers. Then, heading home to finish it off in Game 5, the Penguins suffered another ridiculous postseason collapse. They lost three straight games—including two at home—and the series to finish what now appears to be an extremely disappointing season.
Last year, when the Pens were bounced by the Boston Bruins in a clean, four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference Final, I adamantly defended Bylsma. This season, despite similar circumstances, I cannot do the same.
|Team||Year||Regular-Season Finish||Playoff GP||W||L||Result|
|PIT||2009-09||2nd in Atlantic||24||16||8||Stanley Cup champions (Def. DET 4-3)|
|PIT||2009-10||2nd in Atlantic||13||7||6||Lost in conference semifinal (MTL def. PIT 4-3)|
|PIT||2010-11||2nd in Atlantic||7||3||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (TB def. PIT 4-3)|
|PIT||2011-12||2nd in Atlantic||6||2||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (PHI def. PIT 4-2)|
|PIT||2012-13||1st Atlantic, 1st Eastern Conference||15||8||7||Lost in conference final (BOS def. PIT 4-0)|
|PIT||2013-14||1st Metropolitan||13||7||6||Lost in conference semifinal (NYR def. PIT 4-3)|
The numbers don't lie; while Bylsma has been fantastic in the regular season, his postseason stats are far more down-to-earth. His overall win-loss record sits at 43-35 in 78 career playoff games for the Penguins, but after the 2009 Stanley Cup championship, he has been a .500 coach in the postseason.
Perhaps more damning than the losses themselves is the fact that the Penguins have now been bounced in five consecutive postseasons by lower-seeded teams, dating back to the Montreal Canadiens during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Penguins made waves around Pittsburgh on Friday by firing GM Ray Shero, as reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie and CBC's Elliotte Friedman (h/t SB Nation), but Bylsma's fate won't be decided until a new GM is hired. However, there's no reason to believe that Bylsma will be staying in Pittsburgh after another rough go of it this postseason.
Bylsma took over behind the Penguins bench late in the 2008-09 season and took off running with the established systems as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and company won the Stanley Cup. But while the big names haven't changed since Bylsma got there, not much else has been consistent.
The Penguins are too good of a team not to perform up to their potential, and when high expectations routinely fail to be met, someone has to pay the price. Shero was only the beginning; expect the axe to fall on Bylsma within a week of a new GM being signed.
Bylsma is a solid coach and will likely do well wherever he ends up going, but it's just not working out in Pittsburgh when the best player in the world has as miserable of a postseason as Sidney Crosby just endured.
It will be interesting to see if Shero and Bylsma wind up together again in Washington, D.C., as the Capitals have openings for both jobs.
Bruce Boudreau: Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks had their best regular season in franchise history, finishing with 116 points in Bruce Boudreau's second full season behind the bench. However, their Stanley Cup dreams fell short after losing to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the conference semifinals.
The Ducks were the best team in the NHL for a time during the regular season but started to fade down the stretch, allowing the Boston Bruins to win the Presidents' Trophy. Still, they finished as the top seed in the Western Conference and dispatched the Dallas Stars in six games during the opening round of the playoffs.
|Team||Year||Regular-Season Finish||Playoffs GP||W||L||Result|
|WSH||2007-08||1st in Southeast||7||3||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (PHI def. WSH 4-3)|
|WSH||2008-09||1st in Southeast||14||7||7||Lost in conference semifinal (PIT def. WSH 4-3)|
|WSH||2009-10||Presidents' Trophy winners, 1st in Eastern Conference, 1st in Southeast||7||3||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (MTL def. WSH 4-3)|
|WSH||2010-11||1st in Eastern Conference, 1st in Southeast||9||4||5||Lost in conference semifinal (TB def. WSH 4-0)|
|ANA||2012-13||1st in Pacific||7||3||4||Lost in conference quarterfinal (DET def. ANA 4-3)|
|ANA||2013-14||1st in Western Conference, 1st in Pacific||13||7||6||Lost in conference semifinal (LAK def. ANA 4-3)|
Like McLellan, at 27-30 Boudreau sits at a sub-.500 mark in the postseason despite his regular-season accolades. Unlike McLellan and Bylsma, Boudreau has not made the postseason every year that he has coached, with an absence in 2011-12. However, he was fired from the Capitals despite a 12-9-1 record at the time, and he signed on with the Ducks shortly after.
With the Ducks fresh off of their best regular season ever, it is admittedly hard to see Boudreau getting fired.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be. While Bylsma and McLellan should get the axe more because of their circumstances, Boudreau should be fired for the simple fact that he's not a very good coach in the postseason.
Boudreau's mistakes are head-scratching, and they almost always seem to stem from his goaltender selection. He has a habit of meddling with his netminders at ill-opportune times in the playoffs, and his risky gambles never seem to pay off.
The feud between Boudreau and starting goaltender Jonas Hiller started late in the regular season but carried over to the playoffs, where it escalated in the second round. After trailing 2-1 in the series, the Ducks won the next two games after Hiller was replaced by 20-year-old rookie goaltender John Gibson.
It wasn't the first time Boudreau changed up his goaltender in the playoffs.
Gibson was shredded for four goals in Game 7 against the Kings before getting pulled early in the second period. Los Angeles would go on to win 6-2.
Boudreau's history of questionable calls in the playoffs has always hurt his team, and he has never even advanced to a conference final. It's no secret that Alexander Ovechkin and Boudreau didn't see eye to eye when the latter was in Washington. How long before Boudreau alienates more of his players in Anaheim?
It probably won't be a popular decision right now if the Ducks let Boudreau go, but it would be the right choice if they want to seriously compete for a Stanley Cup as soon as possible.