NHL Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2017-18
With the start of the NHL's 2017-18 season on Wednesday, several head coaches face considerable pressure to improve their respective rosters. The Chicago Blackhawks' Joel Quenneville and the Colorado Avalanche's Jared Bednar are among those.
Quenneville could be in trouble if his club once again falls short in the playoffs. Bednar, meanwhile, is among several coaches who could be replaced if they once again fail to reach the postseason.
Here's a look at the NHL coaches on the hot seat this season. Feel free to express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes
The 2017-18 NHL season will be Bill Peters' fourth as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. It will be a crucial campaign for this rebuilding team and his role in their ongoing development.
Before joining the Hurricanes, Peters spent three seasons as a head coach with the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs, winning a championship in 2007-08. He also spent three seasons (2011-12 to 2013-14) as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.
While the Hurricanes have shown improvement under Peters' tutelage, they have yet to clinch a playoff berth. During the offseason, they acquired goaltender Scott Darling and added an experienced depth forward in veteran right wing Justin Williams. They also carry a solid core of talented young defensemen and a potential superstar in winger Sebastian Aho.
Expectations will be high for Carolina this season to secure its first postseason berth since 2009. No one on the team will feel the pressure more than Peters. If the Hurricanes fail to snap their playoff drought this term, Peters could be out of a job.
Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers reached the playoffs during Dave Hakstol's first season (2015-16) behind their bench. However, they failed to build upon that success and missed the cut last year.
Hakstol was a surprise hire by the Flyers, coming directly from the college ranks. He spent 15 seasons with the University of North Dakota, with 11 of those as their head coach. Concerns over his lack of pro experience were silenced when Philadelphia made the playoffs in his first year. However, last season's struggles could see those doubts resurface.
The Flyers' difficulties last season weren't solely due to Hakstol's limited NHL experience. Center Claude Giroux's struggles contributed to the team's poor 2.59 goals-per-game average, ranking 21st in the league. Their inconsistent goaltending (2.82 goals against per game) also ranked 21st, while the defense was transitioning toward younger players.
This season will be challenging for the Flyers. Their goaltending remains questionable, they'll have more youth on the blue line and they'll need Giroux to regain his scoring touch. If there's no noticeable improvement during this campaign, Hakstol could wear the blame.
John Hynes, New Jersey Devils
John Hynes' first season as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, in 2015-16, was a promising one. Though they missed the playoffs, they finished with 38 wins and 84 points. The following season, however, saw the Devils finished last in the Eastern Conference with 28 victories and 70 points.
Prior to joining the Devils, Hynes spent six seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins' AHL farm team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with five of those as head coach. During his tenure, the Pens regularly reached the Calder Cup playoffs.
There was little Hynes could do about the Devils' popgun offense (2.20 goals per game) and limited blue-line depth last season. An uncharacteristically poor year by workhorse goaltender Cory Schneider also contributed to their decline.
The additions of veteran winger Marcus Johansson and promising center Nico Hischier could boost New Jersey's offense. Schneider, meanwhile, should have a bounce-back season. However, Hynes must find a way to improve a defense corps that's lacking skill and experience. It could prove a stiff challenge, one that could cost him his job if the Devils miss the playoffs again.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings
Now in his third season as an NHL head coach, Jeff Blashill faces the unenviable task of guiding the once-mighty Detroit Red Wings through a difficult rebuild. He'll face considerable pressure to get better results this term.
Before taking over as the Wings coach, Blashill spent three seasons (2012-13 to 2014-15) as bench boss of their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. In 2013, he led them to a Calder Cup championship. He seemed a natural fit to replace departed head coach Mike Babcock.
The Wings reached the playoffs during Blashill's first season behind the bench. But in 2016-17, they missed the cut for the first time since 1990. Their roster contains aging veterans and young players yet to reach their potential.
For Blashill to avoid the hot seat in 2017-18, he must get more out of the Wings' youngsters. That includes goaltender Petr Mrazek and centers Dylan Larkin and Riley Sheahan. Promising forwards Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou must develop into reliable scorers. If Detroit fails to show significant improvement, Blashill could pay the price.
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
Despite finishing atop the Western Conference with 109 points in 2016-17, the Chicago Blackhawks were swept from the opening round of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators. Should the Hawks fail to improve this season, Quenneville could bear the brunt of the blame.
Entering his 10th season with the Blackhawks, Quenneville has enjoyed considerable success. Under his guidance, the Hawks have won three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015) and become a dominant franchise. He's among the NHL's most respected coaches.
The Blackhawks' surprising early playoff exit last term, however, exposed their lack of defensive depth. While that's largely a managerial issue, Quenneville was also culpable. He relied too heavily on his veteran blueliners.
Quenneville's challenge this season is to improve a defense corps composed largely of young, inexperienced players. If they fail to develop, the Hawks will find it difficult to remain among the top clubs in the Western Conference. It could also raise doubts over Quenneville's future in Chicago.
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Two years after Jon Cooper coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, the club missed the playoffs last spring. He and his team must rise to the challenge of regaining their former Cup contender status.
Before joining the Lightning, Cooper coached the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers to a championship in 2010. Two years later, he guided the AHL's Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup. After reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup Final with the Lightning, he led them to the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.
Cooper cannot be faulted for last season's injury-riddled roster. With such notables as centers Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, left wing Ondrej Palat, right wing Ryan Callahan and defenseman Anton Stralman sidelined for lengthy periods, the Lightning were decidedly hampered throughout 2016-17.
With a healthier lineup and the offseason blueline additions of Dan Girardi and Mikhail Sergachev, the Lightning should bounce back into Cup-contending form. But if they fall short this season, questions could be raised over Cooper's future in Tampa Bay.
Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
Bednar's first season as an NHL head coach was memorable for the wrong reasons. The Colorado Avalanche finished at the bottom of the league standings with only 22 wins and 48 points, marking their worst record in their 21 seasons in Denver.
Prior to joining the Avalanche, Bednar enjoyed success in the minor leagues. He coached the South Carolina Stingrays to the ECHL championship in 2009 and guided the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters to the 2016 Calder Cup.
Hired by the Avalanche on Aug. 25, 2016, Bednar had little time to prepare for the NHL campaign. It didn't help that he joined a club lacking skilled depth. They were the lowest-scoring team (2.01 goals per game) and had the worst goals against per game (3.37).
While Bednar has coached a full NHL season, the Avalanche's depth hasn't significantly improved. He must also deal with the distraction of trade rumors surrounding center Matt Duchene. Another miserable performance by the Avs could cost Bednar his job.
Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets
On Sept. 7, the Winnipeg Jets signed head coach Paul Maurice to a multiyear contract extension. However, that doesn't remove him from the hot seat this season.
Maurice has considerable experience as an NHL coach, stretching back to 1995-96. He guided the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. In his first full season with the Jets, 2013-14, he coached them to a 99-point performance and their first playoff berth since relocating from Atlanta in 2011.
During the following two seasons, however, the Jets failed to return to the postseason. Despite a roster boasting scorers such as Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine and a defense featuring Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba, the team has yet to become a perennial playoff contention.
Maurice couldn't be faulted for the Jets' lack of quality goaltending depth over that period. But with veteran Steve Mason signed via free agency and the promising Connor Hellebuyck as his backup, the Jets are expected to improve this season. If they miss the playoffs again, Maurice's new contract might not be enough to save his job.