NHL 2010: 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat Entering the Season
In the National Hockey League the tenure of it’s coaches has been decreasing in length over the past decade.
With vastly expanding fanbases growing viewership, many of today’s NHL teams are under heavy pressure to put a playoff performing team on the ice game in and game out.
Unfortunately for many of today’s coaches, they aren’t always supplied with the tools necessary to complete such a task, and often become casualties of being given an empty toolbox.
Although for some it isn’t on the players but the coaches approach to the game, and the steps they take in trying to motivate, improve, and synchronize their troops.
That’s why every year more and more coaches enter the season on the hot seat, and this year is no different.
So without further a due, here are the 10 coaches on the hot seat entering the season in no particular order.
Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs
I realized before writing this slide that I’m without a doubt going to catch some heat from Leaf Nation for putting one of their beloved members on the hot seat, but the fact of the matter is last season he led the Leafs to one of their worst seasons in history.
After being bottom dwellers the past two seasons in the Northeast with 81 and 74 points respectively, and with a GM determined to rebuild the franchise on his “five-year plan,” Ron Wilson is a prime target to unload many of the Leafs' struggles on.
Since being picked up after he was let go by San Jose, Wilson’s stay in Toronto hasn’t been as successful as I’m sure he, and Leaf fans alike, may have hoped.
Wilson is one of the veteran coaches of the league, and although he has had a lot of past success, it may not be his coaching style that has changed, but the game of hockey as we know it certainly has and any further failure to adjust may have him out of the league for good.
Scott Gordon, New York Islanders
Sometimes it’s not fair, but you have to make do with the hand you are dealt, and unfortunately for him, Scott Gordon has been dealt bum cards.
After back-to-back fifth place finishes in the Atlantic Conference and a total of 140 points in two seasons (70 points average for those mathematically challenged) something needs to be done in New York.
There isn’t much you can say, free agents have turned down contract after contract of higher salaries to play for the Islanders, which has made the jobs of Scott Gordon and Islander’s GM Garth Snow much more difficult.
However, when you aren’t winning changes need to be made, and upgrading has become increasingly more difficult for a franchise once known for names like Bossy, Sutter, LaFontaine, and Nystrom.
Eager to return to the glory days, a shake-up becomes much more likely, and unfortunately for Gordon, a coaching change is one of those options.
Tom Renney, Edmonton Oilers
He hasn’t even been behind the bench for a single game for the Oilers to date (as a head coach anyways) and already I have him on the hot seat.
Not fair? Take it up with the Oil Faithful (I have a good friend devoted to the Oil).
Expectations are booming in Edmonton, and there is an ever-increasing heir of impatience radiating from the fanbase. With young talent like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, and Jeff Petry, it’s understandable why expectations are so high.
However, young talent and prospects like these don’t always have an immediate impact and take considerable time, something Oiler fans seem to be running out of.
With such a passionate Canadian hockey market like Edmonton, if things start off on the wrong foot this season, look for changes to be made quickly behind the bench, because a bad atmosphere can have a negative effect on the young players which Edmonton seems to have a plethora of.
Bruce Boudreau, Washington Capitals
I know, I know, how could a coach that has led his team to three division titles in as many years be on the hot seat? Actually, the answer is pretty simple—too many early playoff exits.
For whatever reason, the Washington Capitals have become playoff choke artists the past couple of years. Losing in the first round to the Flyers in seven games, in the second round to the Penguins in seven games, and in the first round to Montreal in seven games, I guess lucky seven doesn’t apply to the Caps.
With such high powered offense, and high-profile names like Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom, we’ve come to expect much more from the team hailing from our nation’s capital.
The same can be said for the fans, and that is why Bruce Boudreau is undoubtedly a coach on the hot seat.
What good does finishing first every year do you if you’re only to be knocked off by a lower seed time and time again? The regular season’s only true meaning is to let your team gel as a whole and acquire a good enough record to bolster your playoff spot.
So when you enter the playoffs and the wheels fall off the wagon, something obviously isn’t right, and the team isn’t gelling as well as they should be and peaking at the right time.
Now it could be attributed to inexperience and nerves, or maybe a young goaltender, but after three years of being ousted after a phenomenal regular season, one more could put fans over the edge, and leave Bruce Boudreau watching the next Cap’s game from his couch—slippers and all.
Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
As much as it kills me to say, it pains me even more to think about the playoff exit the Boston Bruins made this year—because they did it like few other teams ever have.
After a first-place Eastern Conference finish in 2008-2009, the B’s took two steps backward this past year, falling to sixth in the East, which wasn’t as pretty as it sounds.
Amidst a season of 10-game losing streaks, countless injuries, and an underachieving offense that could never find its stride, somewhere buried deep within this new Bruins team was the heart that the team from the year prior had held.
A lot of the blame can be put on the players for becoming complacent and never really having that must-win attitude at any point really, but the blame must be shared.
Claude Julien failed this season not in his on-ice strategy or his emotion behind the bench, but for failing to strike that fear into his club and fueling them to play with the intensity seen not so long ago just a year back.
That alone is enough grounds for being fired, so if the B’s get off to a rocky start this season (especially with their new talent) expect changes to be made on the ice, as well behind the bench because trust me, fans in Boston won’t allow another campaign like 2009-2010.
Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks
Much like the Washington Capitals, the San Jose Sharks have made three playoff exits much earlier than anticipated after first-place finishes in their respective division.
One change behind the bench has already been made when we saw the departure of Ron Wilson, now head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which shows us that Sharks management isn’t afraid to pull the trigger with personnel moves.
With production players like Thornton, Heatley, and Marleau, a much deeper playoff run is expected annually than what has been delivered prior to this season. One change has already been made, when the Sharks chose to pass on resigning Evgeni Nabakov, which ultimately led him to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
I’ll say it again, a great regular season means nothing without an equal or better playoff showing, and coaching changes could follow to further prove that point.
Paul Maurice, Carolina Hurricanes
Two seasons ago the Carolina Hurricanes ousted the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 7 that carried on into overtime. They went on to lose the next round, however. That run, coupled with their Stanley Cup Championship only a few years back, and you have a fanbase with very high expectations.
Unfortunately for them, last season the Hurricanes missed the playoffs notching only 80 points which was good for third in the Southeast division.
The most puzzling part of their struggles was that they had virtually the same team as they did the previous season, making their new-found inability to win somewhat of a mystery.
None the less, another subpar season could leave the Hurricane followers high and dry and heat the seat under Paul Maurice even more than it already is (No, the rhyming was not intentional).
Who knows, maybe a fresh face behind the bench could reignite that competitive nature within the organization and bring the 'Canes back to their winning ways.
Brent Sutter, Calgary Flames
After missing the playoffs last year the Flames resorted to their old ways re-signing Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, hoping they can reignite the flame in Calgary (no pun intended).
Canadian markets have never been ones that deal well with losing, and especially not missing the playoffs, which is the reason Sutter feels like his seat warmer is on.
With faces that once represented success for the franchise, and figures of stability like Jerome Iginla, anything less than winning won’t sit well in Calgary.
And for some reason when teams don’t produce, the coaches are the ones who take the heat, and expect Sutter to be feeling the Flames this season—pun intended this time.
Peter DeBoer, Florida Panthers
New management, new players, and old faces gone, the beginning of the rebuilding period for the Florida Panthers starts this year.
GM Dale Tallon has already made a few big changes in his short tenure with the club, trading away Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, and Gregory Campbell and in return acquiring Dennis Wideman, Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, two-firsts and a third round pick in this year’s draft.
One of the first round picks netted them Erik Gudbranson—a very promising defensive prospect.
He has proven he can build a championship team, playing a large part in building the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks squad before Stan Bowman took the reigns.
And while expectations in Florida have never been particularly high, and with a very small fanbase to have to please DeBoer might get a free pass because of the team he has taken over—at least for the first couple of years anyway.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be under the management's watchful eye as he tries to assist them in building something promising in Florida.
John Tortorella, New York Rangers
After the Rangers missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons, hot-head John Tortorella is definitely on the hot-seat—maybe moreso than any other coach.
The Rangers are a group of underachieving players that have the potential to be a playoff contender, however, they can never seem to put it all together.
With players like Gaborik, Drury, and now Frolov, and young talent like Del-Zotto, Gilroy, and Staal, the expectations are higher than ever before, therefore, so is the pressure on coach Tortorella.
A rocky start to the season could spell the end for “Tort’s” in New York.
In his defense, GM Glen Sather is known as one of the worst GM’s in the NHL and has provided him with multiple bad contracts (see Drury and Redden) and not enough talent to correspond with the money spent.
Too bad that doesn’t get taken into account when the GM takes a large part in deciding your fate as the head coach.