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NHL Preview 2011-12: Ron Wilson and 5 Coaches That Can't Afford a Slow Start

Robert DemmettCorrespondent IIIOctober 5, 2011

NHL Preview 2011-12: Ron Wilson and 5 Coaches That Can't Afford a Slow Start

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    Every year a team sacrifices its coach at the beginning of the season to try and motivate the players with change.

    Sometimes the change works, just as it did when Joel Quennville took over in Chicago, while other times the slow start turns into a down year.

    Of course some coach is going to be fired early on, but who will it be?

    Often the coach has a team built around youth and when the team is supposed to start budding, the players sputter. A change of coach will give the players a change to react to. The decision in Chicago to hire Quennville eventually led to a Stanley Cup.

    So here are five coaches who better be aware that a slow start could mean the end of a job.

Terry Murray: Los Angeles Kings

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    Terry Murray is entering his third season as the coach of the Kings and this is undoubtedly the season with the most pressure.

    After trading for Mike Richards and finally signing Drew Doughty to a long-term contract, the Kings have the pieces to be serious Stanley Cup contenders.

    The Kings start the season in Europe with two games against the Rangers and Sabres. If the Kings cannot overcome the time difference in Europe and struggle in the tough Pacific Division, the Kings' management may choose to go in a different direction.

    With such lofty expectations, Terry Murray and the Kings cannot afford to get off to a slow start.

Todd McLellan: San Jose Sharks

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    The Sharks have all the makings of a Stanley Cup team.

    They traded dead weight in the playoffs (Dany Heatley) for a franchise defender (Brent Burns), as well as trading Devin Setoguchi.

    The Sharks are deeper on the blue line and should be more efficient in the playoffs.

    If the Sharks cannot start off well, the Sharks' management may try a coaching change to alter the mood of this talented team. The Sharks always play well in the regular season, so if they struggle early on, that may be a warning sign for McLellan.

    The Sharks will be patient with McLellan and I don't expect him to be fired, but he will go if the Sharks can't start well.

Bruce Boudreau: Washington Capitals

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    No coach is under more pressure than Bruce Boudreau.

    After another disappointing playoff run with the talented Capitals, the leash is very short for Boudreau. While the lack of playoff success may not be his fault, he will certainly take the blame.

    Now the Caps have Tomas Vokoun in net to complete the most talented team in the NHL, when healthy.

    If the Capitals do not make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, at the very least, Boudreau will not be the coach of Washington next season.

    If they get off to a slow start, Boudreau will certainly lose his job.

Paul Maurice: Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

    After losing a "win-and-in" game at home to end last season, the Hurricanes did not make their team better, while other Eastern Conference teams improved or have youth that are about to bud.

    The Hurricanes will always be in games because of their goaltending with Cam Ward, but expecting them to make the playoffs may be too much to ask.

    If the Hurricanes get off to a slow start, Maurice may be relieved of his duties in favor of his assistant coach, Rod Brind'Amour.

    Either that or he stays on as coach and gives Brind'Amour more experience behind the bench.

Ron Wilson: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Only two teams have not made the playoffs since the lockout in 2004-05: the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Maple Leafs have to show improvement this season. After a strong second half of the season last year, the Leafs will try to build off of that momentum.

    The Leafs have to start showing results from their rebuilding process. This is the third season of the Brian Burke era (loved the David Steckel trade by the way), and the Maple Leafs have to show the NHL and their fans that they are on their way to becoming a perennial Stanley Cup contender in the East.

    If the team stumbles out of the gate, Wilson may be fired, but his good friend Brian Burke may spare him longer than he should.

Happy Hockey!

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    With the season less than two days away, I want to personally apologize for bringing down the mood with this article.

    This should be a time of excitement and joy that hockey is back, yet this article is about the negative part of the game in that jobs are always on the line.

    Unfortunately in sports, coaches often get the blame when they shouldn't. The players are ultimately responsible for their play on the ice. These coaches may lose their jobs but that's the way this line of work is.

    Hopefully none of these coaches get fired, but some NHL coaches are going to get fired this season just like every season.

    But let's keep the mood positive. Just think about how close we are to hockey.

    Hopefully that made you smile.

    Thanks for the read and feel free to comment.

    Keep the military in your thoughts and prayers.

    Follow me on the twitter- @RobertDemmett

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