10 NHL Coaches on the Hot Seat in the 2014-15 Season
NHL teams continue to tweak their rosters and sign free agents as the summer rolls along. There are fewer deals each week, and teams are now worried about the salary cap and making room for rookies in the fall.
For NHL coaches, it's a time to assess the roster and think about lines and pairings. For NHL general managers, it's a time to assess expectations and to have a clear understanding of how well the team should perform in 2014-15.
The manager's assessment and the coach's opinion will be out of sync in many cities. There are coaching staffs who will leave the starting gate under tremendous pressure, and many won't last the season.
Here are the coaches who are under the most pressure heading into 2014-15.
10. Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
What Happened This Summer? The Avalanche lost Paul Stastny, added veteran Jarome Iginla via free agency and traded for Daniel Briere and Brad Stuart. Patrick Roy enjoyed a tremendous run in his first season in Colorado, but will need to be even better if he's going to deliver on expectations.
Why the Urgency? There's some danger for Roy. After last season's dream run and No. 3 overall finish, expectations in Denver are very high for 2014-15. They appear to have been lucky—based on 2013-14 possession stats—suggesting the expectations are built on a house of cards.
9. Mike Johnston, Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Season's Record: 51 wins and 109 points, No. 6 overall in the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins won their opening series against the Columbus Blue Jackets before bowing out in the conference semifinals to the New York Rangers.
What Happened This Summer? Pittsburgh added impressive talent this summer. Christian Ehrhoff was the big free-agent pickup, and new GM Jim Rutherford dealt James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. They are a better team with more depth than last season.
Why the Urgency? Mike Johnston has a great opportunity but will need to get off to a good start. The Penguins are a veteran team with expectations and have hired a rookie coach in Johnston. His reputation is very strong, as this article by Will Graves of the Associated Press—via The Globe and Mail—indicates. A rookie NHL coach inserted to lead a veteran team is a rarity.
8. Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
What Happened This Summer? The Senators have endured another difficult offseason. The club lost Daniel Alfredsson to free agency last summer and dealt away Jason Spezza this year. GM Bryan Murray is a good judge of talent, and the club has quality prospects on the way. There's every chance Ottawa sees a dip in performance this season.
Why the Urgency? There's a sense that the window of opportunity has closed for this group, and full-fledged change could be around the corner. That is never good for an incumbent coach. MacLean will need to find chemistry with his new additions and have a strong start to the season.
7. Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers
Last Season's Record: 29 wins and 67 points, No. 28 overall in the NHL.
What Happened This Summer? GM Craig MacTavish added several veterans through trades and free agency over the summer. Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot, Nikita Nikitin, Teddy Purcell and others add to the quality and depth for 2014-15. Dallas Eakins has a year's experience, and that should help.
6. Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames
What Happened This Summer? The Flames signed Jonas Hiller, Mason Raymond and Derek Engelland in free agency and added Sam Bennett as the No. 4 overall selection in the NHL entry draft. Some of those free agents may be on their way to other NHL cities during the 2014-15 season.
Why the Urgency? Calgary is in a unique position this year. The club will look to be competitive, but the major role for coach Bob Hartley is to continue the development of young players like Sean Monahan. The final standings aren't important—in fact, expect a sell-off at the deadline—but Bennett will need to develop. It's a dangerous spot for a coach; Tom Renney lost his job in Edmonton in a similar situation.
5. Craig Berube, Philadelphia Flyers
What Happened This Summer? The Flyers did some work during June and July, acquiring R.J. Umberger and re-signing Kimmo Timonen. The club had a scorching record after a very slow start last season, and they play in a weak conference.
Why the Urgency? A fast start could be a key for success, and a slow one may mean a short run for Craig Berube. The Flyers have been in cap hell for some time now, limiting their ability to compete against other Eastern Conference teams for talent. New GM Ron Hextall was unable to do a lot this summer due to those cap restrictions, and the expectations for the team are high—as they always are in Philadelphia. One of Hextall's few available moves during the season would be installing his own coach.
4. Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers
What Happened This Summer? The Panthers had a strong summer, beginning with the selection of franchise defenseman Aaron Ekblad No. 1 overall. GM Dale Tallon also signed free agents Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen and Willie Mitchell, upgrading Florida's forwards and defense during July.
Why the Urgency? The Panthers' roster is strong and deep enough to contend for the playoffs. Dale Tallon arrived in Miami with a reputation as an expert franchise-builder, and this is the year for the team to turn north and make the playoffs. If they do, it will be the third postseason berth this century for the team. Gerard Gallant's job is to get Florida into the playoffs, and there will be pressure beginning opening night.
3. Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
Last Season's Record: 34 wins and 79 points, No. 26 overall in the NHL.
What Happened This Summer? GM Garth Snow enjoyed a brilliant offseason. He acquired the negotiating rights to Jaroslav Halak and then signed him. He then added Chad Johnson in free agency, upgrading the goaltending in a major way with both moves. Snow then added Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, giving the New York Islanders two quality additions at forward. New York has a very good chance to make the postseason in 2014-15.
Why the Urgency? The Islanders made the playoffs in 2012-13, and made a risky early-season trade for Thomas Vanek in the fall of 2013 before ultimately missing the playoffs. The bottom line is this: Buffalo owns the Islanders' first-round selection in 2015, and the draft next summer is a watershed. The higher New York finishes in the standings, the less damage done. A slow start could be fatal for Jack Capuano as the Islanders coach.
2. Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
Last Season's Record: 54 wins and 117 points, No. 1 overall in the NHL. The Boston Bruins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in their opening-round series and then lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the conference semifinals.
What Happened This Summer? The Bruins have been limited in their roster moves by the salary cap and lost out on signing Jarome Iginla because of it. Boston has also been unable to add bargain veterans like the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why the Urgency? Claude Julien is in a difficult spot for a head coach. The team won a Stanley Cup under him in 2011 and made the finals again in 2013. The expectation every fall is a championship, and anything less is a disappointment. The roster is aging, including franchise defender Zdeno Chara, which only adds to the pressure.
1. Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Season's Record: 38 wins and 84 points, No. 23 overall in the NHL.
What Happened This Summer? Toronto shored up their defense this summer by signing Stephane Robidas. They gave new structure to the forward group by adding Leo Komarov and Mike Santorelli. The changes made in 2013 were designed to fit Carlyle's style, and this season's results are vital to his future in Toronto.
Why the Urgency? The Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs in 2012-13 but were not satisfied with their roster. As this Jonas Siegel article on TSN.ca from November 2013 indicates, GM Dave Nonis changed the outlook of the team in a big way. The club bought out Mikhail Grabovski and brought in Dave Bolland, David Clarkson and others. The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs in 2013-14, putting a great deal of pressure on coach Randy Carlyle for the coming year.