Rating the Job Security of All 30 NHL Head Coaches in 2014-15
It’s an NHL truism that coaches are hired to be fired.
No matter how good the coach and no matter how good the team, at some point the relationship will sour or the results will give out—and when that happens, a once-untouchable bench boss will find himself out in the cold.
And there are always highly qualified candidates waiting to replace the ousted coach. Ex-Penguins coach Dan Bylsma (pictured), a Stanley Cup winner, is just one of many veteran strategists who are available for hire to an NHL team looking for a quick fix, and of course there are always fresh rookies proving their mettle in the AHL or at the junior level.
The following slideshow focuses on the current group of 30 NHL head coaches, however, providing a brief history of each and an evaluation of their current safety in their respective jobs. Read on for the details.
Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks
A Brief History: The 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner, Boudreau was a long-time minor-league coach with a track record of success when he finally got his shot with the Washington Capitals. Though he couldn't guide the Caps to a Stanley Cup, they were a good team for many years under his watch, and he was unemployed for less than a week before Anaheim hired him midseason.
Job Security: Performance-wise, it's hard to fault Boudreau's work. The Ducks improved immediately following the coach's hiring in 2011-12, and in the two full seasons since the team has won its division twice. With Anaheim off to a hot start yet again, the coach should be reasonably safe.
Dave Tippett, Arizona Coyotes
A Brief History: Tippett jumped directly into coaching following his retirement as a player, taking an assistant's job in the AHL at the age of 34 and getting a promotion to head coach later that same year. After a successful run as an IHL head coach, he took a job as an assistant in L.A. and served three seasons under Andy Murray before being hired by Dallas to run its bench. After six largely successful seasons he was brought in by the Coyotes.
Job Security: During his time in Arizona, Tippett has emerged as one of the most respected coaches in the NHL. Through uncertain ownership and shoestring budgets, Tippett and general manager Don Maloney have kept the Coyotes competitive. Despite the team's slow start to the season, Tippett should have earned the benefit of the doubt.
Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
A Brief History: Boston is Claude Julien's third stop as an NHL head coach and by far his most memorable. He broke into the league with the Montreal Canadiens after several strong years guiding that team's AHL affiliate, and that was followed by a single-season stopover in New Jersey. Weirdly, he was fired there after general manager Lou Lamoriello lost confidence in him, despite an excellent record, and unsurprisingly it wasn't long before he was hired again, this time by the Bruins.
Job Security: 2014-15 is Julien's eighth season with the Bruins, and while that's a pretty long haul for a coach with a single team, there is no sign of him leaving anytime soon. Less than two weeks ago, Boston announced a multi-year contract extension for its coach.
Ted Nolan, Buffalo Sabres
A Brief History: Nolan's coaching career has generally consisted of short spurts of relative success, followed by long periods of unemployment. His first NHL job was in Buffalo, were he did good work over two seasons, winning the Jack Adams Award in the second year.
A battle with star goalie Dominik Hasek and GM John Muckler saw both Nolan and Muckler let go despite a great year, and it took a decade before Nolan got another chance, this time with the New York Islanders. Nolan lasted two years with Charles Wang's club, after which he spent another half-decade waiting for his current assignment.
Job Security: Once again, Nolan is in a pretty difficult position, though one that has little to do with his coaching talents. The Sabres are a terrible team in full-rebuild mode, which is never good for a coach's long-term career prospects. Even worse, the team has undergone management changes since Nolan's hiring, meaning that his time with the team predates that of general manager Tim Murray.
He stands a reasonable chance of surviving the season because Buffalo knows what kind of team he has, but the coaches on the starting side of a full-blown rebuild rarely get to see the fruits of their labour.
Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames
A Brief History: Hartley has won at every level. He proved himself as a head coach in the QMJHL and the AHL, winning titles in both leagues, before earning his first NHL job with the Colorado Avalanche. He won a Stanley Cup with the Avs and had three other deep playoff runs before a slow start to his fifth season with the team got him fired.
He landed in Atlanta before the year was out but couldn't turn around the moribund Thrashers, and he ended up spending half a decade in the cold before Calgary brought him back to the majors.
Job Security: The Flames have not made the playoffs in Hartley's two seasons at the helm, which is normally a bad sign for a coach. Even worse, he wasn't hired by the current general manager, another factor which is often a coach's undoing. Despite this, Hartley's work in Calgary has been well regarded, and with the Flames off to an excellent start despite a patchwork roster, Hartley should be in no immediate danger.
Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes
A Brief History: Rookie NHL head coach Bill Peters didn't have much of a career as a player, but he has had a long career behind the bench. A championship win with Spokane of the WHL in 2007-08 was the springboard to a job as head coach in the AHL, which in turn led to an assignment as Mike Babcock's assistant in Detroit. Peters was hired in the offseason to run Carolina's bench.
Job Security: Peters' first NHL head coaching assignment got off to a terrible start, as the injury-riddled Hurricanes went 0-for-October, losing eight consecutive matches to start the season. Things have turned around since, with a lovely 5-0-1 run that has if nothing else bought Peters some time.
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
A Brief History: After an NHL career as a player that spanned 800-odd games, Quenneville used a year as a player-coach in the AHL to transition to his next career. His big break came when he was hired as one of Marc Crawford's assistants with the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise; a year after that team won the Cup, Quenneville was hired to coach the St. Louis Blues.
He's been in constant demand since, coaching St. Louis, Colorado and Chicago over 18 consecutive seasons without so much as a year off in between jobs.
Job Security: Under Quenneville's watch the Blackhawks have become one of the NHL's most formidable clubs, winning the Stanley cup twice in the past five seasons. Although the team is off to an indifferent start (by the Blackhawks' lofty standards, a 9-6-1 run qualifies), Quenneville himself should be in no danger given his track record of excellence.
Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
A Brief History: Patrick Roy is of course best known as a player, arguably the best goalie ever to have played the game of hockey. However, unlike some star players, Roy wasn't averse to proving himself as a head coach at other levels before jumping to the NHL. He spent eight seasons running the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts before taking the job in Denver last season.
Job Security: Roy won coach-of-the-year honours in his rookie season, guiding Colorado to a meteoric rise primarily fueled by the ridiculous play of starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. Things haven't been so easy in Roy's second year, with the Avs struggling out of the gate, but he should still have plenty of rope.
Todd Richards, Columbus Blue Jackets
A Brief History: Todd Richards had a relatively brief wait before being ushered up to hockey's highest level. After just two seasons as an AHL head coach and one year as an NHL assistant, Richards was hired by the Minnesota Wild, where he coached for two seasons, never making the playoffs. Hired as an assistant to Scott Arniel in Columbus in 2011-12, Richards took over when his boss was fired partway through the season and has been running things ever since.
Job Security: After a strong 2013-14 campaign, Richards appeared to be safe long-term, despite not having been picked for the job by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. However, after making the playoffs last season the Jackets are off to a miserable 4-10-1 start and have lost nine consecutive games. He has to be considered as being in real danger.
Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars
A Brief History: It's still a little strange to see Lindy Ruff coaching a team other than the Buffalo Sabres. Ruff spent 14 full seasons behind the Sabres' bench before his dismissal early in season No. 15. Buffalo was his first NHL head coaching job after spending four years as an assistant in Florida. He was hired by Dallas in the summer of 2013.
Job Security: Ruff's first year in Dallas went extremely well, but like Patrick Roy in Colorado, Ruff's second campaign has featured a significant downturn. The Stars were expected to improve after offseason tinkering by general manager Jim Nill, but the club has lost seven of its last eight games to fall to 5-6-4 on the season. Despite this, Ruff himself should be safe for the time being; he has a long track record as a head coach and will almost certainly be given every opportunity to turn things around.
Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings
A Brief History: Mike Babcock's career at the professional level started in Anaheim, where he spent two seasons as head coach of the Ducks' AHL affiliate before taking the helm in the majors. Babcock guided Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as coach, but the team slipped in his second season and the Ducks opted not to retain him. He was hired by Detroit the next season.
Job Security: Babcock is widely regarded as one of a handful of elite coaches, with his reputation outstripping recent results with the Red Wings by a wide margin. Now in his 10th year with Detroit, Babcock has one Stanley Cup and five division titles to his name, but none of those since 2011. Despite this, he's reasonably bulletproof; the big question is whether he'll accept a contract extension from the Red Wings or instead take a job elsewhere as a free agent this summer.
Dallas Eakins, Edmonton Oilers
A Brief History: Dallas Eakins' credentials come from his work as a minor league head coach with the Toronto Marlies. In four seasons with the club, Eakins oversaw steady improvement and graduated a number of prospects to the NHL. Edmonton opted to dismiss head coach Ralph Krueger to land Eakins after originally only interviewing him as a potential assistant or associate coach.
Job Security: Eakins clearly benefits both from a strong relationship with general manager Craig MacTavish and from the disaster that Edmonton has been over the last few seasons. Even so, he isn't safe; the Oilers were brutal in his first year with the team and are off to a 6-9-1 start to 2014-15. If he can't get things turned around soon, Edmonton will need to look elsewhere.
Gerard Gallant, Florida Panthers
A Brief History: Gallant's previous NHL experience came mostly with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he served first as an assistant coach and later in the top job with a wretched expansion team. A long exile followed his firing in 2006-07; he spent two years as an NHL assistant before taking a head coaching gig in the QMJHL. After consecutive championships he returned to the NHL as an assistant with Montreal before being hired by Florida in the summer.
Job Security: Gallant is in his first season with the Panthers, and Florida has been a bad team for a long time. The club is off to a 5-4-4 start, which isn't good but isn't terrible, either. If things go badly, it's possible that it will be his boss Dave Tallon who takes the fall rather than Gallant, particularly since Gallant's the team's third head coach in the span of just a year.
Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings
A Brief History: His work as a general manager leaves something to be desired, but as a coach Darryl Sutter has done good work pretty much wherever he's gone. Los Angeles is the fourth stop of his career, following previous stints with Chicago, San Jose and Calgary. Under his watch, all three of his previous teams were successful for long periods of time, and when the Kings hired him in 2011-12 they knew exactly what they were getting.
Job Security: Entering 2014-15, Sutter had been the Kings' head coach for less than three full seasons. In that time, the team has won two Stanley Cups and gone to the Western Conference Final in its lone non-championship campaign. He's bulletproof.
Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild
A Brief History: Weirdly, Mike Yeo had only a single season of head coaching experience before Minnesota hired him. He started his career as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh's farm team, spending six seasons in that role before following Michel Therrien up to the parent club. He stuck with Dan Bylsma for a full season following Therrien's departure before taking the top job with Minnesota's AHL affiliate in Houston, guiding that team to the Calder Cup Final in his lone campaign as coach.
Job Security: Yeo's Wild got off to a strong start to the season, but injuries have hurt the team and the club has now dropped four straight decisions. Minnesota has improved steadily over Yeo's three seasons at the helm, but there is certainly an expectation that the team qualify for the playoffs.
Right now the Wild are four points out but also have games in hand and a home game against Buffalo on Thursday. Yeo should have some time to get things moving in the right direction before we really start talking about him being on the hot seat.
Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens
A Brief History: Michel Therrien didn't enjoy a long professional career, opting instead to jump to the coaching ranks after some middling years in the AHL. He'd been coaching for a decade when Montreal hired him in the middle of 2000-01 at the age of 37.
Therrien spent parts of three seasons with the Habs before being dismissed; he then joined the Penguins organization as their minor-league coach, eventually being promoted to the NHL. He was fired after a slow start to 2008-09, and the success of his replacement Dan Bylsma undoubtedly contributed to several years on the shelf before Montreal came calling again in 2012-13.
Job Security: Therrien has guided the Canadiens to two strong performances in his two years with the club, and he's off to a strong start again in 2014-15 (the team boasts an 11-4-1 record). Despite the occasional criticism—Montreal is a hard city to coach in, and Therrien's relationship with star defenceman P.K. Subban has been questioned many times—the results have been very good, and that's the sort of thing that keeps coaches employed.
Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
A Brief History: The New York Islanders haven't been a very good franchise over the last 20 years, but they have afforded NHL opportunities to any number of good coaches, including Peter Laviolette. Laviolette is well-traveled but has been constantly employed, bouncing from the Islanders to the Hurricanes to the Flyers and now to Nashville in a little over a decade behind NHL benches. He won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2005-06.
Job Security: Laviolette is only the second head coach in Predators history, replacing Barry Trotz, who had been with the team since its inception. Given general manager David Poile's history of loyalty to his coach and Nashville's brilliant 10-3-2 start, there's absolutely no reason to even think that Laviolette will be going anywhere else anytime soon.
Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Devils
A Brief History: DeBoer was a highly touted coaching candidate when Florida hired him in the summer of 2008; despite his relative youth he'd already spent better than a decade as an OHL head coach before getting his first job in the pros. His first season with the Panthers went relatively well, but in three years with the team he never made the playoffs and was fired at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, at which point New Jersey hired him.
Job Security: DeBoer's time in New Jersey started well, with the team going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as head coach. The club has missed the playoffs twice since then and is off to a slow 7-7-2 start in 2014-15. With a track record of recent failings and a poor start to the year, DeBoer is a strong candidate to be the first head coach fired this season.
Jack Capuano, New York Islanders
A Brief History: Capuano was a bit of an odd coaching hire, even for the New York Islanders. The bulk of his prior experience came in the ECHL, where he was first a coach and later an executive. He joined the team as an NHL assistant in 2005-06, then bounced down to the AHL where he had a little over three middling years as the coach of the Isles' AHL affiliate before being promoted to the top job in the majors.
Job Security: 2014-15 is Capuano's fifth campaign in New York, and in his previous four years the Islanders have made the postseason exactly one time. Normally, that would put the coach in danger of being fired, but the Islanders opted to give Capuano a shot with a rebuilt team, and with a 10-5-0 start he's delivered so far.
Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers
A Brief History: Vigneault has been coaching In one capacity or other since the mid-1980s, and these days he's well-respected as one of the best in the business. His first NHL opportunity came with Montreal, where he was a finalist as the NHL's coach of the year; strangely it took half a decade after his departure for him to land another NHL job.
Vancouver promoted him in the summer of 2006 (he would win the Jack Adams Award during his time with the team), and when the Canucks opted to let him go seven years later the Rangers signed him immediately.
Job Security: New York is struggling with injuries right now and has a mediocre 7-6-2 record, but Vigneault has showed the ability to get things turned around. His first season with the club started miserably but ended with a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and given his long-term record he really should be safe for the time being.
Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
A Brief History: Paul MacLean and his fantastic mustache have spent the last 20 years behind the bench at one level or other. MacLean had a long run in the old IHL and was toiling away in the UHL when he got a job as Mike Babcock's assistant in Anaheim in 2002-03. He followed Babcock to Detroit, spending nearly a decade as his assistant before Ottawa hired him in the summer of 2011.
Job Security: MacLean is in a dangerous place, because while his career with the Senators started well, the team fell off last season and ended up missing the playoffs. A Jack Adams win in 2012-13 ultimately has less weight than missing the postseason in 2013-14 does, and so any prolonged slump by the Sens will likely put him in some danger. Right now Ottawa is 7-4-4 and hovering around the middle of the NHL standings, so he should be okay for the time being.
Craig Berube, Philadelphia Flyers
A Brief History: Long-time NHL enforcer Craig Berube started both his NHL playing career and his coaching career in Philadelphia. Since his retirement in 2004, he's been with the Flyers organization in one capacity or other, working as an assistant and head coach in the minors before getting a battlefield promotion early in 2013-14.
Job Security: Berube helped turn the Flyers around after taking over for ousted bench boss Peter Laviolette last season, and even in Philadelphia it's a little early to start questioning if he should be fired. The Flyers have been decimated by injuries, and under the circumstances a 7-5-2 run on the season is quite good; it's hard to imagine many coaches doing much better with that defensive group.
Mike Johnston, Pittsburgh Penguins
A Brief History: Mike Johnston's NHL career started as a member of Marc Crawford's staff in Vancouver. He started out as an assistant coach and was later elevated to associate status both with the Canucks and later with the Los Angeles Kings. Johnston left the league to take the top job with the Portland Winterhawks, which under his watch were consistently one of the best teams in the WHL. Pittsburgh hired him this past summer.
Job Security: Aside from the fact that it's pretty unusual for coaches to be fired in their first season short of total calamity, Johnston deserves credit for his team's strong start. Pittsburgh is 10-3-1 on the year and has the talent to stay near the top of the league, meaning that at the moment Johnston is one of the safer coaches in the NHL.
Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
A Brief History: It's been a long time since Ken Hitchcock won a Stanley Cup in Dallas, but the veteran coach has been in near-constant demand at the NHL level for two decades now. He's well regarded around the league and preaches a defence-first mindset, which has had results with the Stars, Flyers, Blue Jackets and now the Blues.
Job Security: Hitchcock's Blues have been consistently successful in the regular season but have struggled to get the job done in the playoffs. That injects some uncertainty into the situation, but with a 10-4-1 start it seems certain that Hitchcock will stick around long enough to take another run at things.
Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks
A Brief History: Todd McLellan has a fine track record as a coach. He held down the top job in the WHL for many years before taking a minor league position. He won a Calder Cup while in the AHL with the Houston Aeros and eventually moved on to a role on Mike Babcock's staff in Detroit, which has been an NHL coaching factory over the last few years. San Jose hired him away from the Red Wings in the summer of 2008.
Job Security: McLellan's time in San Jose has been characterized by regular-season success and playoff failure, and after six years of that sort of thing it's fair to wonder when the coach is going to pay the price for it. The Sharks got off to a good start, going 4-0-1 in their first five games, but have won just four of their 12 contests since. There haven't been many rumours that he's in imminent danger, but given his history and the team's recent performance it's a safe bet that he is.
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
A Brief History: Jon Cooper took an odd road to the NHL, with significant accomplishments in odd leagues. He coached exceptional teams in the NAHL and USHL and did enough in those roles to earn a shot with Tampa Bay's minor league affiliate. In parts of three seasons he won a Calder Cup and coached a consistently excellent club, meaning that when the Lightning's NHL job opened up the team decided to give him a crack at it.
Job Security: Cooper's first full season with the Lightning went brilliantly, with the team posting a 46-27-9 record to come out of the NHL basement. Despite a first-round playoff setback against Montreal, 2013-14 had to be seen as a success. Cooper's team has started the year impressively, going 11-3-2 to claim first place in the NHL. He's in absolutely no danger at this time.
Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs
A Brief History: Randy Carlyle had a long NHL career, playing more than 1,000 games as a (primarily offensive) defenceman before making the shift to work as a coach. He spent most of a decade as an NHL assistant or minor league head coach before replacing Mike Babcock in Anaheim. The Ducks won a Cup under his watch, and when he was fired after a few down years his history with Brian Burke made him Toronto's first choice to replace Ron Wilson.
Job Security: Carlyle was a popular summer choice to be the first coach fired after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign for the Maple Leafs. The general manager who hired him is gone, the organization is changing direction and his assistants were fired in the off-season. With the Leafs at 8-5-2 on the year, Carlyle isn't out of the woods yet, and any dip in performance could put him in jeopardy.
Willie Desjardins, Vancouver Canucks
A Brief History: Willie Desjardins is an extremely accomplished coach outside of the NHL. He won two championships as head coach of a consistently good Medicine Hat Tigers team in the WHL, and in his next head coaching job won a championship in two excellent years at the AHL level with the Dallas Stars' farm team. Vancouver hired him off a Calder Cup win in 2014.
Job Security: Not only is Desjardins new to the post, but the Canucks are enjoying a bounce-back campaign after a John Tortorella-helmed disaster in 2013-14. With a 12-5-0 record, Vancouver is second in the NHL and first in the Western Conference. Desjardins is entirely safe.
Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
A Brief History: Barry Trotz's coaching career actually started with the Capitals organization, with his first job with a professional team coming with that club's AHL affiliate in Baltimore in 1990-91. Trotz eventually took over as that club's head coach and had a nice run, which included a Calder Cup win in 1994.
When Nashville needed a coach for their expansion club, Trotz's fine record and history with GM David Poile made him a natural choice; he did fine work over 15 seasons with the team. Given his reputation for preferring defensive-minded hockey, he was a logical pick to return to the Capitals this past summer.
Job Security: Trotz is Washington's fourth head coach in less than four seasons, and that kind of instability naturally affords him some benefit of the doubt. Given his own exceptional track record and his newness in a post that has too frequently been a revolving door, he should have some time to find his legs with the team.
Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets
A Brief History: Paul Maurice was in some ways a shocking choice as Hartford's head coach when he was hired at the tender age of 28. The bulk of his coaching career came with that franchise, as outside of a brief sojourn with Toronto he spent most of 13 years in two stints with either the Whalers or the successor Carolina Hurricanes. After a year coaching in the KHL, Maurice was hired by Winnipeg as a midseason replacement for Claude Noel in 2013-14.
Job Security: Maurice's hiring coincided with a turnaround in the Jets' fortunes, with the team finishing the season on a strong 18-12-5 run. At the moment, the Jets' 8-6-2 record has them in playoff position in the tough Western Conference, and it's reasonable to think that Maurice is in no danger at this time.