The Ideal Replacement for Every NHL Coach on the Hot Seat in 2016-17

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2016

The Ideal Replacement for Every NHL Coach on the Hot Seat in 2016-17

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Gerard Gallant became this season's first NHL coaching casualty, fired by the Florida Panthers on Nov 27. General manager Tom Rowe has taken over the role until season's end on an interim basis. At some point, however, the Panthers must find an ideal replacement. 

    Florida isn't the only club that could face a coaching change in the near future. The bench bosses of struggling outfits, such as the New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks, are feeling the heat this season.

    Here's a look at the ideal replacements for every NHL coach on the hot seat this season. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

Florida Panthers

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Current Coach and Team Status

    Gerard Gallant isn't on the hot seat any longer with the Florida Panthers. On Nov. 27, following a 3-2 loss the Carolina Hurricanes, Gallant was relieved of his duties as head coach. Panthers general manager Tom Rowe took over as interim coach until the end of the season. He'll face pressure, however, to find a suitable full-time replacement.

    After setting franchise records for victories (47) and points (103) in 2015-16 to win the Atlantic Division, the Panthers stumbled from the gate this season. At the time of Gallant's firing, they had a record of 11 wins, 10 losses and one overtime loss, sitting two points outside a playoff berth. 

    Injuries to key players, notably forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad, took their toll. So did the offensive struggles of top-line forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. Offseason moves, such as the departures of defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Brian Campbell, affected team chemistry. 

        

    Ideal Replacement

    The Panthers' front office puts considerable emphasis on analytics, so the executives will want a head coach who's an adherent of advanced stats. Sheldon Keefe, coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs' AHL farm team, the Toronto Marlies, could be a good fit.

    Keefe guided the Marlies to a league-leading 114-point performance in 2015-16. He works well with young players, placing an emphasis on a strong transition and puck-possession game. 

    The Panthers must get permission from Keefe's parent team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, to speak to him about the role. With Mike Babcock locked into a long-term deal with the parent club, Keefe could be receptive to a head-coaching job elsewhere in the NHL.

New York Islanders

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Current Coach and Team Status

    Jack Capuano is in his seventh season behind the bench of the New York Islanders. Considering the high turnover of NHL coaches, that's impressive. However, this season could be his last as Isles coach. 

    After winning their first playoff series in 23 years last spring, the Islanders entered this season with high expectations. Instead, they've struggled through their first 23 games, with a record of nine wins, 10 losses and four overtime losses. With only 22 points, they're at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings

    Losing Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin to free agency last summer hurt the chemistry among their forward lines. Free-agent addition Andrew Ladd is a bust, with only five points this season. Forwards Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome are producing as they should. Injuries walloped their blue line, and they're carrying three goaltenders.

         

    Ideal Replacement

    On Nov. 18, Islanders general manager Garth Snow gave Capuano a vote of confidence. If the losses keep piling up, however, Snow could be forced to reconsider. A good replacement could be the aforementioned Gallant

    The 53-year-old had a solid record last season with the Panthers, coaching them to a franchise-record 47 wins and 103 points. As a result, he was a finalist for the 2016 Jack Adams Award. He's considered an old-school bench boss and worked well with the Panthers' veterans and young players alike.

    As TSN's Darren Dreger pointed out on Nov. 27, Gallant is "a highly respected and well-liked hockey man." A head coach with his credentials could right the Islanders' sinking ship.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Current Coach and Team Status

    In his first season coaching the Vancouver Canucks, 2014-15, Willie Desjardins guided them to an unexpected playoff berth. Unfortunately, it's been downhill ever since. They missed the playoffs in 2015-16. This season, they have a record of 10 wins, 12 losses and two overtime losses. With 22 points, they're four back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference

    Inconsistency is plaguing the Canucks. They started this season with four straight victories, followed by a nine-game winless skid. Their defensive game has improved, sitting with the 10th best shots-against per game (29.5). However, their goals against per game (3.00) and goals for per game (2.21) are among the league's worst.

    Part of the blame belongs to management for attempting to rebuild on the fly rather than undergo a full and long-overdue roster shake-up. Still, it's the coach who usually pays the price for management's mistakes. 

          

    Ideal Replacement

    If the Canucks fail to improve soon, Desjardins could be fired. His likely replacement could come from within their system in Travis Green. The coach of the Canucks' AHL farm team, the Utica Comets, Green is highly regarded around the league.

    On July 13, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News reported Green was nearly hired by the Anaheim Ducks as their new coach. Kennedy noted that Green was "showered with praise" by his players, several of whom are now playing for the Canucks.

    Whenever the Canucks front office decides to rebuild in earnest, promoting Green should be a seamless transition. He already knows many of the youngsters on the roster and could help them develop into quality NHL players.

Winnipeg Jets

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Current Coach and Team Status

    Hired by the Winnipeg Jets midway through the 2013-14 season, Paul Maurice coached them to the postseason in 2014-15. However, the club missed the playoffs last season. With the Jets off to a sputtering start in 2016-17, Maurice could feel the pressure to turn things around. 

    Through 26 games, the Jets have a record of 11 wins, 13 losses and two overtime losses. They sit just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, with 24 points. They've been a streaky club, slogging through a five-game losing streak in late November

    While the Jets are getting plenty of production from Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien, they're lacking in secondary scoring. They're generating only 27.5 shots per game, ranking among the lowest in the league. The goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson is also an issue. Giving up 3.00 goals-against per game, they're among the NHL's worst

         

    Ideal Replacement

    The Jets possess the depth in talent to consistently challenge for a playoff berth. Yet in almost every season since they landed in Winnipeg in 2011, they've come up short. They could benefit from a coach willing to give them a collective kick in the pants.

    Former Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley could be just that type of coach. He won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and landed the Jack Adams Award in 2015 as NHL coach of the year with the Flames.

    Hartley's a strong-willed coach who isn't afraid to hold his best players accountable when they aren't performing well. His no-nonsense style could be the final piece that puts the Jets into perennial playoff contention. 

         

    Stats (as of Dec. 2, 2016) via NHL.com. Coaching info via Hockey-Reference.com.

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