NHL Coaches Who Should Be on the Hot Seat
Approaching the quarter mark of the NHL's 2017-18 season, the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild are among several teams struggling near the bottom of the league standings. As a result, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan and Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau could be feeling the heat to turn things around.
McLellan and Boudreau aren't the only coaches who should be squirming under an uncomfortable spotlight. Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes and Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings could be under pressure to lead their rebuilding teams toward playoff contention.
Here's a look at six NHL coaches who should be on the hot seat.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings
Now in his third season behind the Detroit Red Wings bench, Blashill is trying to turn a transitioning roster into a playoff contender. Though they have 18 points in as many games, he's likely feeling the pressure to get keep this club consistently on the winning side of the ledger.
Since Blashill came up through the Red Wings' system, it seemed as though he would work well with their younger players. So far, however, the results are mixed. Last season, his second as the Wings' head coach, they missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
Offense remains an issue for the Wings this season. They sit 26th in goals for per game (2.61) and in the middle of the pack in shots per game (31.8) and in power-play percentage (18.9). They're also giving up a high number (33.9) of shots against per game. Those factors are contributing to their inconsistency this season, including a six-game losing skid in mid-October.
To Blashill's credit, the Wings are showing signs of progress of late. Young forwards Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin are playing well this season. But there must be more improvement in the coming weeks, especially with 12 of their next 14 games being at home. Another lengthy losing streak could put Blashill in danger of losing his job.
Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild
When the Minnesota Wild hired Boudreau as their head coach on May 7, 2016, he was expected to guide this underachieving club toward Stanley Cup contention. So far, however, the Wild haven't significantly improvedt during Boudreau's tenure.
After ranking among the league's top clubs for most of last season, the Wild collapsed down the stretch, limped into the playoffs and were swiftly eliminated from the opening round by the St. Louis Blues. With just seven wins in 16 games this season, they currently hold the third-worst record in the Western Conference.
Injuries to key players such as Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle contributed to the Wild's poor start. Boudreau can't be blamed for that, but it's apparent he's growing frustrated with his players. Following a 5-3 loss on Nov. 7 to the Boston Bruins, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Rachel Blount reported the Wild coach called his club's effort in the first two periods "embarrassing."
Plenty of time remains on the schedule for Boudreau to help the Wild regain their winning ways. So far, however, he seems at a loss to find that formula.
Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers
The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers are struggling this season under their new head coaches. Panthers bench boss Bob Boughner should be feeling the heat more than his peers in Arizona and Buffalo.
Unlike the Coyotes and Sabres, the Panthers have had a healthier roster thus far this season. While the other two clubs were walloped by injuries to key players, only goaltender Roberto Luongo and forward Jared McGann were sidelined for any significant period.
The Panthers also carry more skilled depth than the Coyotes and Sabres. James Reimer could be considered Luongo's heir apparent in goal. The defense sports such notables as Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and Michael Matheson. At forward, they're led by scorers Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck.
After the Panthers missed the playoffs last season, improvement was expected under Boughner. However, the Panthers sit last in the Eastern Conference with 12 points in 16 games. They have a league-worst shots against per game (36.3) and the second-worst goals against per game (3.81) and penalty-kill percentage (71.7) None of that bodes well for Boughner's long-term future in Florida.
Pete DeBoer, San Jose Sharks
After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, the San Jose Sharks struggled to regain that Cup-contending form last season. With 20 points in 16 games this season, the Sharks sit just above the wild-card berths in the Western Conference. If they don't significantly improve over the course of the season, head coach Pete DeBoer could face calls for his dismissal.
The Sharks are playing well defensively, as they're tied with the Dallas Stars for the fewest shots against per game (28.8). They also have the fewest goals against per game (2.25) and the second-best penalty-killing percentage (88.5).
Scoring, however, is an issue. When the Sharks made their run to the 2016 Cup Final, they were that season's fourth-highest-scoring club (2.89). In 2017-18, they're 22nd in goals for per game (2.69). A power play that was the third-best in 2015-16 (22.5) is 21st this season (15.6). Only forwards Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton have 10 or more points.
It hasn't helped that Thornton is aging, top defenseman Brent Burns is goalless this season and Hertl got off to a slow start. But it's up to DeBoer to find a way to regain their once-lethal scoring punch. If he can't, management might have to consider a coaching change to shake up their anemic offense.
Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers
After reaching the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in over a decade, the Edmonton Oilers faced increased expectations this season. Unfortunately, they look nothing like a playoff contender, with only six victories in 17 games. Now in his third season as Edmonton's head coach, McLellan could bear the brunt of criticism from Edmonton fans and pundits.
The Oilers' roster hasn't changed much from last season. During the offseason, they shipped right wing Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome. Defenseman Andrej Sekera underwent knee surgery, which will sideline him until at least December.
Sekera's absence has affected the Oilers' defense. Starting goalie Cam Talbot also struggled through October. However, their poor offensive play has raised the most eyebrows. There isn't a lot of secondary scoring beyond first-line stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers sit last in goals for per game (2.24).
McLellan has juggled his forward lines in hopes of improving the Oilers' anemic production. So far, however, he hasn't found a way to get more out of disappointing forwards such as Strome, Zack Kassian and Jussi Jokinen. The further the Oilers fall out of playoff contention, the greater the pressure on McLellan.
Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes
Having last qualified for the playoffs in 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes are long overdue for a postseason return. But with just six victories in 15 games this season, time could be running out for Peters to turn things around.
Now in his fourth season behind the Hurricanes' bench, Peters has little to show for his tenure so far. In his first three seasons, he avoided criticism because of the club's rebuilding process. After Carolina brought in goaltender Scott Darling, right wing Justin Williams and center Marcus Kruger this offseason, the Hurricanes appeared to be poised for playoff contention.
The Hurricanes rank among the league's better clubs in goals against per game (2.73) and shots against per game (29.2). Scoring, however, remains a significant problem, especially at center. Their 2.67 goals for per game is among the league's worst. Only Williams and Jeff Skinner have double-digit point totals.
Management deserves its share of blame for failing to find a scoring center, but it's on Peters to find an on-ice solution. If there's no improvement soon, he could be out of a job.