Since the 2017-18 regular season ended, there have been 12 new head coaches take over behind the bench in the National Hockey League. Most recently, Anaheim general manager Bob Murray fired Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. His replacement? Murray himself, who will try and get the Ducks’ train wreck back on the tracks.
How will Murray do? It remains to be seen, but the other 11 have had their fair share of ups and downs. Here’s who fared the best this season.
It’s Not All ‘Blue’ in St. Louis Former NHLer Craig Berube took over in St. Louis on November 19 and went 3-5-1 in his first eight games. At the beginning of January, the Blues were in the last place in the Central Division and last place in the Western Conference. In fact, they had the worst record in the NHL at the time.
Fast forward and the Blues have won six straight and are sitting in a playoff spot. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington has been outstanding with 1.72 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. Berube has ignited the offense as well. Since Jan. 3, St. Louis is averaging 3.11 goals per game (compared to 2.95 under previous coach Mike Yeo).
The defense has improved as well under Berube, which is no surprise. The former 17-year NHL veteran was known as an enforcer-type, a defensive-minded wing during his playing days. Prior to Berube, St. Louis gave up way too many odd-man rushes and easy scoring chances. Binnington faces just 3.07 high-danger shots a game.
A New Flame in Calgary Bill Peters took over the Flames last April after the end of the regular season. The Flames offense has erupted under his guidance and is averaging a second-best 3.67 goals per game. The offense averages two more shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (nearly 31) than they did in 2017-18. As a result, Calgary is 34-16-6 after 56 games and sits in second place in the Pacific Division. The Flames have the highest goal differential (+38) in the Western Conference, which has translated into the second-highest point total (74) in the conference. Peters and the Flames are primed for a run in the postseason something they haven’t done in a decade.
New Coach, Similar Result in Washington The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals didn’t hesitate at letting head coach Barry Trotz walk after last season’s success. They hired Todd Reirden at a fraction of the cost and are now 31-19-7 after 57 games. The Capitals score a bit more (3.32 goals per game, 7th in NHL) under Rierden, but they are also giving up more goals than a year ago. The special team percentages are down as well, but the Capitals continue to win games. Washington is in second place in the Metropolitan Division and, barring a complete disaster finish, will have the opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup come playoff time.
An NHL Match Made in New York As the Capitals let Trotz go, the New York Islanders let their best player – John Tavares – be scooped up in free agency by Toronto. How fitting that Trotz has taken the Islanders, minus Tavares, to the top spot in the Metropolitan Division? What Trotz has done is tighten up a defense that now allows five fewer shots per game. The Islanders goals-against average per 60 minutes at full strength is down to 1.8 from 2.54 a year ago. New York is 32-16-6 and headed to the postseason, and Trotz has done it without a true superstar. Not one Islanders player has yet to reach 20 goals, yet somehow Trotz has made New York a winner.