After just two months of the 2018-19 NHL season, the league has already said goodbye to four head coaches. Those four – Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, and St. Louis – are probably not the only franchises that will fire head coaches before the end of this season. After a season in which there were no in-season firings, four are already gone. Why so many and who’s next?
The Calm Before the Storm For the first time since the expansion from the Original Six, there were no coaches fired during the season last year. Over the previous eight seasons, an average of four head coaches were let go. Last year, was an oddity. It also helped that several of the poorer teams in the NHL had new head coaches.
Last year, Arizona, Buffalo, and Vancouver all had first-year head coaches. Those franchises were thus not looking to get rid of their coach without letting him implement his system. It’s a good thing, too, as all three franchises, especially Buffalo, have shown marked improvement.
A few other franchises were less likely to pull the plug last year for financial reasons. Montreal invested a ton of money in Claude Julien. The Canadiens held on to their man which was a good move. The Habs are on the turnaround as well. Ottawa has struggled recently and last year was no exception. The Senators didn’t want to fire Guy Boucher and end up paying two coaches at the same time.
The Storm What many NHL fans might forget is that even though there weren’t any in-season firings last season several teams made head-coaching changes when the season was over. Six head coaches left their jobs creating some turnover at the top. It also started the storm that has put four coaches out of a job this season, including two who were let go within 12 hours of each other (Todd McLellan in Edmonton, Mike Yeo in St. Louis).
After missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to keep Joel Quenneville feeling they owed it to the long-time head coach. When this season started so poorly, management decided it was time for Quenneville to go. John Stevens led the Kings to the playoffs last year, but they were eliminated in the first round. After starting 4-8-1 this year, the franchise decided to move in another direction.
Who’s Next? Detroit got off to an awful start this season but has temporarily righted the ship. Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, whose name had been mentioned in conjunction with the proverbial hot seat last year, could find himself there once again. Boucher in Ottawa is another. The Senators have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference and Boucher is in the final year of his contract.
Anaheim sits in fourth place in the Pacific Division in the Western Conference with a 10-10-5 record after 25 games. Head coach Randy Carlyle has watched his roster be decimated by injuries in each of the past two seasons. Still, it’s no excuse and the Ducks might look to make a change before season’s end.
No job in the NHL is particularly safe. Consider that the longest-tenured head coach in the league right now is Tampa Bay’s, Jon Cooper. He was hired in 2013.