It's been a pretty good year so far for job security in the NHL ranks compared to recent history, but nothing lasts forever. Last season, 1/3 of the teams changed coaches. This year, (not counting Gretzky "stepping down"
, only one coach has been fired so far, and the results of that move haven't been spectacular. So, it remains to be seen how many more dominoes will fall this season.
Part of the reason for the lack of management changes can be explained by a look at the standings. Many of the bottom feeders are either in a rebuilding mode already (Toronto, NY Isles) or have made coaching changes in the past year or so already (Edmonton, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Montreal). That's not to say that these bosses are exempt from the nervous whims of their GM's. Speaking of which, we have also gone a long stretch without a GM change, and when that happens, coaches are often let go when the new boss arrives. There are a handful of GM's who have to be considered on a short leash, making their coaches at risk as well. Meanwhile, many of the coaches who could have been considered to be at risk before the season started have started to turn their teams around this year (LA, Florida, Buffalo, Nashville).
With that in mind, here are the coaches most likely to be looking for work by the end of the season:
1. Ken Hitchcock - Columbus
After making the postseason for the first time last year, expectations were high in Ohio that the Blue Jackets had finally turned the corner. So far this season, they've taken a major step back. Hitchcock's signature over the years has been a stingy defense, from his days in Dallas and Philadelphia, to his first several seasons in Columbus. Nearing the half way point of this season, his Jackets are dead last in goals allowed. Aside from Nash, this team isn't built to win games by scoring a bunch of goals. Add to that the fact that they've won just one game in their last 10, and it wouldn't be surprised to hear that Hitchcock is being handed his papers before I finish typing this sentence.
2. Bob Gainey / Jacques Martin - Montreal
Poor Jacques Martin. After suffering through heartbreak, instability, and failure in Florida over the past three seasons, he left the sun and fun of South Florida to be placed on a sinking ship in the heart of hockey. There are too many things going against his chances of being a permanent resident in Montreal.
First off, Bob Gainey torpedoed this team over the past year. He took a team that challenged for the Presidents Trophy a couple seasons back, let half the squad walk, and did a patchwork job of assembling an overpaid roster this summer. Not surprisingly, the results have not been grand. The Canadiens have been less than mediocre this season. If it weren't for their amazing record in overtime, they'd be floating in the basement with the Hurricanes. If things continue to slide into the Olympic break, don't be surprised to see a new GM show up this spring. And a new GM typically means a new coach.
Add to that fact that there is new ownership in town, and new owners tend to want to bring their own guy in, particularly when things haven't gone to plan. All told, Martin may have a very short tenure in Montreal.
3. Glen Sather (GM) - NY Rangers
I know he's not a coach, but the Sather shouldn't be very comfortable in front of the fireplace this Christmas. After all, he is one of the longest tenured GMs in the NHL and what does he have to show for it? At least for the past few seasons, the team has been a playoff participant, but little more than that. At some point, Messier's going to come knocking on the door once again and he'll be granted the chance to do better. While the Rangers haven't been horrible this season, they're currently out of the playoff list. They're basically a losing streak / injury to Gaborik away from inevitable change in New York.
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