NHL Coaches Potentially On The Hot Seat
One month into the 2018-19 NHL campaign, two head coaches – Los Angeles’ John Stevens and Chicago’s Joel Quenneville – lost their jobs within 48 hours of each other. Stevens was fired by the Kings last Sunday while the Blackhawks axed Quenneville the following Tuesday.
That’s quite a contrast to 2017-18 when no coaches were fired during the regular-season schedule. Stevens and Quenneville join Alain Vigneault and Dave Tippett among several noteworthy former NHL bench bosses currently on the sidelines.
Some of them could end up behind an NHL bench in the near future.
Several struggling teams could opt for a coaching change later this season. Here’s a look at the current coaches on the hot seat.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. The Wings haven’t shown much improvement under Blashill, wallowing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Granted, they’re still a rebuilding club with a mix of youngsters who’ve yet to reach their full potential and past-their-prime veterans. However, Blashill was supposed to advance the development of their young talent. For the most part, that hasn’t happened as quickly as hoped. The Wings could be willing to just let Blashill’s contract expire at the end of this season but the opportunity to bring in someone like Quenneville might hasten his departure.
Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators. From owner Eugene Melnyk’s cantankerous ways to the trading away of veterans Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Derick Brassard amid rumors of a divided dressing room, to several current players being secretly filmed recently mocking assistant coach Martin Raymond, the Senators have lurched from one disaster to another over the past 13 months. In the middle is Boucher, who’s in the final year of his contract trying to guide a retooled roster back to respectability. While the Sens are off to a better-than-expected start, Boucher still faces an uncertain future in Ottawa.
Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers. After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2017-18, the Panthers were expected to take a serious step toward playoff contender status during Boughner’s second season behind the bench. So far, however, they’ve stumbled out of the gate and find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. A big reason was the absence of starting goalie Roberto Luongo for over a month with a knee injury. Boughner can’t be faulted for the poor play of backups James Reimer and Michael Hutchinson, but he could start feeling the heat if the Panthers fail to reverse their fortunes soon.
Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks. With the Ducks transitioning toward youngster talent, they’re still struggling to adjust as the league shifts toward a faster-paced offensive style. That could cast Carlyle, who tends to favor a more physical defensive game, into a harsh spotlight. It hasn’t helped that aging forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry have been sidelined by injuries, with Perry out until March with a knee injury. Nevertheless, with the Ducks tumbling down the standings following a hot start, Carlyle could be on thin ice.
David Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers. Hakstol’s success in the US college ranks hasn’t carried over into his NHL tenure. Under his coaching, the Flyers reached the playoffs in two of the last three seasons but failed to advance beyond the opening round. To be fair, Hakstol hasn’t had an established NHL starting goaltender and the defense is made up largely of still-developing youth. Still, the Flyers continue to struggle to find consistency. GM Ron Hextall is staying patient with Hakstol but he could be a lengthy losing streak away from losing his job.
Mike Yeo, St. Louis Blues. After bolstering their offense last summer, the Blues were expected to return to Stanley Cup contender status. Instead, they’re stuck near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Following a 7-4 loss to Columbus, Yeo suggested his efforts could be in question, prompting speculation he’d be the first coach fired this season. Management has stuck by Yeo so far but if the Blues don’t improve soon, he could be out of the job by the end of November.