Monday, September 29, 2008

Who Will Get The Axe First- 2008-09?

1) We got a very nice response from a similar post we did last fall, so we figured we'd revisit this issue and handicap who we can see will be out of work before the 08-09 season is completed. A full 1/3 (10 of 30) of all NHL coaches lost their jobs from the beginning of last season until now. With the season about to start the inevitable discussions will commence as to what coaches are on the proverbial 'hot seat'. With that in mind we figured we'd go through the 30 current coaches and discuss who is pretty secure (as NHL coaches go), who is teetering on the brink, and the rest in between.

2) We'll simply go alphabetically from East then West: To simplify/quantify this we will use a scale 0-10. 1-being very safe, and 10-being half way out the door. At this stage there are no 10's (yet).


John Anderson (Atlanta Thrashers)- (4) After coaching in the minors for 13 seasons and winning five championships Anderson finally landed a coveted NHL job (is Atlanta coveted?) Most recently he led the Thrashers’ top affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, to the American Hockey League title. So he has an impressive minor league resume. Is Waddell thinking he may be the next Bruce Boudreau? Problem is the Thrashers don't have the same amount of talent the Caps did last year. Still, expectations are very low this season, so unless the team fails to attain double digits in wins through the new year, Anderson will probably finish out the year. One of our least favourite GM's Don Waddell is the one who SHOULD be on the hot seat, so it wouldn't surprise us if he tries to find another coach if he sees the season slipping away early on.

Claude Julien (Boston Bruins)- (3) Got screwed by Lou Lamarello in Jersey two years ago. Showed why he is a good coach by getting an undermanned/injury laden Bruins team into the post season. Unfortunately for them they lost in the first round to the Habs, but they never beat Montreal in the playoffs. ; ) The B's appear to have marginally improved, and if they stay healthy should return to the post season, thus we see Claude's job as being fairly safe, but when your owner is Jeremy Jacobs, nothing is set in stone!

Lindy Ruff (Buffalo Sabres)-(3) The Adams-runner up 2 years ago (He won the award 3 years ago) in our opinion showed that he was over rated when he lost some talent and he couldn't coach his team back into playoff contention. (Yes, we don't like him) He may be one of the longer tenured coaches in the NHL, but if the Sabres get off to a poor start Regier may have to make a tough decision. That said, we don't believe that Darcy will have an itchy trigger finger. That Lindy has enough good will to stay on for the entire season barring a complete collapse

Peter Laviolette (Carolina Hurricanes)(7) Peter is probably on the thinnest ice of any Eastern Conference coach (other than a Lamarello managed team) after successive near playoff misses. It was widely rumored that he was close to being replaced by Rutherford this past summer(Perhaps Rutherford's own flirtation with the Maple leafs open GM position helped this?) Certainly its a sure bet that Laviolette will be a goner with another playoff-less season in Raleigh. If they have a very poor start, he might be on the unemployment line a lot sooner. His leash is very short!

Peter DeBoer (Florida Panthers)(2) Time may be running out on the former Senator/Florida coach, now Panthers GM, Jacques Martin but the same is probably not true of new coach Peter DeBoer, a highly touted junior coach from the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers, who was also was courted by Martin's former team, Ottawa. The team hasn’t won a National Hockey League playoff series since 1996 and a playoff game since 1997. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2000 so its apparent why the natives are (should be) restless for an improvement. The team as mentioned earlier stays in no man's land. Unable to get a lottery pick OR playoff spot. Peter should be safe in his first season, but when you have a desperate GM who is a former coach your job is NEVER truly safe!

Guy Carbonneau (Montreal Canadians) (5) The folks in Montreal, much like Toronto are not the most patient. Amazingly its been a long drought, 18 years (for Montreal standards). The team over achieved with their regular season crown last year, only to lose in the 2nd round to the Flyers. As much if not more is expected this season. The team should do well, but if they falter Carbonneau will get the axe in a heart beat, despite the fact that Guy is generally well liked.

Brent Sutter (NJ Devils)(4)- Normally a newer coach who made the post season in his first year would be an automatic 1-3, but with Lou, no one is safe, even if they seem to be doing well. As is the key(perennially) with the Devils, the key will be Marty. If he starts to show his age(36+) the team will falter and from past experience Lou doesn't wait for a turn around before firing a coach. We give Brent credit for working through some early season issues last year, and looked like he might become a solid coach in this league. If not with the Devils, certainly with another NHL squad

Scott Gordon (NY Islanders)- (2) After the raw deal last season for Ted Nolan, the Isles looked toward an old reliable location for coaches, the Bruins organization (Laviolette, Milbury, Goring, Bowness). No one can argue that Nolan got more than most anyone expected from last years team, so there might be unrealistic expectations from some that the team can compete at that level again this season. There is no denying that injuries played a role in their demise, but there are also some key holes/lack of offensive depth that will make success difficult. That said, with the understanding that this is a rebuilding season in NY, and this season is all about seeing how far these kids will take the team and how well they progress, we doubt Gordon's job will be in jeopardy at any point this season

Tom Renney (NY Rangers)-(3) Last year we had Tom as a 4, but he has done a very good/solid job in our opinion to deserve some job security. Expectations are usually high though, and a significant fall could make him vulnerable like he was 2 years ago. There appears to be significant turn over, and a definite move toward youth which makes this solidly Renney/Sather's team. We like their youngsters and feel they will continue the moderate success the team has enjoyed the past couple of years. Therefore unless there is a collapse with locker room discontent, Renney job should be safe this season

Craig Hartsburg (Ottawa Senators)(3) Hartsburg also has coached in Anaheim and Chicago, and was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers from 2002 to 2004. The 48-year-old Hartsburg has been coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the past five seasons. A team that has a former coach as its GM(Murray) is not a place for a coach to feel safe. Expectations in Ottawa are not nearly as high as they were last season after placing runner up to the Ducks in 07, so unless the team goes down the crapper Craig will probably last the year in the nation's capital.

John Stevens (Philadelphia Flyers)(2) Stevens did an excellent job with a rejuvenated(old time Broad street bullies) Flyers last season. No coincidence that the teams change in personality came with their success. We give Stevens and Holmgren full credit for this transformation. Can they continue/improve further? We feel even a small step back wouldn't be a death knell for Stevens tenure in Philly. He isn't fire proof like Wayne Gretzky, but the job he did last season probably bought him a full season this year

Michel Therrien (Pittsburgh Penguins) (2) We haven't been big fans of Therrian, and believe the team succeeded despite him, but we can't ignore the success the team has enjoyed under his tutelage the past 2 years. Now that expectations are high in Steel-town, if they falter significantly he may be replaced, especially if he loses the respect of his resident superstar, Sidney Crosby. Although we have to say those chances are less than a season ago, so its not likely.

Barry Melrose (TB Lightning) (5) The Mullet is back! What a difference from the fiery John Tortorella. Barry, on the surface anyway has a more cartoonish persona. Its an unknown if being away for so long from the day to day duties of coaching will show. Having a lot of vets in the dressing room will either help or be his down fall. They also (as of the writing) have a lot of ??'s back on defense and with their goaltending. The new owners have shown they aren't bashful about changing course if things need to be changed, so the Melrose reign could be a short one IF things don't go well in the Fla Bay area

Ron Wilson (Toronto Maple Leafs) (3)- Wilson is probably one of the better coaches to have never won anything. His teams are usually competitive, but end up underachieving. This was the case in his last stop, SJ. In Toronto this season there will be few who expect the team to be a contender, so anything more than a bottom/lottery finish will probably mean Ron will be back in 09-10. Of course the uncertain Maple Leaf GM situation could cloud that issue if/when that's resolved next summer.

Bruce Boudreau (Washington Capitals)- (1) Probably the safest coach in the East. By winning the Adams as coach of the year and the SE division, along with being a very likable fellow Bruce has probably cemented his place in DC for at least this season. Even a sub par season would probably not lead to an early dismissal. Not that we foresee a tumble if they stay generally healthy the Caps should be in contention this season, and Boudreau should still be coach this April.


Randy Carlyle (Anaheim Duck)(2) This time last year we said he probably has the safest job in the league. As the reigning cup champ's coach. However last year was a disappointment, but few faulted the job Carlyle did. If the team performs up to expectations(top 5 finish) we doubt Randy's job is in jeopardy this time around either in Disneyland. Probably even a turn for the worse would not cause Burke to replace the well regarded former Norris trophy winner.

Mike Keenan (Calgary Flame)(4) As we mentioned last year, 'Iron Mike' usually in the short term, gets the most from his players, but his tactics wear thin, especially with a veteran club. Mike especially has been known to screw/play mind games with his goalies. Things went better than we expected in that regard last season, but if they falter, even mildly we could see Sutter return/replace Mike behind the team's bench. (Especially if the Flames decline as the Oil rises)

Denis Savard (Chicago Blackhawk)(3) What a difference a year makes! A year ago there were ZERO expectations in the windy city and Wiliam Wirtz was running the team into the ground. Sure they had some kids with potential, but Wirtz would probably screw it up some how and Savard would just be the latest stooge to take the fall. Now they are regarded as a likely playoff contending team, and many are going even further. With expectations comes a chance at failure, so Savard despite being well liked isn't totally safe until they actually have some success (playoff spot). Overall we'd say Denis's job is pretty secure

Tony Granato (Colorado Avalanche) (2) Entering his 2nd stint behind the Avalanche bench. Many including us at FAUXRUMORS were shocked when we heard this selection. Granato led the team after taking over from Bob Hartley in 2002, until his demotion in to 2004, going 72-33-17-11 before he was replaced by Joe Quenneville in July 2004. His .647 winning percentage in his first stint as coach is the best in franchise history. So the obvious question(s) would be: Why did they fire him and more importantly what changed since his firing? Certainly the team he inherits is weaker than the team he took over in 2002. Therefore expectations are lower so his job is probably safe in this his first year back

KEN HITCHCOCK (Columbus Blue Jackets) (4) No one expected much from the Jackets last season so Ken's job was safe. They also had a new GM, so time was on their side. However now going into their 8th season in Ohio's biggest city, and have yet to even sniff a playoff spot. As it is we don't see one this year. Scott Howson made some significant roster changes thi summer to shake things up a bit. To keep his job Hichkock at a minimum will have to have his team continue to show improvement. A bottom overall finish could be his end

Dave Tippett (Dallas Star) (3) Amazingly this will be Tippets 7th season behind the Stars bench. The Stars have done exceptionally well under Tippett's tenure during the regular season, and not so well in the playoffs until last spring when the team excelled, and many saw them as the 2nd best team.(losing to the 1st) Last year we saw Tippet on the brink, but the team decided to fire their GM Doug Armstrong. He was replaced by asst. GM Les Jackson and former Stars player Brett Hull. It seems to have been the right move as the team now appears to be headed in the right direction, and Tippet is probably safe though this season

Mike Babcock (Detroit Red Wing) (1) For obvious reasons the coach who's job is most secure in the NHL. Being the reigning Cup champ coach almost always ensures job security for the following season (Unless you coach in NJ). With another stud team to take into the 08-09 season Mike has very little to worry about this season, and probably next.

Craig MacTavish (Edmonton Oiler) (2) Amazingly now approaching his 8th season as the Oilers coach. A year ago after his GM's poor job it appeared that Craig was also on the hot seat and could soon be looking for work. However a strong 2nd half despite injuries to key personnel saved his job and gave hope for this season. Unless the team takes a step back (we don't think they will), Craig's job should be pretty safe in northern Alberta for another season.

Terry Murray (Los Angeles King) (6) Yes the same Murray who guided Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals 11 years ago and has coached 737 regular-season NHL games is the new Kings coach taking over for the fired Marc Crawford. He hadn't been a head coach in the NHL since being fired by the Florida Panthers following the 2000-01. Another retread destined for failure? The Kings in recent years since they haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2002, and despite a better roster than in previous seasons, we don't see that changing quite yet. Unless he over achieves we believe that Murray's stay in LA will not be a long fruitful one

Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota Wild) (2) The "Gum Chewer" as we at FAUXRUMORS affectionately call him has brought his defense-first style to the Wild and given the young franchise a modicum of success in their short time. It has caused some consternation among his forwards, but as long as they stay on board, and the team is a playoff contender, Jacques's job will continue to be safe.

Barry Trotz (Nashville Predator) (3) The only coach the franchise has ever had. We were not fans of his until last year when he took a team that few, including us at FAUXRUMORS believed could succeed, but somehow he got them to overachieve, the sign of a good coach. With lowered expectations and ownership STILL in flux he'll probably survive at least another season in The Music City, even if they fail to attain a top 8 finish.

Wayne Gretzky (Phoenix Coyote) (2)This figures to be turn around season in the desert for TGO. As part owner its not known if he even could be fired. It certainly wouldn't be good for PR to fire the greatest player in league history. However, as opposed to last season at this time we don't believe that will be a possibility. We like what GM Don Maloney has done with this franchise and think they should challenge for a playoff spot, guaranteeing we won't be talking about a new coach in Phoenix this season.

Andy Murray (St. Louis Blue)(6) Seemed to turn things around when he took over mid way a season and a half ago. However we didn't see a big improvement last season, and as the natives(fans) get restless to have to endure yet another playoff-less season, Andy may find himself as the scape goat this season if the team as we project doesn't perform well.

Todd McClellan (San Jose Shark) (4)McLellan had spent the past three seasons as an assistant in Detroit, where he was considered a bright offensive coach who led the Red Wings' power-play units. Now normamly a new coach gets the benefit of the doubt for one full season, but with Todd coming into a situation where the team has underachieved in the post season the last few years(costing Wilson-see Toronto his job) he might not get a second chance(season) if team-teal takes a backward step in the regular campaign

Alain Vigneault (Vancouver Canuck) (4) The former coach of the Year winner, his job is probably not nearly as secure as it was last year this time. A miserable regular season and or player(Luongo/Sedin) discontent would be a problem for the affable Quebecer. The team will only go as far as those guys can take him. In factwe would argue that Alain's Adams award should have gone to Luongo as we always say a team's coach is only as smart as his goalie is good! If they fall off the table this year and are out of it early on, he migh tnot get through the season

No comments:

Contact the Media