Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who gets The Axe First-2009 Edition

1) A popular annual post we do here at Fauxrumors is our annual 'Who will Get the Axe First. With the season underway the inevitable discussions will commence as to what coaches are on the proverbial 'hot seat'. With that in mind we'll 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) If this season is anything typical, about 25-30% of the current head coaches will no longer have their jobs by this time next season. The coaches that should worry most are the guys returning from Europe as last year ALL FOUR of the teams that went on the European Vacations to commence the 2008-2009 season replaced their coaches before the season ended! Like in previous seasons, we'll simply go alphabetically in the East then in the West: To simplify/quantify this we will use a scale 0-10. Zero-being very safe, and 10-being close to out the door. At this stage there are no 10's (yet), but as Dennis Savard found out in Chicago last year its never too early to get fired!


John Anderson (Atlanta Thrashers)- (5) We will probably be repeating ourselves here, but we feel that Don Wadell is the one who needs immediate replacement here! However, unlike last season when Anderson was a fresh face with few expectations if the Thrash have another abysmal season John might find himself back in the AHL. That said, with continued ownership problems there appears that there is no/little pressure from above.

Claude Julien (Boston Bruins)- (2) After winning the regular season East last season BUT losing early in the playoffs expectations are high in Bean Town, so anything LESS than a top 4 finish AND a Final 4 appearance would be a downer. That said, we don't think Claude would lose his job if one of those aren't met this year. Only an implosion, which would be unlikely. As our Cup favourite obviously we're not expecting it, but as we stated last year, when your owner is Jeremy Jacobs, nothing is set in stone!

Lindy Ruff (Buffalo Sabres)- (4) Much like last season 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. Another playoff miss, regardless of injuries, might cause Regier to finally act.

Paul Maurice (Carolina Hurricanes)- (1) Paul, coming off a successful playoff drive and good post season (Final 4 appearance) earning him a 3 year contract extension probably is safe to complete the entire season in Raleigh. The team is good enough to make the playoffs if not compete for the division, and even a near miss for the playoffs wouldn't necessarily mean Maurice would be fired (again) as he and Rutherford have a very solid relationship.

Peter DeBoer (Florida Panthers)- (3) 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 fans are restless for an improvement. Unloading Jack martin was a good first step. The jury is still out on DeBoer, but we like what we've seen so far. Barring a lottery finish we can't see a scenario where Peter is fired, at least during the season.

Jacques Martin (Montreal Canadians) (6) The main apparent reason for being hired? He can speak French? The folks in Montreal, much like Toronto are not the most patient. Amazingly its been a long drought, 19 years (for Montreal standards). We believe the folks in Montreal are going to find out, regardless of his fluency in 2 languages, that Martin is NOT the answer. The question will be will GM Bob Gainey admit his mistake before or after the season?

Jacques Lemaire (NJ Devils)- (5) Normally a new coach who once won a Cup with his team would be an automatic 1-3, but with Lou, no one is safe, even if they seem to be doing well. 'The Gum chewer' might have fond memories in Jersey, but this second stint might end abruptly if things don't go well. As is the key (perennially) with the Devils, the key will be Marty. If he starts to show his age(37+) the team will falter, and from past experience Lou doesn't wait for a turn around before firing a coach. Will he try to re-install a 'trap'? Will this make his offensive stars disgruntled?

Scott Gordon (NY Islanders)- (2) There is no denying that injuries played a role in their bottom finish, but there are also holes/lack of offensive depth that will make success difficult, even with Tavares. That said, with the continued 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 unless it appears that 'the kids aren't alright', and seems to not getting through to them.

John Tortorella (NY Rangers)- (4) Like Atlanta, the burden of success/failure of this team should be more shouldered by the team's GM than its coach. Its Sather that has saddled Torts with Redden/Rozival as his top defensive pair. Has given him a fragile elite forward in Gaborik, and placed the volatile Avery into the mix. If Lundqvist's heroics are not enough to get the Blueshirts into the post season, Johns might find himself looking for work. In the mean time it will be a fun exercise watching the dynamic between Tortorella, the NY media with Sean Avery thrown in for good measure!

Cory Clouston (Ottawa Senators)- (5) The mid season replacement for Craig Hartsburg that led to the Heatley issues. What about Cory's coaching caused the rift? Will it be a problem with other Senator vets? Or was/is Heatley just a dick? If it was Clouston, his time will be a short one. Few expect the Sens to be an elite team anymore, but things might get dicey if they flounder early and are among the bottom tier of teams (as we predict). At that point Mr Lisp, Bryan Murray and/or owner Melnyk will have to decide if a new management team is needed in Kanata.

John Stevens (Philadelphia Flyers)(2) Stevens has done an excellent job with the Flyers since becoming head coach. No coincidence that the teams change in personality (Old Broad Street bullies) 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, but we (and their fans) expect this team to be a Cup contender. Only a collapse (missing the playoffs) would cause John to lose his job.

Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins) (0) Probably the most secure coaching job in the NHL now that Wayne Gretzky has stepped side. We hadn't been big fans of Therrian, and believe the team succeeded despite him, but the move to replace him with Dan in our opinion, was a huge reason the pens won the silver trophy. With Stanley Cup in hand there is job security (for this season anyway )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 minimal.

Rick Tocchet (TB Lightning)- (4) Following the fiery John Tortorella, and then the mullet, Barry Melrose, The Gambler, Rick Tocchet seems tame. You'd have to think that unless the team absolutely sucks on toast and finishes in the basement of the NHL, Tocchet's job is secure for this season anyway. With the ownership situation not quite yet resolved, like in Atlanta its unlikely we'll see much more turnover in the front office this season.

Ron Wilson (Toronto Maple Leafs) (2) Yes, folks expect the team to be better after picking up a few big name free agents, but few expect them to be contenders. this should keep Wilson safe for this season. Also the fact that GM Brian Burke is also new there and friends with Wilson (working together ironically on the United States Olympic team) add to the stability behind the bench. Still with it going on 43 years since their last Cup, the Leaf nation won't take kindly to sucking too badly this season

Bruce Boudreau (Washington Capitals)- (3) Last season was one of the safest coaches. This time, not so much. Although he won't be on a tight leash, if his team underachieves (not win the SE division/win 2 playoff rounds minimum) he could lose his job. Gabby is well liked by his players and media so it would take quite a bit to see him discharged prior to the season ending.


Randy Carlyle (Anaheim Duck)- (5) Two seasons ago after the Ducks won their Cup the former Norris Trophy winner had as safe a job as any coach. Now two seasons removed and a big roster turn over its no longer a sure bet. Of course the Ducks would have to have a seriously underachieving season to get Carlyle canned, but if they fall out of the top 8 his job could for the first time be in jeopardy

Brent Sutter (Calgary Flame)-(0) Doesn't hurt when your brother holds your fate in his hands, right? Of course Brent showed the past two seasons, despite falling short in Jersey, that he's no slouch. Now that he's back home with family in Alberta we believe he'll do an even better job guiding the Flame. Nothing short of a total collapse and a Cain and Abel type fight might we see the younger Sutter dismissed

Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawk)- (3) Joel better look out. Last season Dennis Savard got exactly 4 games before he was fired. Of course it helps that Quenville is the new regime's guy. He by no means is untouchable, but unless the Hawks fall flat and miss the playoffs completely would Joel lose his job. Even then its entirely possible he'd survive into next season

Joe Sacco (Colorado Avalanche) (2) Very few expectations this season in Denver, unlike the previous 14 seasons in Colorado. That should play into job security. Much like his counterpart on LI, the thing that management may look to is how the younger payers are developing. Its not to say they'd be happy with a 30th overall finish, but that wouldn't guarantee a dismissal like it would for about 28 other coaches around the NHL

Ken Hitchcock (Columbus Blue Jackets)- (4) Fans of Columbus finally got a taste of playoff hockey. As such they, and management are probably eager for more. To keep his job Hitchcock at a minimum will have to have his team continue to show improvement and make the post season. He could probably survive a near miss in the tough/competitive West, but anything less than 85-90 points and he's probably on thin ice. If you've ever seen Hitch, he wouldn't survive long on thin ice! ; )

Marc Crawford (Dallas Star) (6) Geez this guy just seems to get job after job! His Cup with the Av's is now going on 14 years ago. What has he done lately? Despite having coached every year in Colorado, Vancouver then LA since 1998 he has coached a team to ONE payoff series win, ONE! If the Stars believe he's the answer we believe they will quickly find out they are mistaken. We don't believe the Crawford reign in Big D will last too long.

Mike Babcock (Detroit Red Wing) (2) A year ago we felt Mike was totally secure. This season his security is still up there, but a rung or two lower than last year. We could see a scenario that the Wings falter (mainly from poor goaltending) and management thinking a shakeup at the top necessary. Although with his recent success that's a long shot right now. Odds are he'll ride out whatever this season throws at he and the Wings

John Brian Patrick "Pat" Quinn (Edmonton Oiler) (2) The big guy has returned. After successful stints in Philly, (Final appearance and Adams award, and Vancouver- Finals appearance in 94 and another Adams award, along with not so successful coaching jobs in LA, and a mediocre stint in Toronto, the Hamilton, Ontario native is back behind the bench after a 3 year absence. As he is highly regarded and few expect the Oil to win much this season Pat's job is likely safe through the year. (Apologies for the earlier inclusion of the fired Craig McTavish)

Terry Murray (Los Angeles King)- (5) Last year we were incredulous at Murray as the team's choice. The Kings haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2002, but with a roster full of young talented players, a goalie that appears ready to carry the team (Quick) there are now real expectations again in La-La land. So another bottom type finish and Murray would likely be a goner and its also possible that GM Lombardi might be in need of updating his resume.

Todd Richards (Minnesota Wild)- (4) Represents the current NHL coaching trend: Inexperience is insignificant we suppose. Started probably by the Capitals 2 years ago with the ascension of Bruce Boudreau, almost every new coach has come from the minors. Since he won the Adams its in vogue. Since we know little about Richards, and we don't think the Wild will do well we are hedging our bets and making him a 4 despite being 'the new guy'.

Barry Trotz (Nashville Predator) (5) The only coach the franchise has ever had. We were not fans of his until the last couple of seasons 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, but he's not nearly as secure as years past

Dave Tippett (Phoenix Coyote) (1) One of the few positives that came from the ownership fiasco was it flushed out Wayne Gretzky from coaching. In Tippett the 'Yotes have a coach that won't feel secure even if they fail to achieve. In the regular season anyway, Tippett's record in Dallas was impressive. With the continued silliness that is the Phoenix ownership fiasco, we see his job as being quite safe even with a less than strong season

Andy Murray (St. Louis Blues) (4) A season ago we felt Andy was on the hot seat. The team had taken a step backwards in their development timetable. Then last year the team, against all odds, turned things around and made the post season when almost no one predicted them to. This probably reduced the heat on Murray's butt, but if the Blues falter out of contention before the Olympic break, JD might pull the trigger and get a new man behind the bench

Todd McClellan (San Jose Shark) (5) After last season perhaps the team's playoff underachieving wasn't all Ron Wilson's doing. After a President's Trophy season the Sharks resumed their playoff sucking. Now with the addition of Heatley expectations are at a minimum to finish in the top 4 in the West and at the very least get to the Final 4. If Todd fails to do the ladder especially, his days might be numbered in The Silicon Valley

Alain Vigneault (Vancouver Canuck)- (5) As we opined last year at this time, The former coach of the Year winner's job is probably not nearly as secure as it was a couple of years ago. 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. Expectations as FR2 wrote earlier this week are high in Vancouver, so a playoff miss or even first round exit would almost certainly cost Alain's job


Copper n' Blue said...

Is there a prize for picking the first off your list to not be coaching in the NHL this year?

If so...I will go with Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers.

The fact that he was fired in the spring and replaced with Pat Quinn and Tom Renney might be a bit of a clue.

The other clue would be his on air presence on TSN!

But perhaps you know something we dont?

FAUXRUMORS 2 said...

1) Copper: You win the prize! FR tells us that they are embarrassed but thankful for your comment. Not sure how that got through the editors! LOL Suffice to say we have red on our collective faces. The error has been amended. thanks.

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