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There is perhaps no worse career in terms of job security than coaching sports at the professional level, the NHL included. Sometimes these firings are deserved, but often it is a general manager simply trying to light a fire under his team, as it is much easier to replace one coach than an entire roster.
Since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, we have witnessed six NHL coaches dismissed in Joel Quenneville, Jeremy Colliton, Travis Green, Alain Vigneault, Dominique Ducharme, and Dave Tippett, while Paul Maurice resigned. It is a high number, but not unusually so.
Despite the recent turnover, we are still likely to see plenty more changes behind NHL benches in the near future. At this time, there are five coaches who are without deals for next season in Dallas Eakins, John Hynes, Jeff Blashill, Rick Bowness, and Bruce Boudreau. There are another six under interim tags in Martin St. Louis, Derek King, Mike Yeo, Jay Woodcroft, Dave Lowry and Andrew Brunette. Let’s take a look at who is likely to stay in their positions, and who is likely to be left looking for a new job.
Martin St. Louis: Montreal Canadiens
After a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Canadiens have come crashing down in a big way. Through 72 games, they sit just two points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for dead last in the entire NHL with a record of 20-41-11. Despite their overall struggles, however, the overwhelming expectation is that they will bring St. Louis back for the 2022-23 season.
Since St. Louis was named interim coach, the Canadiens' play has improved in a noticeable way. Several players have spoken up about how he has helped them regain their confidence, and a great example of that has been the play of Cole Caufield.
Under Ducharme, Caufield struggled immensely with just a single goal and eight assists in 30 games. Since having St. Louis join the fold, he has managed 17 goals and 12 helpers in 27 games. It is quite clear that the Habs players are much more confident under this new coaching regime, which should make it a no-brainer for management to extend St. Louis in the near future.
Jay Woodcroft: Edmonton Oilers
Expectations were quite high heading into the 2021-22 season for the Oilers despite a major playoff collapse last year. That collapse, paired with some very inconsistent play to begin this campaign, led to the firing of Tippett in February.
Since the coaching change, the Oilers have gone 19-7-3, and have improved in nearly every statistical category. Several players in the bottom-six forward group have commented on how much they have enjoyed getting a bigger opportunity under Woodcroft, who has preached a team-first mentality since arriving. Barring an absolute shock, he will be back with the Oilers in 2022-23.
Andrew Brunette: Florida Panthers
The Panthers became the first team to fire their head coach this season, though unlike the others, it had nothing to do with on-ice performance. Quenneville's termination was instead due to the horrific handling of the Kyle Beach incident back in 2010 with the Blackhawks. Despite having a great start to the 2021-22 season, general manager Bill Zito had no choice but to replace Quenneville with Brunette.
At the time of Quenneville’s firing, the Panthers were off to a 7-0-0 start. Fortunately for them, the wins have continued piling up under Brunette, who has started his NHL coaching career with a 44-15-6 mark. Perhaps a major playoff collapse could change things, but with the Panthers currently sitting second in the league standings, it seems quite likely that Brunette will be behind the bench once again next season.
John Hynes: Nashville Predators
After some rough seasons in his first head coaching gig with the Devils, some were surprised when the Nashville Predators chose to hire Hynes to replace Peter Laviolette during the 2019-20 season. A full two years later, however, it is safe to say general manager David Poile knew exactly what he was doing.
Expectations have not been very high for this Predators squad for the past two seasons, but Hynes’ systems allowed them to reach the playoffs in 2020-21, and it appears they will do so again this year. If they do end up sliding out of the current wild-card position they are in, perhaps the tune changes on Hynes’ future, but as of now it seems likely he will have a new deal in place with the Preds for 2022-23.
Bruce Boudreau: Vancouver Canucks
Since taking over back in early December, Boudreau has turned what appeared to be a lost season into a legitimate shot at the playoffs for the Canucks. Whether or not they get in remains to be seen, but there is no denying the fact that this team would be much higher in the standings had Boudreau been in place from the get-go.
Canucks fans have embraced Boudreau from the start, giving him the "Bruce there it is" chants on a nightly basis. The love from the fans is well deserved, as he has led them to a 27-13-8 record since his hiring. For comparisons sake, they sat 8-15-2 before the firing of Green. Like both St. Louis and Woodcroft, giving Boudreau an extension is a no-brainer for Canucks management.
Derek King: Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks made several big moves this offseason in hopes of giving Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews another shot at a Stanley Cup — a plan which has failed dearly. This team has struggled since the start of the 2021-22 campaign, which resulted in Colliton being fired in November.
Management chose to replace Colliton with King, who had spent the past three seasons as the head coach of their American Hockey League affiliate Rockford IceHogs. It hasn’t helped in terms of getting back into the playoff picture, as the team has gone just 23-27-9 under him for a winning percentage of .446.
This offseason could see plenty of changes for the Blackhawks, as their new management group may be looking to head into a rebuild. Because of this, it is likely that they will take a look at the market for a coach they believe can properly lead the charge in a rebuild, meaning King’s time could be short-lived.
Mike Yeo: Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are a complete mess right now, and no one seems to know the solution. Many have suggested a rebuild may be in store, but general manager Chuck Fletcher seems adamant that is not the route he is interested in going. Regardless of what he decides, there will be several changes to this team over the summer.
One of those changes will likely be finding a new head coach, as Yeo has not been the answer with a record of 15-28-7. On top of that, he recently made the controversial decision to end Keith Yandle’s ironman streak by making him a healthy scratch, a move many believe rubbed some players in that dressing room the wrong way, regardless of whether or not it was the correct decision.
Dave Lowry: Winnipeg Jets
The 2021-22 season has been a disappointing one for the Jets, who came in with decently high expectations due to the talent on their roster. They struggled under Maurice, who chose to resign after a 13-11-5 start. The hope was that a new voice would help turn things around, but that hasn’t been the case.
Under Lowry, the Jets have gone 20-18-6. That isn’t a horrible record, but is underwhelming given how good this team looks on paper. Barring an incredible run to finish out the season, the Jets will miss the playoffs, which could lead to the firing of general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. If he is indeed relieved of his duties, then it is a near guarantee Lowry won’t be back. Even if Cheveldayoff is able to keep his job, the chances he looks elsewhere for a head coach remain high.
Dallas Eakins: Anaheim Ducks
It is safe to say Eakins hasn’t had the best opportunity to succeed through his first two NHL coaching gigs with the Oilers and now the Ducks. His time with both clubs came during a rebuilding stage, making it very difficult for him to rack up wins. With that being said, his stint in Anaheim may be coming to an end.
The Ducks simply haven’t improved under Eakins' watch, and aside from Troy Terry, the young players he has been with since being named head coach prior to the 2019-20 season haven’t improved their games. On top of all that, they also have a new general manager in Pat Verbeek, who will likely want to hire his own guy this summer.
Jeff Blashill: Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings fans have been vocal about wanting a new head coach for a number of years now, but Blashill has remained the man in charge. With this season marking the sixth straight year the team is set to miss the playoffs, you have to think general manager Steve Yzerman will finally make a change this summer.
This Red Wings team has been in a rebuilding stage for quite some time now and needs to start getting more competitive in a tough division. Detroit started the 2021-22 season quite well, but fell off in a big way in recent months, which has likely sealed Blashill’s fate.
Rick Bowness: Dallas Stars
Out of all the names on this list, Bowness’s future may be the trickiest to decide on. His start with the Stars couldn’t have gone any better, as he became their interim head coach during the 2019-20 campaign and led them all the way to a Stanley Cup Final. With the early success, general manager Jim Nill chose to remove his interim tag, and things have gone downhill ever since.
Given their success a year prior, the Stars had major expectations placed on them in 2020-21, but went on to miss the playoffs entirely. Injuries certainly played a role, but things haven’t gone a lot better for them with a healthy roster in 2021-22. Though they do currently occupy the final wild-card position in the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights are hot on their tail.
If they miss the playoffs, Bowness will certainly be gone. Even if they do make it, a first-round exit could spell the end of his time with the Stars organization.
As far as who some of these teams could consider as replacements, there are numerous coaches looking for work. Of course, it is possible a few of these teams simply swap with one another, but there is plenty of experience in the "free agent pool" as well. Names like Claude Julien, Rick Tocchet, and David Quinn will get plenty of attention this offseason, as will the extremely polarizing John Tortorella.
One name who could also pop up on some radars is Mike Babcock, who has had some ugly stories come out since being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but is looking to get another opportunity to change his narrative.
How this entire situation will unfold remains to be seen, but we will certainly see plenty of teams with different coaches behind their bench for the 2022-23 season.
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