The first ax swung Wednesday morning as Canadiens common supervisor Marc Bergevin handed head coach Claude Julien his strolling papers.
Was it a shock transfer? Somewhat. The Canadiens made huge strikes in the offseason and began the season like gangbusters. But in latest weeks that success had slowed to a crawl. After shedding six of their final eight and three straight, together with two to the Senators, Bergevin made the first firing of the season. To be honest, that was in all probability the solely shock — that Julien was the first to go.
A bunch of bench bosses have been rumored to be on skinny ice for some time however nonetheless have jobs regardless of their golf equipment nonetheless struggling. With Julien now on the market, there could possibly be an inflow of coaches in search of work. Last yr, following the firing of Mike Babcock by the Maple Leafs, John Hynes (Devils), Pete DeBoer (Sharks), Peter Laviolette (Predators), Gerard Gallant (Golden Knights) and Bruce Boudreau (Wild) have been all let go earlier than the season completed. (Jim Montgomery and Bill Peters have been additionally fired, however for off-ice conduct.)
As the NHL approaches the 50-percent mark of this 56-game dash, the separation between the cream of the crop and the backside of the barrel of every division is minimal, however there are obvious points with the backside groups.
Here’s a take a look at 5 coaches who could possibly be pink-slipped subsequent.
Five coaches on the hot seat
(In alphabetical order.)
Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks
Record: 8-14-2, sixth in the North Division
Why: Canucks proprietor Francesco Aquilini could have given Green and common supervisor Jim Benning a vote of confidence again on Hockey Day in Canada, however what number of instances have we have seen that and somebody nonetheless will get the ax?
The Canucks went from one in every of the darlings of the summer season playoff bubble to the North Division basement. While the workforce has knocked in 67 targets (tied for third in the division), it has allowed 85 (second-worst). The energy play lacks the oomph it had final yr when it was 24.2 p.c efficient; in 2021, it is at 15.9. It additionally would not assist that the workforce’s heavy hitters — Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes — have struggled on each ends and in all conditions.
MORE: Canucks proprietor provides vote of confidence to Benning, Green
Here’s the factor, although: The Canucks have the potential to be one in every of the 4 groups to make the postseason from the North, however issues are simply not connecting proper now. An enormous a part of the cause is on the again finish. It’s evident that the lack of Jacob Markstrom, who completed fourth in Vezina Trophy voting final yr, left an enormous gap in internet; his huge stops lined up defensive lapses.
But the larger loss has been two defensemen who left in free company: Troy Stecher and, extra notably, Chris Tanev. The veteran Tanev was not solely a voice in the locker room but additionally the protection companion of rookie Quinn Hughes, who flourished final season and completed second for the Calder Trophy.
Without Tanev, Hughes’ common particular person shot makes an attempt at 5v5 per recreation have dipped barely from 2.66 to 2.42 whereas his particular person Scoring Chances For have seen a extra staggering drop, from 0.71 to 0.54 (per Natural Stat Trick). Hughes has additionally taken extra hits when on the ice at 5v5 with out his protector in Tanev, and the workforce’s anticipated Goals For when Hughes is on the ice in all strengths have gone from 82.16 to a cringy 30.2. If you need to take a look at the most simple of stats, he is minus-14.
Will Green be fired? It’s in all probability 50-50 when you think about the vote of confidence, the indisputable fact that Green’s contract expires at the finish of the season, the lack of initiative they’ve proven and how dangerous the workforce has regarded vs. how good it has additionally checked out instances. He could find yourself being the scapegoat, however the man who ought to actually get reduce is Benning for his roster development.
John Hynes, Nashville Predators
Record: 11th of September-0, sixth in the Central Division
Why: Hynes was anticipated to come back in and shake up the Predators, who have been struggling final season underneath then-head coach Peter Laviolette. Instead, there’s nonetheless a scarcity of twangy goodness in Nashville as the Predators proceed their poor play in 2021.
Since Hines has taken over, the workforce is 31-31-1 over two seasons, which is not nice when you think about the expertise on the workforce, together with 2020 Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi. But as with a variety of other gamers — notably Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Ryan Ellis — Josi has struggled to place up factors and the workforce general has regarded misplaced at instances.
The Predators have one of the best Corsi For percentages in the NHL at 5v5 and is ranked second in the Central Division (53.51). It’s nice that they’ve 121 extra shot makes an attempt than their opponents however when these 922 shot makes an attempt translate to simply 491 pictures on purpose and solely 28 targets, it is not nice. At 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick, the workforce has only a 43.75 Goals For share. And issues are not any higher with the man benefit (16.9 p.c); the solely workforce worse in the division is the Red Wings.
After shedding three straight (one to the Panthers and two to the Lightning), the Predators have reverted to the previous dependable state: inconsistency. Win one, lose two. Win two, lose one. Not nice for a membership in the identical division as the two groups that performed in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, plus the Hurricanes and Panthers.
Will Hynes be fired? Maybe, however the query then is: Who would are available in?
Ralph Krueger, Buffalo Sabres
Record: 6-9-3, eighth in the East Division
Why: Another season of hockey in Buffalo. Another disappointing season of hockey in Buffalo. Another disappointing season of hockey in Buffalo the place the name for the head coach to be fired is ringing.
Things seemed to be wanting up for the Western New York membership when the workforce introduced in Taylor Hall to enhance the likes of Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner. Instead, simply shy of 45 days into the season, Skinner is a frequent wholesome scratch and there are rumors Eichel, who’s out with a lower-body damage, is on the commerce block.
Buffalo has scored a division-worst 42 targets thanks to 3 shutouts and three video games the place they’ve buried only one puck. Considering that is a 3rd of the workforce’s video games performed, it is comprehensible why they’re the place they’re. But here is a enjoyable truth: They have the finest energy play in the East (32.8 p.c).
The schedule hasn’t helped the Sabres, which might clarify their lackluster effort. They have not had a lot relaxation attributable to a COVID-19-related pause in video games and coaching, and they do not have two consecutive days off till April 4-5.
You can blame the schedule all you need, however each workforce has powerful stretches with the season being compacted and impacted by the pandemic. The largest eye-opener for the Sabres: Hall has one purpose, Eichel has two and Skinner has zilch. That will not reduce it.
Will Krueger be fired? Who is aware of, however the Pegulas do like to fireside folks (i.e., Jason Botterill and Chris Taylor) so they could pull the set off.
David Quinn, New York Rangers
Record: 7-8-3, sixth in the East Division
Why: The Rangers have a few of the prime younger expertise in the NHL in Adam Fox, Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller and netminders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. They even have 2020 Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and somebody who could have hit 50 targets final yr had the season not been halted in Mika Zibanejad.
Sounds nice, proper?
Well, as an alternative, this workforce has struggled with consistency — and it was evident from the soar when it opened the season with a 4-0 loss to the Islanders and then adopted it up with a 5-0 win over the identical workforce two nights later. Like his predecessor, Alain Vigneault, Quinn has struggled with in-game changes, and as with 2019 second general decide Kaapo Kakko, there are questions on how he’s using and creating Lafrenière. The first general decide in 2020 has been spectacular at each stage however solely has two targets and an help in 18 video games. He additionally has not spent sufficient time taking part in with the top-tier expertise he must be profitable in his first season.
Outside of Friday’s six-goal explosion in opposition to the Bruins, the Rangers have struggled on offense. Entering that recreation, they’d simply 42 targets, tied for sixth in the division with Buffalo regardless of averaging 31.4 pictures on purpose. They additionally had the division’s worst energy play (15.1 p.c) however the most shot makes an attempt (205) with the man benefit (they went 1 for 4 in opposition to Boston).
What ails the squad, in keeping with (*3*), is 5v5: 48.70 Corsi For share (seventh in the East), 48.64 Scoring Chances For share (sixth) and a 78.57 High-Density Save Percentage (sixth).
Will Quinn be fired? The one constructive for Quinn is that this workforce does seem to indicate up for video games; it simply cannot get on the board. Zibanejad is snakebitten, which does not assist, particularly with Panarin taking time without work for private causes. He might nonetheless be on a brief leash, which is why veteran bench boss Jacques Martin was introduced in when Lindy Ruff moved throughout the Hudson River to the Devils in the offseason.
Geoff Ward, Flames
Record: 10-10-2, fifth in North Division
Why: It has been eight years since Miikka Kiprusoff manned the crease in the Saddledome, and it has been equally lengthy since the Flames had a dependable netminder. This offseason, GM Brad Treliving went out and grabbed the prime free-agent goalie on the market in Jacob Markstrom, spending a boatload ($36 million over six years).
That transfer, together with a sprinkling of other newcomers ought to have despatched the message that the time is nigh to be a Stanley Cup contender. It seems as if that message didn’t make its means from the GM’s workplace to the locker room.
Inconsistency has been the key phrase for the Flames this season. The lineup has clicked on all cylinders a handful of instances, however most of the time it has regarded atrocious from puck drop. Entering Saturday’s recreation with Ottawa, Calgary had scored a North Division-worst 12 targets in the first interval and allowed nearly double that whole (23). (It did outscore Ottawa 3-1 in the first interval.) The solely interval during which the Flames have a constructive purpose differential is the third, and they’re simply plus-2 after Brady Tkachuk’s tally. Not a terrific look once you’re being outscored 47-38 in the first two frames.
And whereas they could come flying out of the gate at instances, as soon as they go down in the opening 20 their document is 4-8-0, or 33 p.c. It’s even worse when trailing after two durations (1-9-0). That mainly interprets to: There’s no get-up-and-go, there is not any depth, there is not any combat from this group when issues begin or get onerous. Ward struggles with in-game changes too, and whereas he has used the previous blender in latest video games, he is nonetheless not discovering the proper combos.
One factor Ward can do is attempt to fireplace up lightning rod Matthew Tkachuk, who just lately put the onus on himself for the Flames’ poor play. The membership’s prime point-getter final season (61 factors in 69 video games) has been just about nonexistent this yr (16 factors in 22 video games). He did present some chew in the Flames’ two video games in opposition to the Leafs this week (one win, one additional time loss) however he wants to guide by instance and carry that each evening.
Will Ward be fired? Ward has only one extra yr on his deal and the Flames have made a variety of teaching adjustments in the previous couple of years. How many? Well, contemplate this: Captain Mark Giordano is on his eighth head coach in 15 seasons with the membership. It wouldn’t be look if yet one more coach is proven the door.
Having stated that, if the workforce exhibits the identical effort — or lack thereof — that it confirmed Thursday evening in Ottawa, he simply could also be the subsequent one to go.