Coaches are hired to be fired. It’s understood within the business. Next season will be no different when it comes to NHL coaches being in danger of losing their jobs. There’s pressure on all coaches, but some enter 2015-16 with more than others. Here are a few that stand out for having the stove turned up past hot.
Ken Hitchcock: St. Louis Blues
Rumors of Hitchcock’s demise were swirling around him near the end of last season, but he has seemingly survived for one more go. The problem is that his Blues teams have had great regular seasons (two first place division finishes and two second place finishes), and yet he has only won one playoff round. With the Blues having won just one playoff series in the past 12 seasons, and Hitchcock not having been to a conference final since 2004, the pressure will be on for this marraige to all of a sudden work. We won’t know if it will until May.
Bruce Boudreau: Anaheim Ducks
Another coach whose regular season success can’t be argued with. So good, in fact, that more is probably expected of him in the playoffs than most coaches. His first appearance in the third round last season probably did more harm than good as the expectation for Boudreau … for the first time in his career … may be “Cup or Bust”. And keep this in mind: This is a coach that somehow got Teemu Selanne angry at him. That tells me that he has a shelf life. He spent five seasons in Washington, and coming up will be his fifth season in Anaheim. Anything less than a Cup Final might spell the end for Boudreau.
Jack Capuano: New York Islanders
Capuano’s shortcomings as a head coach have always been hidden by the lack of talent on the Islanders roster. But after his first over .500 season as a head coach (if you count overtime losses as losses, which they are), this will be his first off-season with real expectations. With a world class player in his prime leading the way in John Tavares, and the most solid blue-line they’ve had in years, the Isles are expected to build on their seven game loss to the Capitals in the first round last April. A slow start with this group could mean Capuano is the first head coach fired in 2015-16. (And my bet will be that he doesn’t make it to the 16.)
Todd Richards: Columbus Blue Jackets
Richards probably faces the same dilemma Capuano does, but to a lesser extent. The Blue Jackets couldn’t get going last season as they led the league in man games lost due to injury. With everybody back healthy and the addition of Brandon Saad, the expectation is there.
Asked a member of Pens’ front office about how good Columbus could be next season. The answer: “Scary.”
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) June 30, 2015
While I don’t think Richards is in any immediate danger with a slow start, a slow start with this group will at the very least start the whispers.
Mike Babcock: Toronto Maple Leafs
What, you thought you were going to get a grace period? A honeymoon? In Toronto? No no no no no no, not when you’re making more money per season on average than everybody on the team except for Dion Phaneuf. You will be expected to pull the team together, make them get along with the media and each other, turn Jonathan Bernier into Turk Broda, and win the Leafs their first Stanley Cup since 1967. All in the month of October. Welcome to Toronto, Mike.
Mike Yeo: Minnesota Wild
A fast finish and playoff victory might have saved him after an epic blowup in the middle of the year. The blowup might have been the turning point. If they revert to pre-tantrum levels, Yeo’s on his own.
Claude Julien: Boston Bruins
Almost unfair to Julien. But after a coach survives a GM change and gets a new roster to play with (limited as Bruins fans think it might be), he’ll be in the crosshairs next.