Top 5 NHL coaches on the hot seat

Lindy Ruff was fired by the Buffalo Sabres this season. (AP photo)
February 14, 2013, 11:27 AM

In today’s world there is no such thing as job security.

This is especially true when it comes to the NHL.

If a coach has a great season one year and has trouble the next, he could end up on the unemployment list. If a coach has trouble with his team at the wrong part of the season, he could end up being canned like former New Jersey Devils’ head coach Robbie Ftorek.

In a shortened season, the leash is likely shorter for an NHL coach if he is struggling to get his team to win hockey games. Every game means something and every point that slips away is a dagger to the team’s chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five head coaches who could be on the hot seat if they don’t turn things around sooner rather than later.

Adam Oates, Washington Capitals

When the Washington Capitals hired Adam Oates in the off-season, everything was supposed to change for the better.

Lead by captain Alex Ovechkin, the team’s offense was once again going to be a powerhouse and light up the scoreboard night in and night out. The club’s goaltending tandem of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth was supposed to be one of the best in the NHL.

However, through the team’s first 13 games, this has not been the case. In fact, as I am writing this, the Capitals have the worst record in the Eastern Conference and are tied for the worst record in the entire league.

Ovechkin has been extremely quiet on the offensive front and the goaltending has been dreadful. If this keeps up, Oates may not last very long behind the bench in D.C.

Claude Noel, Winnipeg Jets

Last season was essentially a warm-up season for the Winnipeg Jets.

Being back in Winnipeg for the first time, team head coach Claude Noel and his hockey club worked on being competitive, bringing in sellout crowds every home game and making sure that those same fans would be back supporting them this season. The team has definitely succeeded in doing that.

Where the team has not succeeded, however, has been on the ice. Last season, the team finished eleventh in the Eastern Conference and eight points out of the final playoff spot.

The Jets might find themselves in the same position as last year if they do not shape up fast. The club is currently eleventh in the Eastern Conference at 5-6-1 and while that is not terrible, it does show just how inconsistent the Jets really are.

If Noel cannot figure out how to get his team to play winning hockey on a consistent basis, he might find himself without a job either in the near future or at the end of this season.

Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres

There is no doubt that when it comes to looking at the best coaches in the NHL, Buffalo Sabres’ bench boss Lindy Ruff will always come up in the topic of conversation.

Ruff has helped the Sabres get into the postseason for a number of seasons, got his club to within two games of winning their first Stanley Cup in playoff history, and is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the league. If his team keeps playing like they are now, he may no longer be with the only organization he has ever been a head coach for.

In 14 games, the Sabres are 5-8-1, which has them in the twelfth spot in the Eastern Conference. This year was supposed to be the year that Ruff would get his team to come together and become offensively balanced and defensively all the while getting back into the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, neither of those things have happened. As of this article, the Sabres are the worst defensive team in the league and not giving their netminder, Ryan Miller, any help.

While it would certainly be a sad day to see Ruff go, it might be something that has to be done to wake this team up and get them to be the playoff contenders that they used to be.

Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche

Going through a rebuilding process is always tough for an NHL team.

Right now, this is the case for the Colorado Avalanche and their head coach Joe Sacco. Without the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Rob Blake, Alex Tanguay, and so on, the Avalanche are no longer the perennial Western Conference powerhouse that they used to be.

This team is younger and certainly going through more growing pains this season. Through 11 games, the Avalanche are 4-6-1 and are really having trouble on the road with a 1-4 record.

While patience is sometimes a good thing, how long will that kind of thing last in Colorado? This is a team that won Cups in 1996 and 2001 and go to the Western Conference Finals in 1997, 1999 and 2000.

If Colorado cannot start looking like a playoff team sooner rather than later, it may be time for the Avalanche to bring a new boss behind the bench to change things up.

Todd Richards, Columbus Blue Jackets

Let’s face it – things have not been good in Columbus since Ken Hitchcock was replaced by Claude Noel in 2010.

Two years later, current Blue Jackets’ head coach Todd Richards could find himself in the same position, especially now that the team has a new general manager.

At 4-7-2 and in 13th in the Western Conference, it might even surprise people that a coaching move has not already been made.

The Blue Jackets are struggling in all areas of their game. The team’s offense struggles with consistency and does not score enough goals to win hockey games on regular basis.

The team’s defense is still young and making a lot of mistakes and when it comes to the club’s goaltending, it just is not good enough to make the Blue Jackets a winning hockey team. Even with Sergei Bobrovsky, the team’s struggles lay between the pipes as Bobrovsky has not been his best yet and Steve Mason has yet to find the form that made him so successful in his Calder Trophy-winning season in 2009.

It might be time for new President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, to make a bold move, just like he did by bringing in the first European-born to be the general manager of his Blue Jackets’ hockey club.

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