Last year, we survived an entire NHL season without a coach being fired. It was pretty nice, actually. Now a quarter of the way through 2018-19, the count is already at four.
The Los Angeles Kings started things off by firing John Stevens earlier this month, followed by the (more surprising) departure of Chicago’s Joel Quenneville. The Blues (Mike Yeo) and Oilers (Todd McLellan) also decided to shake things up with coaching changes, and when you look around the league it seems like we could be seeing a few more fall.
This is never a fun topic to address, but it’s a story worth watching as struggling teams look to switch things up and spark some success before it’s too late to get in the race.
Here are a few seats that look like they might be heating up.
Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks
Record with ANA: 99-57-31
It’s hard to get a proper read on the Ducks through the first quarter of the season, as injuries have struck early. Corey Perry is two months into his long-term stint on injured reserve with a knee injury, defenceman Cam Fowler is expected to miss an extended period of time with a facial fracture, and Hampus Lindholm is out with a lower-body ailment.
In his second stint in Anaheim — his first began with him leading the club to its first-ever Stanley Cup in 2009 — Carlyle inherited a team that had finished atop the division four straight years and looked poised to contend for the Cup. They came close in 2016-17, but were swept the following year and appear to be trending in the wrong direction and lack a real identity. This is a talented team that could be due for a shakeup.
Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
Record with PIT: 138-74-26, two Stanley Cups
It’s been almost three years since Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford replaced Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan and sparked a thrilling sprint to the 2015-16 playoffs. Sullivan guided the team from ninth in the Eastern Conference on the day of his hiring all the way to the Stanley Cup, then led the Champs to a second straight title the following year. After keeping their playoff streak alive with their 12th straight post-season berth last spring, the Penguins have fallen flat through the first quarter of 2018-19 and currently sit at No. 14 in the East with an 8-8-4 record as the rest of the league appears to have caught up with their fast-paced style of play — and are beating them at their own game. Rutherford stirred things up by trading Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings for Tanner Pearson, but the recent move to place starting goaltender Matt Murray on injured reserve suggests the issues here go beyond the bench.
Currently struggling through a 2-7-2 stretch since Oct. 30, the Penguins are in dangerous territory already and must find a solution or risk missing the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby’s rookie year.
Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers
Record with PHI: 131-96-40
Now in his fourth season behind the Flyers’ bench, Hakstol is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the NHL. Yet, with two first-round playoff exits on his resume, the club hasn’t been able to make much progress under his guidance.
So far, this year doesn’t look much different as the Flyers continue to be one of the league’s most frustrating teams with lots of talent that just can’t quite reach their full potential. The 9-10-2 Flyers are currently on a four-game losing streak after a relatively promising start to November but have lacked consistency and accountability. Add in a struggling Eagles team, and Philly’s not the most fun place to be these days. At least they’ve got Gritty to lighten the mood.
Gritty on Twitter
Practiced for days #thankful https://t.co/iVpI5dUrDt
Rick Tocchet, Coyotes
With the exception of the penalty kill, this team can’t seem to get out of the rebuilding stage. Another season near the bottom of the standings has us wondering how long Tocchet will have to right the ship.
Guy Boucher, Senators
This is a tricky one, as no one expects the rebuilding Senators to contend this year. Still, it’s too soon to say whether the roster overhaul will also include a change behind the bench.
Bob Boughner, Panthers
After a horrendous start to the season, the Panthers may have (sort of) found their footing. A recent five-game win streak suggested they may be turning things around but the Panthers are still a bit a mystery this year.