As some coaches prepare their players for a big post-season run, others might soon be packing their bags.
The 2016-17 campaign saw a fair number of firings and hirings—Florida, St. Louis, Montreal, Boston, and the Islanders all made mid-season coaching changes—and all signs point to several more teams participating in the coaching carousel this summer.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said he believes we’ll be seeing “a pretty significant number” of new hires this off-season, starting with the NHL’s newest team.
“Among the things that we’re keeping an eye on, Las Vegas still has to hire a coach,” Friedman said during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “George McPhee hired Dale Hunter to coach his Capitals in 2011. I believe he reached out and asked Dale Hunter, ‘would you be interested in being the first coach of Las Vegas?’ Dale Hunter said no, he’d like to stay in London.”
Hunter has coached the London Knights since 2001-02, and has had continued success with the OHL powerhouse.
He served as a mid-season replacement in Washington in 2011-12 and took the Capitals into the playoffs with a 30-23-7 record before returning to London the following season.
Another team looking for a new coach is the Florida Panthers, who replaced Gerard Gallant with Tom Rowe back in November. The club took a nosedive this season, and Rowe won’t be back behind the bench.
“Florida’s already said it’s going to make a change, I think a couple of guys they’re going to at least look at: Jim Montgomery at the University of Denver, and I think Dallas Eakins is a guy they’re going to take a look at, too,” Friedman said.
As the Headlines segment aired, Montgomery was behind the bench of the top-seeded Pioneers as they battle Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA men’s hockey National Championship.
Eakins’ only NHL head coaching stint was with the Edmonton Oilers. He was unable to find success with the struggling club, coaching them to a 29-44-9 record in 2013-14 before being replaced part way through the following year. Eakins is currently coaching in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls, affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
According to Kelly Hrudey, the Los Angeles Kings might also be keeping an eye on the coaching market as the Darryl Sutter era may be coming to an end.
“I’m hearing Darryl Sutter might not be back with the Kings,” Hrudey said.
The Kings haven’t looked like the same heavyweight team that won two Stanley Cups in three years (2012, 2014), and weren’t able to break into the post-season picture this year. Sutter took the reins midway through the 2011-12 season.
Hrudey believes the speed of the game today is simply too much for the Kings.
“They’re having these discussions about style of play. Is it Darryl’s style that just doesn’t work in today’s game, with the speed and so on, or is their organization that they put on those kinds of players?” he said. “I’ve covered them twice in the last eight days, and I don’t know if that group can play fast enough.”