Making sense of the coaching hot seat: Who’s really on it?

Willie Desjardins talks about Nazem Kadri’s hit on Daniel Sedin and Ryan Miller standing up for Troy Stecher.

Peter Laviolette needed all of three games to get fired by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013. In 2014, three different teams axed their head coach in the month of December. Last fall, John Tortorella replaced Todd Richards in Columbus on Oct. 21.

One week into November, we have yet to see a coaching casualty, but we are certainly entering the period where the temperature gets cranked.

Pink-slipping the coach is rarely the fair decision, but it’s the easiest response when things go south. And one need only look as far as the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (who replaced Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan on Dec. 12) to realize that, yes, an in-season coaching change can turn your team around.

Trendy pre-season hotseat picks like Tortorella and Montreal’s Michel Therrien have their teams exceeding expectations, and other recent candidates like Boston’s Claude Julien (injuries aplenty) and Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice (rookie goaltending) would be hard to blame for their clubs’ slow starts.

The high-hopes Florida Panthers sit last in the Atlantic Division, but Gerard Gallant can’t take the fall for having four of his top nine forwards injured. Carolina’s Bill Peters is stuck with the most questionable goaltending tandem in the league, a lack of offensive weapons, and a very young defensive core. Arizona (4-7-0) is rebuilding, its No. 1 goalie is out, and president/coach Dave Tippett is unlikely to can himself. Calgary (5-8-1) and Colorado (5-6-0) already made off-season coaching changes, and disappointing Nashville (3-5-3) can’t fire Laviolette one month after signing him to an extension, right?

So that leaves us with just two head coaches we believe are feeling the most pressure to win to save their jobs, and both of them have been reported as safe for now.

Fun twist: Their teams, both mired in a losing slump, play each other tonight.

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders

Coming off their first playoff series victory in 23 years, the Islanders were supposed to be a team on the rise. Despite the questionable ice and bad sightlines at Barclays Center, the new ownership was saying all the right things, and superstar captain John Tavares would tell anyone who asked that he sees no reason to leave.

Then the Islanders had an October to forget.

Losers of three straight, New York (4-6-2) is giving up more shots than it takes and its minus-5 goal differential is better than only Carolina in the Metropolitan Division. The penalty kill and power play both rank a miserable 24th overall, and probably won’t get much better with top-pair defenceman Travis Hamonic sidelined four to six weeks with a broken right thumb.

Home attendance has dropped from 86.2 per cent capacity last season to an alarming 78.2 per cent — third-worst in the NHL. Only Carolina and Arizona are worse off in this category, and those are warm-city rebuilding teams expected to be bad.

The Islanders are awkwardly carrying three goalies, hoping to trade one, and the absences of departed free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin are glaring.

“Where are we gonna get point production from? We took 134 points out of our lineup that we lost. Now we gotta find a way,” a frustrated Capuano told reporters after Thursday’s shootout loss at home to Philadelphia. “Everything gets magnified. I get it.”

That Philly loss came on the heels of a nationally televised 6-1 home blowout by the Lightning. “Fire Cappy! chants rained.

Still, the longest-tenured coach in the division is reportedly safe for now, and it’s hard to blame Capuano for injury woes or a major investment in a 30-year-old Andrew Ladd (zero goals, one assist in 12 games).

Here’s the most damning case against Capuano: The bench boss is on pace for three post-season appearances and just one playoff series win in seven seasons. His career standing points percentage coming into 2016-17 sat at .540. Only eight current coaches have a worse success rate, and none of them have held their current job for more than two and a half seasons.

Capuano does not have a contract for next season, according to

Willie Desjardins, Vancouver Canucks

“When losses pile up, everybody gets on the hot seat,” Desjardins said this weekend. “I think that’s a common thing for the league. And it’s a fair thing; it’s not unfair. Especially when you’re not scoring.”

The losses, they are a-mounting. The Canucks’ eight-game losing trench is the worst of 2016-17, and the only good news here is that the Canucks draw the similarly tense Islanders Monday night.

Desjardins has some good excuses. Two of his best defencemen, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, are hurt. The splashy free agent signing of Loui Eriksson is still looking for his first goal. The Canucks’ defence has actually improved significantly from last season, and their PDO (i.e. puck luck as math) ranks as the NHL’s second-worst (.963), meaning some wins will come.

Desjardins appears affected by his team’s nonexistent offensive production. The Canucks’ 1.58 goals per game is the worst in the league. Ditto the 7.7 per cent success rate of the power play.

“There’s a lot of people thinking with this recent losing streak that Willie Desjardins may not even make the end of this road trip,” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported on Hockey Night in Canada. “But I can tell you that his job is safe for now.”

GM Jim Benning has been charged with rebuilding on the fly — a Sisyphean task in the salary-cap era — and keeping the locals engaged in the waning Sedins Era. Benning has yet to pull his fire-the-coach card, and Desjardins still has another year after this one on his contract.

“I like the structure we’ve played with,” Canucks president Trevor Linden told The Province. “I think we’ve played well. We haven’t scored. Willie would need a long stick from where he’s standing.

“I look at the chances we’re giving up, the shots we’re giving up this year as compared to last year, and I think we’re a better group. I think we’re playing with better structure.”

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