NHL Coaches: Who’s Job is on the Line?

Published by Mark on Monday, November 15, 2010 — View Comments

Lindy Ruff has been head coach for the Buffalo...

As we approach the 20 game mark in the NHL, a better picture of how teams are doing has emerged. And for those teams not doing as well as expected, often times the call goes out for a coaching change. We’ll look at where the rumbles are coming from.

The west is actually quiet in terms of coaching changes. And that is due to the west being very tightly packed points-wise. Few teams are in trouble as yet.

As of Friday, November 12, Edmonton sits last in the conference. However, Edmonton only installed Tom Renney behind the bench over the summer, replacing Pat Quinn. And with Hall, Eberle and Paarjarvi playing, fans of the Oil may well be thinking another lottery pick would look better than a short playoff.

The real problem is just down the road in Calgary, who are 14th. The Flames have been inconsistent, sitting at 7-8-0. All in all, fans wonder what exactly the Sutter Brothers have planned for this team going forward. It’s a strange mix of decent young players like Giordano, Bouwmeester, White, Bourque and Glencross, a couple guys like Stajan who really never lived up to their billing, and then a group of aging or seemingly declining players in Tanguay (30), Jokinen (31), Hagman (30), Conroy (39), Staios (37), Regehr (30) and Morrison (35). Also, after many season and having trouble offensively, some wonder if it was time Iginla was moved to try to rebuild this team. And all of it makes one wonder how long the Sutters will last if the team does not start climbing in the west.

In the east, Montreal and Ottawa have turned things around sufficiently to quell any coaching issues.

The Islanders sit last, though reports are Scott Gordon’s job is safe. A young team, Gordon has the advantage of a star in Tavares, and some time to allow the team to grow. Rick DiPietro remains a question in terms of whether he’ll ever be the goalie he was made out to be. If the current nine-game losing streak is extended much further, things may change, but for now, Gordon is seen as a guiding hand for a possible up-and-coming team.

In New Jersey, first year coach John MacLean has heard his name mentioned, but he survives because of the colossal mess the Devils are. No room under the salary cap. Dressing less than 18 players for some games. An underperforming Kovalchuk. Injury to Brodeur, and a more serious injury to Parise. In his first year, MacLean can hardly be held accountable for the 14th place standing the Devils find themselves in.

In Buffalo, Lindy Ruff, one time captain of the Sabres, became only the 3rd man to coach 1000 games with the same team in the NHL. And the first to do it with the team that he coached his first NHL game with. But the Sabres have had a hard time this season. After Ryan Miller being called the best goalie in the NHL, the Sabres stumbled out of the gate, then Miller went down with injury. The loss of Tallinder and Lydman, replaced by Morrisonn and Leopold, seems not to have worked as well as hoped. However, a few points recently, and the love for Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff in Buffalo have bought some reprieve. If the Sabres can’t make the playoffs, the time may come for a new direction. But Ruff seems to have earned enough respect that it likely would not happen until the off season.

Which brings us to Toronto. After raised expectations of a 4-0-1 start, the Leafs have lost 10 of 11. The focus has shifted squarely to Brian Burke, who assembled much of the current roster, and Ron Wilson. Wilson’s style is somewhat abrasive at the best of times, but when the team is not winning, even fans sometimes find it hard to defend the guy. With no trades imminent, the Leafs offence falling apart, and a number of poor defensive plays, many are wondering what can be done to return the Leafs to even something resembling the early form. And many are saying the coach has to go. Burke says he does not intend to fire Ron, but with Kadri being called up (a move Burke claimed he would not make), many wonder how many options are left for a Toronto team that was supposed to be in the mix for that 8th Eastern Conference playoff spot.