The NHL season is not even halfway over, and 20 percent of the league's teams have fired and replaced their head coaches. Now, it's time to start tracking who panicked, who made the right move before it was too late, and who simply scapegoated the wrong guy for a bad team.
Former Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray is already not the latest coach to be fired -- just one win short of 500 on his career -- but he's the latest to have a replacement named: Kings general manager Dean Lombardi took his time wooing Darryl Sutter from the clutches of an existing contract with the Calgary Flames and the lure of the family farm in Alberta.
Some pundits say the rash of firings is because the alternative -- shakeup trades -- are too hard to make this early in the season. Others think the salary cap and shootout create both real and illusory parity throughout the league, meaning teams that are down on their luck have little hope nor time to test whether patience is a virtue.
Out goes the coach, in comes the hope.
That means it's time to track how these teams -- we're up to six and counting -- do before and after their coaching changes. Without further ado, here are the NHL Replacement Coach Standings. Guaranteed to change (and even add teams!) or your money back:
|Team||Fired Coach||Pre-Firing||New Coach||Post-Firing||Diff.|
|St. Louis Blues||Davis Payne||6-7-0 (.462)||Ken Hitchcock||12-2-4 (.778)||+0.316|
|Anaheim Ducks||Randy Carlyle||7-13-4 (.375)||Bruce Boudreau||2-5-1 (.313)||-0.062|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Paul Maurice||8-13-4 (.400)||Kirk Muller||2-5-1 (.313)||-0.087|
|Washington Capitals||Bruce Boudreau||12-9-1 (.545)||Dale Hunter||4-5-0 (.444)||-0.101|
|Los Angeles Kings||Terry Murray||13-12-4 (.517)||John Stevens*||1-2-0 (.333)||-0.184|
|Montreal Canadiens||Jacques Martin||13-12-7 (.516)||Randy Cunneyworth||0-1-0 (.000)||-0.516|
*John Stevens is interim coach. He will be replaced by Darryl Sutter for Thursday's home game versus the Anaheim Ducks.
So far, just one team has improved its points percentage since changing coaches, and it's the team that made the first move.
Granted, some of these new coaches have too few games under their belts to have even superficial fun with their percentages. But it's interesting that two of the worst teams to fire their coaches retain two of the worst records. (Perhaps it's the roster?) Meanwhile, the coaches with NHL-style "winning" records at the times of their firing have yet to shake the perceived funk that ailed them.
As for the best team after a firing? The Blue are simply flying under new coach Ken Hitchcock, but the dirty secret is they weren't that bad even when they fired Davis Payne. While Payne suffered from a tough early season schedule and awful goaltending, Hitchcock has benefited from a rebound by Jaroslav Halak, continued stellar play from Brian Elliott, and a friendlier schedule since he took over at the beginning of a homestand. Regularly outshooting opponents, the Blues were dominating at even strength before and after he took over.
That's not to say Hitchcock hasn't had a real effect tidying up the Blues' play; rather, he just had quite a bit to work with upon his arrival. His coaching peers might wish they were so lucky.