NHL Coaches Fired Left And Right; Are Teams This Bad At Hiring?

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 24: Head coach Jacques Martin of the Montreal Canadiens talks to the media after losing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 24, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There is no blueprint for success when it comes to hiring an NHL head coach, writes Bruce Ciskie. It's one of the hardest things an organization has to do.

There are six divisions in the NHL. There have been coaching changes in four of them, and one of the others, the Northwest, has two coaches -- Joe Sacco in Colorado and Brent Sutter with Calgary -- who should be at least considered as possibilities before the season is over.

(To be fair, it might be hard for some to imagine Jack Capuano coaching the Islanders next season if they continue to be terrible, but it is his first full year with the gig. Perhaps there could be some patience in order for him. I have to think the others in that division are safe at this point, though you never really know with Torts, eh?)

The latest bomb fell north of the border Saturday, where Jacques Martin was dumped in favor of -- for now -- assistant coach and former NHLer Randy Cunneyworth. It makes six coaching changes in a 30-team league, and we're not even halfway through the season yet.

Oh, and of the other 24 teams, seven of them changed coaches during the 2010-11 season, at the end of the season, or both. That's 13 teams in the NHL changing coaches in less than 15 months.

Why are teams so bad at hiring coaches?

Well, part of the problem is the competitive environment we're living in. 16 of 30 teams -- more than half -- make the playoffs every year. Even if you try to account for a few spots, assuming the likes of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, and maybe a few others are going to make it virtually every year, there are spots available on an annual basis.

(With all due respect, there's no way teams like Phoenix, Montreal, or even Buffalo can count themselves as having that kind of reputation.)

This puts incredible pressure on franchises for immediate results. Teams like Florida, trying to build around younger players, need to at least show improvement, instead of being stuck in the mud. When that doesn't happen in a couple years, out goes Pete DeBoer, in favor of Kevin Dineen.

Florida wasn't indicting the process, as they again chose to hire an AHL coach with no experience running an NHL bench. Instead, this was an indictment of how the previous regime tried to build a playoff contender. With new ownership and a new general manager in Dale Tallon, the Panthers have built a legitimate playoff contender with Dineen behind the bench.

DeBoer, meanwhile, is doing a pretty good job in New Jersey, where the Devils tried an AHL bench boss in John MacLean to start last season. The fact that Jacques Lemaire finished the season should tell you how well that went.

Minnesota dismissed former San Jose assistant and AHL head coach Todd Richards after two rather mediocre seasons. The replacement? Former Pittsburgh assistant and AHL head coach Mike Yeo. That seems to be going all right, wouldn't you say?

St. Louis tried the "young coach who succeeded in the AHL" route with Davis Payne. Dallas took a shot at a retread in Marc Crawford.

Now, St. Louis has the retread, and Ken Hitchcock is doing Jack Adams-type work early in his Blues tenure. Dallas went the AHL route, hiring Texas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. Gulutzan is off to a superb start with the Stars, who are tied atop the Pacific Division after Sunday's games.

My point? There isn't a blueprint. There isn't a gameplan for success when hiring a coach. There isn't an easy way.

You can't just hire the guy who's won before and expect him to work miracles. You also don't have anything automatic by hiring the fresh face with the new ideas and a new way of doing things.

So it's not that NHL teams are terrible at hiring coaches. It just seems that way when you look at the raw numbers.

In essence, hiring a coach is one of the hardest things an organization has to do. It's right up there with finding a goalie, another science about as exact as blindly throwing darts at a board.

For teams like the Panthers, Winnipeg Jets (Claude Noel), and Wild, general managers look like absolute geniuses. But ask the bosses of teams like Montreal, who seemed to have a pretty good coach in Martin after he led them to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final, about how the honeymoon can come to a screeching halt.

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