Two months since the first NHL coach firing of the season and three weeks since victims number five and six were given the ax, Ken Hitchcock's St. Louis Blues remain the best performers, with the Los Angeles Kings under Darryl Sutter not far behind.
It's been exactly two months since the first NHL coach firing of the season (Davis Payne fired by the St. Louis Blues), six weeks since the second wave of firings (Bruce Boudreau in Washington, Paul Maurice in Carolina, Randy Carlyle in Anaheim), less than a month since the pre-Christmas wave (Montreal fired Jacques Martin, Los Angeles fired Terry Murray), and about a day since Scott Arniel in Columbus became the latest to fall.
How are these teams doing under their new coaches? Well, it's a mixed bag.
The Blues were not only the first ones to strike in firing Payne after just 13 games -- they're also the team that has seen the most post-firing success, under replacement Ken Hitchcock. Other teams have not been as lucky, but several of them also lack the roster quality Hitchcock inherited when he took over.
Still, given a chance to adjust to new systems, a few teams have now shown at least modest improvement: When we last checked on the Replacement Coach Standings in mid-December, only the Blues had actually seen an increase in points percentage under their new coach.
Now however, Hitchcock's Blues are joined by Darryl Sutter's Los Angeles Kings, Kirk Muller's Carolina Hurricanes and Dale Hunter's Washington Capitals in at least seeing some improvement since their firings.
The Anaheim Ducks are picking up points at virtually the same rate under Boudreau as they did under Carlyle, while Cunneyworth's Canadiens are still performing worse than they did under his predecessor.
No doubt, it's the language.
2011-12 REPLACEMENT COACH STANDINGS
|Team||Fired Coach||Pre-Firing||New Coach||Post-Firing||Diff.|
|Davis Payne||6-7-0 (.462)||Ken Hitchcock||18-5-5 (.732)
||13-12-4 (.517)||John Stevens* Darryl Sutter
||2-2-0 (.500) 6-1-3 (.750)
||8-13-4 (.400)||Kirk Muller
|Anaheim Ducks||Randy Carlyle||7-13-4 (.375)||Bruce Boudreau||5-9-2 (.375)||0
||12-9-1 (.545)||Dale Hunter||9-8-1 (.528)||-0.017|
|Montreal Canadiens||Jacques Martin||13-12-7 (.516)||Randy Cunneyworth||3-6-0 (.333)||-0.183|
|Scott Arniel||11-25-5 (.329)||Todd Richards||0-0-0||n/a|
*John Stevens was interim coach for the Kings. Though full-time replacement Darryl Sutter's .750 points percentage is an uptick of +.233 over the difference between Terry Murray's .517 and the Kings combined performance under Stevens-Sutter represents a +.161. As these percentages start to flatten out, we'll convert this ranking to points earned per game.
Hitchcock's Blues and Sutter's Kings (and any team, really) can't keep this rate of success up for the entire season. Nonetheless, before the season most observers would have told you those two rosters (and possibly the Capitals) were the best of this group, so the fact they've improved -- or rebounded to their expected level -- shouldn't be too surprising.
The Blues and Kings were already among the league's rising teams at the time they made their respective coaching moves. Odds are they'll be the best of this bunch when it's all tallied up after Game 82.