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Randy Cunneyworth, Dale Hunter Remain Weakest NHL Coaching Replacements

The Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens had winning records at the time of their coaching changes, and thus have realized the smallest benefit from firing their coaches in 2011-12.

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There is a theory that NHL coaches are fired when their team's luck is at its lowest, so their replacements inevitably get a boost when luck finally swings back the other way. Losing streaks are bound to end, and are bound to find their winning counterpart over an 82-game season.

That may explain why Randy Cunneyworth and Dale Hunter have had the weakest impact among the teams that fired their predecessors this season.

Of the seven NHL teams that have fired their coaches in 2011-12, Cunneyworth's Montreal Canadiens and Hunter's Washington Capitals were two of the three that had winning records at the time of the change. No surprise, then, that the Capitals' points earned per game has gone down in the 41 games since they fired Bruce Boudreau, as have the Canadiens in the 32 games since they fired Jacques Martin.

The true gem of the replacement coaches, just as it was last time we checked on the replacement coach standings, is Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues. Bruce Boudreau -- fired by the Capitals only to be picked up by the Ducks days later -- is not far behind.

Below are the seven fired coaches' records this season followed by their replacements, ranked by the difference in points earned per game.

Team Fired Coach Pre-Firing
Pts/GP New Coach Post-Firing (Pts/GP)
Pts/GP Diff.
STL Davis Payne 6-7-0 0.923 Ken Hitchcock 33-10-7 (1.46) +0.537
ANA Randy Carlyle 7-13-4 0.75 Bruce Boudreau 20-13-6 (1.18) +0.429
CAR Paul Maurice 8-13-4 0.8 Kirk Muller 16-13-9 (1.08) +0.280
LAK Terry Murray 13-12-4 1.03 Darryl Sutter* 14-9-8 (1.16) +0.131
CBJ Scott Arniel 11-25-5 0.659 Todd Richards 7-13-2 (.727) +0.068
WAS Bruce Boudreau 12-9-1 1.09 Dale Hunter 20-17-4 (1.07) -0.017
MON Jacques Martin 13-12-7 1.03 Randy Cunneyworth 11-18-3 (.75) -0.272

*John Stevens, interim Kings coach between Murray and Sutter, had a 2-2-0 record not reflected here.

Kirk Muller's Carolina Hurricanes had nowhere to go but up after firing Paul Maurice after an 8-13-4 start. Likewise, Todd Richards' Columbus Blue Jackets were bound to improve -- if only a little bit -- after their 11-25-5 start under Scott Arniel.

Of the three teams with winning records when they fired their coaches, the Kings haven't gotten much better under Sutter, the Capitals have not gotten better under Hunter and the Canadiens have only gotten worse under Cunneyworth.

Maybe the lesson is that unless your team is bottoming out, changing coaches is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.