With Claude Julien’s firing early Tuesday morning, the number of midseason NHL head coach dismissals increased to four this year. Gerard Gallant was the first in Florida after Thanksgiving, with Jack Capuano following in January, and Ken Hitchcock marking the first of February.
That brings the NHL’s total of fired coaches over the last 10 years up to 38, which according to the Associated Press Sports, is the most out of the MLB, NBA, and NFL in that span.
The next closest to the NHL is the NBA with 30, followed by the MLB with 25, and the NFL has had just 19 midseason firings over the last 10 years.
Those numbers don’t count the firings made in the offseason, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to any NHL fan that the total is so high. There are very few long-tenured coaches in the NHL, with Joel Quenneville in Chicago taking over the top position after Julien lasted almost 10 years.
It’s a rarity to stay that long in the NHL. Dave Tippett and the Coyotes have been together for seven and a half years, and Darryl Sutter has been with the Kings since the 2011-12 season. Of the current active coaches around the league? More than half of them, 18 to be precise, have been hired over the last two years.
The method actually has some merit to it, as three of the last eight Stanley Cup winners — the Kings and the Penguins twice — fired their coach during the season.
Still, why does the NHL have the highest coach turnover rate over the last 10 years? A case can be made that the NHL has the best sense of parity across the four major sports, and that the turnover stems from a constant reshuffling of the deck in terms of postseason success from year to year.
There’s no real concrete evidence to support the idea, but the recent firings have shown that even big names with strong playoff resumes aren’t safe. Two of the last three Jack Adams award winners were fired two or fewer seasons after winning the NHL’s Coach of the Year trophy.
With four coaches having gone so far through the 2016-17 season, the league has hit its average over the past 10 years. There may still be more coming, too, as the season rolls along, as teams that have suffered this year like the Avalanche might resort to drastic measures. In any case, not many NHL head coaches in this modern age can say with certainty that they have absolute job security.