The first pink slip has been handed out.
Just 12 games into the 2021-22 NHL season, Jeremy Colliton was sent packing after the Blackhawks started with a disastrous 1-9-2 record. Yep, one win. It’s a bit of a shocker after the team spent the offseason trading for some high-caliber guys such as Seth Jones and 2021 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-André Fleury. But things obviously have not gone as planned and it was becoming more and more obvious a change was needed.
Now comes the question: Who is next? Usually, when one guy goes the rest of NHL’s general managers start evaluating how things are going with their club — and there are a number of teams underperforming.
Last season, the Canadiens’ Claude Julien was the first bench boss sent packing with Geoff Ward (Flames) and Ralph Krueger (Sabres) following close behind. At the end of the season, three guys — Rick Tocchet (Coyotes), John Tortorella (Blue Jackets) and David Quinn (Rangers) — also were gone either via firing or not having contracts renewed.
As the NHL approaches the quarter-mark at the end of November, the separation between the cream of the crop and the bottom of the barrel of each division could force things to be switched up. Remember, the Blues (2019 Stanley Cup champs), Stars (2020 Stanley Cup finalists) and Canadiens (2021 Stanley Cup finalists) all made mid-season tweaks the year they went on runs.
Here’s a look at four coaches who could get the ax next.
Four NHL coaches on the hot seat
(In alphabetical order.)
Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
Record: 4-5-1, sixth in the Central Division
Why: Expectations are high in the Mile High City, and that’s not only coming from outside the organization. While a number of pundits have predicted the Avalanche to raise the Cup at the end of the year, the team is also aiming for Cup or bust. Yes, they did lose No. 1 netminder and 2021 Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer on the opening day of free agency, but this is a team that has future multi-Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar, perennial Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has a Calder. Aside from that trio, there’s also Mikko Rantanen, Bowen Byram and, when he is finally healthy, Pavel Francouz. Thus far, things have not gone as scripted in Colorado. Although it’s just a few games in, losses in October can affect a spot in May.
Will Bednar be fired? Probably not — for now. Bednar will get the leeway to fix things, but if it all goes downhill and they continue to maintain the non-playoff spot they have right now (tied for fifth for the wild card entering Nov. 8 games, yikes), there is a good chance GM Joe Sakic pulls the plug before the season ends.
Peter DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights
Record: 6-6-0, fifth in the Pacific Division
Why: Like the Avalanche, the Golden Knights are penciled in by many as a Cup hoister at the end of the year but, just like the Avalanche, the team has struggled. Last year, the Golden Knights had one of the best 5v5 Corsi For percentages in the NHL at 53.37; this year, despite not a massive shift in personnel, it is down to 48.77. They went from 53.29 percent Expected Goals For at 5v5 in 2021 to 46 this season (per Natural Stat Trick). Basically, the Golden Knights have struggled to not only control play but notch goals (-5 goal differential too). Obviously, having a number of big names miss time (i.e. Mark Stone, Zach Whitecloud and Max Pacioretty) and only nine guys playing in all 12 games hasn’t helped gel things either.
Will DeBoer be fired? Slotting in Jack Eichel should bolster the lineup, but the “savior” isn’t coming until after the Olympic break at this point. There’s also the question about the lineup after he — and his $10 million cap hit — are inserted. DeBoer should be around to see the new guy play, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess.
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Dominique Ducharme, Montreal Canadiens
Record: 3-10-0, eighth in the Atlantic Division
Why: The Canadiens may be coming off a Stanley Cup Final, but they were one of the worst teams during the regular season. They snuck into the playoffs as the final spot in the North Division and had the lowest points total of the 16 teams (the Stars and Rangers had more points and didn’t make the playoffs). Sure, this team doesn’t have Shea Weber on the blue line or Phillip Danault down the middle, and Carey Price has been out too, but no one was thinking they’d have just three wins in the first 13 games. How bad has it gotten in Montreal? The team has a minus-19 goal differential (third-most goals allowed with only the Blackhawks and Coyotes allowing more) and Calder Trophy contender Cole Caufield was sent to Laval.
Will Ducharme be fired? At this point, how can he not be?
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Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks
Record: 5-6-1, tied for sixth in the Pacific Division
Why: This is a coaches on the hot seat list so, of course, Travis Green is on it. Rinse and repeat, as the saying goes. The Canucks have been an up-and-down team to start off the season and already have a two-game and a three-game losing streak. But after a comeback overtime win against the Rangers and a 6-3 thrashing of the Stars (with a one-goal loss to the Predators sandwiched in between), maybe things are changing. Quinn Hughes continues to struggle at 5v5 (67th-best xGF at 5v5 among defenseman (6.96) with at least 150 minutes played), per Natural Stat Trick, but his power-play numbers (6.7 xGF, third best) continue to be key. Elias Pettersson hasn’t brought the thunder this season just yet, with two goals in 12 games, but with one of those markers coming Sunday against Dallas (in his first three-point effort of the season) maybe, just maybe, his tide has turned.
Will Green be fired? He just got a new deal in the offseason, so the likelihood is slim but the pressure is on in Vancouver to get things moving in the right direction.
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