Scott Arniel

Will 2011-12 break record for most coaches fired in a season?


Coaches — they’re hired to be fired.

That’s the old adage, anyway, but it’s holding true as the NHL reaches the midpoint of its season. Seven coaches have been turfed already, two shy of the record first set in 1981-82, then matched in 2000-01.

Coaches relieved of their duties this season were Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Randy Carlyle (Anaheim), Terry Murray (Los Angeles), Jacques Martin (Montreal) and, most recently, Scott Arniel (Columbus). That’s seven coaches fired during the first-half of the regular season, a pretty staggering number.

But oddly enough, this season is shaping up a bit like the coaching massacre of 2000-01. That year, only two of the nine coaches dismissed managed to make it through all 82 games — Florida’s Terry Murray and Chicago’s Alpo Suhonen were canned shortly after missing the playoffs — meaning seven faced the guillotine during the regular season.

Pat Burns was fired by Boston after eight games, Montreal canned Alain Vigneault after 20, Craig Ramsay got 28 games in Philly before he bit the bullet and Craig Hartsburg coached 33 before Anaheim let him go. Steve Ludzik got to game No. 39 before Tampa gave him his walking papers and two coaches — Butch Goring (Islanders) and Don Hay (Flames) made it to games 65 and 68, respectively.

So…what are the chances of this year’s coaching death count getting to nine?

Slim, but not nil. The argument could be made that Islanders coach Jack Capuano is on thin ice, but he’s barely had a full year on the job. Same goes for Randy Cunneyworth who, barring an epic collapse, will get to finish the season in Montreal. The Flames could part ways with Brent Sutter if they fall out of the playoff picture (it’d be their third straight missed postseason) and so could the Leafs with Ron Wilson, especially if they fall short of the playoffs.

The wildcard in all of this is timing. Teams that did the business early in the season were able to hire coaches of their choosing — St. Louis got Ken Hitchcock, Carolina got Kirk Muller, Washington got Dale Hunter, Anaheim got Bruce Boudreau and LA got Darryl Sutter — while the teams that waited too long ended up with second choices. No offense to Cunneyworth in Montreal or Todd Richards in Columbus, but both seem like stopgap solutions (at best.)

Teams looking to make a change now might just wait until the season’s over, so they can conduct a more thorough search and have all potential candidates available.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.