The 2017-18 NHL season will come to an end this weekend and barring some last-minute decision, no head coach will have been fired; that’s something that hasn’t happened since the league expanded in 1967.
It’s a rarity that no coach has been canned, despite the calls for management to take action in a handful of markets. But general managers have decided to use a little patience and ride out the full 82-game schedule without seeking a new voice behind their bench.
Patience can swing in different ways, however. Remember when Philadelphia Flyers fans were calling for Dave Hakstol’s head as the team went through a long losing streak earlier this season? GM Ron Hextall wasn’t having any of it, and now they’re on the verge of a playoff berth. Then there are places like Calgary, Dallas, New York and Carolina where head coaches stayed put and left fans wondering if their seasons would have gone in an opposite direction had a change been made.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
The NHL has seen 34 in-season coaching changes over the last nine years, and since we’re likely to see zero this regular season, what does that mean for next week once those teams who’ve missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs reassess their futures?
Darren Dreger was on the NBCSN pre-game show Wednesday night and listed 10 NHL head coaches whose seats are feeling pretty warm these days.
• Glen Gulutzan, Calgary Flames – In a conversation with Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun, GM Brad Treliving wasn’t going to speculate on the future of his head coach after a season that saw the Flames tumble out of a playoff spot in the second half.
“That’s an easy thing in sports to do — the first thing is to look at the coach. I think we’ve got a good coach,” Treliving said. “We’ve got some good players, but we’re all subject to scrutiny when a season goes like this.”
Gulutzan has an 81-67-14 record in two seasons in Calgary. He only got two when he was in Dallas. Will Treliving give him a little more rope?
• Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes – New owner Tom Dundon has already started making his mark on his team, moving Ron Francis from the GM’s chair to president of hockey operations. A search for a new GM is under way, but will Dundon wait until that position is filled before making a decision on Peters? Peters has one year left on his contract and reportedly has an “out” in his deal. It’s hard to believe he’d walk away from what’s believe to be a $1.6 million salary, but the new boss can’t be happy with the team’s lack of progress the last few seasons.
• Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars – Another disappointing season in Dallas will lead with questions about the future of the head coach and GM Jim Nill. Since his first tenure with the Stars ended in 2002, Hitch has had a bit of a shelf life as he moved on to three other organizations before returning last summer. Is he a one-and-done? The Stars were expected to be improved this season but a second half collapse could change owner Tom Gaglardi’s plans.
• Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings – Three Detroit outlets reported last week that not only will GM Ken Holland be back next season, but so will Blashill, who has a 104-104-36 record and one playoff appearance in three seasons with the Red Wings. The franchise is in a bit of a transition phase right now and letting Blashill ride out his contract — he has one year remaining — might be the way to go.
• Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers – Is it McLellan’s fault that Connor McDavid‘s all-world season is being wasted because of the lack of talent surrounding him? Nope. That blame falls on one person’s shoulders only.
• Doug Weight, New York Islanders – Time after time, loss after loss, you can see the frustration in Weight’s face during his post-game media scrums. The Islanders can score at will, but can’t keep the puck out of their own net. There will be no playoffs for the second straight season and summer looms with John Tavares eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and a question of whether owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky will bring GM Garth Snow back.
• Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers – The Rangers threw in the towel in February to let the kids get experience for the future. But with Henrik Lundqvist still under contract for three more seasons, now is not the time for a tear-it-all-down rebuild. With plenty of cap space to fill this summer, Vigneault could be given time to coach into next season, but possibly on a short leash.
• Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators – The Erik Karlsson decision is first and foremost for the Senators. Will he stay or does he want to go? Is he OK with Boucher returning as head coach? What is GM Pierre Dorion’s vision for the future and does it include being aggressive in free agency and the trade market this summer? There are many questions to be answered in Ottawa.
• Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals – GM Brian MacLellan was quietly given an extension last month, but Trotz is still without one with an expiring deal after the season. What will keep him safe? Will reaching the conference finals be enough?