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Which NHL coaches are on the hot seat?

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The 2017-18 NHL season was a bit of an oddity due to the fact there were no in-season coaching changes for the first time since the 1966-67 season when the league still consisted of only six teams. Typically there are usually a handful of teams that, at some point in the year, decide they are in need of a new voice or a new direction in an effort to shake something up.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it is meaningless — but it still usually happens. Given the history of the league it seems highly improbable that we will go through a second consecutive season without a chance behind the bench somewhere around the league.

On Tuesday, the folks at Bovada released some odds on who the first coach fired this season could be and they put odds on some big names in the coaching ranks. Some that might be truly coaching for their jobs early in the season, and some that just seem … odd.

First, Bovada’s odds…

  • Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers: 11/5
  • Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators: 12/5
  • Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks: 11/4
  • Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings: 19/2
  • Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks: 19/2
  • Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers: 20/1
  • Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers: 30/1
  • Mike Yeo, St. Louis Blues: 30/1
  • Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs:  66/1

I think there are a couple of names that we can cross off the list already.

Mike Babcock, for example, isn’t going and the fact that there are any sort of odds on him seems a little outrageous. His recent coaching resume is certainly up for debate and should be scrutinized a little more than it has been, but his job security seems pretty rock solid at this point. Honestly, I would go as far as to say that his job is as safe as any coach in the league at this moment.

I also don’t know if I buy Bob Boughner being in any sort of danger, at least not right now. He is only entering his second season, and the Panthers were one of the hottest teams in the second half of the 2017-18 season. Maybe if the team misses the playoffs again he will be in some danger after the season, but not during it. He deserves a longer leash than that and should get it.

[Related: Bob the Builder: Panthers’ coach putting his stamp on things]

Boucher and Blashill are in tough spots because they are coaching teams that everyone knows has little — if any — chance to compete this season. They might very well be on the hot seat, and it is really difficult to imagine either one being behind the bench of their respective team over the long-term, but they would definitely fall into the “it doesn’t really make a difference this season” category of coaching changes.

McLellan is the obvious choice at the top of the list. The Oilers were odds on favorites to win the Western Conference at the start of the 2017-18 season and completely fell flat on their faces. When you have the best player in hockey, one that is as close to a slam dunk lock as you can get to win the scoring title, and a legitimate MVP candidate every single season you do not get a terribly long leash. Especially when there are high expectations for him and the team that have consistently not been meant. McLellan has missed the playoffs twice in three years with McDavid and their first game to open the 2018-19 season was more of the same.

Quenneville is a tough one because his resume is as complete as any coach in the league. But the Blackhawks are coming off of their first non-playoff season in nearly a decade and have not advanced beyond the first-round in three years. Professional sports are definitely a “what have you done for me lately” business, but if you are going to fire a coach with that sort of track record you better be darn sure you are getting a clear and definitive upgrade. Is that coach available?  A fast start (which the Blackhawks definitely have had) would erase all doubt about his job security. At least for now.

Yeo and Carlyle seem to be in a similar situation, where they are coaching good teams (or what should be good teams) but more is probably expected of them. Within that group you could probably add another name that does not show up on the list: Minnesota’s Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau is an outstanding coach and has had success everywhere he has been. But at some point the management behind a good team gets tired of just being good enough to compete and not taking enough steps toward a championship. That has been Boudreau’s undoing in every stop. It was also the same thing that happened with Yeo in Minnesota. And Carlyle in his previous stops.

Hakstol, like the team he is coaching, is the true wild card on the list. This is his fourth season in Philadelphia and the team has been pretty much the same in every season. They’ve averaged around 95 points in the standings, they made the playoffs twice (and got bounced in the first round each time) and missed the playoffs once. If everything goes right his team could be outstanding. If a few things don’t go right his team could be what we saw on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. It largely comes down to what he gets out of his goalies and his young defense, which is pretty much what makes or breaks every coach in the league whose job security is on the bubble. Nothing in this sport makes or breaks a coach like a goalie can.

With all of that in mind, which coaches are in most danger early in the season and could potentially be the first one changed? My rankings would go as: 1. Todd McLellan, 2. Guy Boucher, 3. Jeff Blashill, 4. Dave Hakstol, 5. Randy Carlyle, 6. Bruce Boudreau, 7. Mike Yeo, with Quenneville and Boughner being extreme long shots and Babcock not even being worth discussing.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Kane’s streak hits 19 games

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Three Stars

1. Anthony Mantha

This edition of three stars will consolidate a would-be top six into three. Go ahead and play some thematic Judas Priest.

While the Red Wings fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Blackhawks, Mantha was the most impressive part of a great effort by Detroit’s top scorers. Mantha generated a whopping four assists, also firing a robust seven shots on goal. The massive winger’s really been assertive lately, as he’s fired 20 SOG in his past three games. Even Alex Ovechkin thinks Mantha’s being a handful for goalies, right?

(As a bonus, three of Mantha’s four assists were primary ones.)

Dylan Larkin probably ranks as the real second star, but let’s just mention him in the Mantha entry. Larkin scored two goals and one assist, and actually topped Mantha with nine SOG. Lakin now has 58 points in 60 games, leaving him just five away from last season’s career-high of 63.

Andreas Athanasiou rounded out that dominant output from that top Red Wings line with two goals, including the one that sent that game to OT.

2. Carl Soderberg

You have to grasp straws to make much of a difference between the most productive Avs of the night, as both Soderberg and Tyson Jost enjoyed one-goal, two-assist Wednesday evenings as Colorado crushed Winnipeg 7-1.

Soderberg’s numbers are slightly better, though. Soderberg’s plus/minus (+4) was one up from Jost’s +3, and Soderberg fired five SOG to Jost’s 3.

If the likes of Soderberg and Jost can take the heat off of top scorers Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, that the Avalanche become pretty scary. (That combo was pretty deadly in their own right on Wednesday, though.)

3. Erik Gustafsson

It’s tempting to name Patrick Kane as the third star of the night, at least while “Breaking the Law” here with actually-a-more-than-top-three.

Let’s consider this the last double-starring, then, because Gustafsson generated more points (three, all assists), while Kane scored two nice goals, including a swaggery OT-winner.

We’ll get deeper into Kane’s honestly kind of mindblowing achievements later on, so this seems like a nice opportunity to note that the Blackhawks have unearthed another gem in Gustafsson. The 26-year-old somehow has 41 points in just 58 games this season. While his 12 goals come from some luck (11.4 shooting percentage, which is very high for a defenseman), you can also clearly see that he’s a slick, creative player.

Gustafsson’s assist on Kane’s OTGWG illustrates that, so enjoy these highlights:

The Swede is now the first European-born defenseman in Blackhawks history to break the 40-point barrier in a single season.

Highlight of the Night

The Nate Schmidt goal that sent Bruins – Golden Knights into OT probably takes the cake for the best goal of Wednesday, but enjoy the full highlights of that game for your trouble:

Questionable hit

Should Cal Clutterbuck receive supplementary discipline for this hit?

Factoids, Kane on fire edition

Patrick Kane didn’t just extend his point streak to 19 games, he did it with aplomb. Kane scored two goals against the Red Wings, including the overtime game-winner.

When you think of a 19-game point streak, you probably picture quite a few games where a player barely gets there, like having one hit during an epic baseball streak. Instead, Kane keeps knocking it out of the park; he has an astounding 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points. That’s more than he managed during a longer 26-game point streak earlier in his career, when he managed 40.

There are other ways to break up Kane’s red-hot streak. He also has an 18-game road point streak going; only six different players have enjoyed longer road-runs.

Kane’s now at 350 goals for his career, and his 920 points is the most for a U.S.-born player through their first 12 seasons.

Scores

CHI 5 – DET 4 (OT)
COL 7 – WPG 1
CGY 4 – NYI 2
BOS 3 – VGK 2 (SO)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins increase chances of home-ice with 7th win in a row

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The Boston Bruins are pushing to begin the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with home-ice advantage, likely against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even if that doesn’t pan out, at least the Bruins have been red-hot on the road, too.

It wasn’t easy, but the Bruins made their four-game road trip a perfect one by slipping by the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in a shootout. This pushes the Bruins’ current winning streak to seven games, and they’ve also generated at least one point in 12 consecutive contests.

Boston generated two one-goal leads in Wednesday’s game, but the pace was often frenetic, and the Golden Knights refused to go down without a fight. This splendid Nate Schmidt goal sent the contest beyond regulation:

The Bruins were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty during the overtime period, but Patrice Bergeron made some key plays and Jaroslav Halak cleaned up the rest to force the contest to what would end up being a lengthy shootout.

Ultimately, the Bruins won, and strengthened their lead over Toronto for the Atlantic’s second seed, although the Maple Leafs hold games in hand.

Bruins: 36-17-8, 80 points in 61 games, 34 ROW
Maple Leafs: 36-19-4, 76 points in 59 GP, 36 ROW

The Maple Leafs would need to win their two games in hand to tie the Bruins from a points perspective, while they’d lead in ROW even if both of Toronto’s wins came via shootouts. That could very well happen, but this Bruins surge certainly increases the odds of a potential Game 7 taking place in Boston instead of Toronto. For all we know, that could make an impact on what is setting up to be a fantastic first-round series.

Boston made a significant tweak on Wednesday by trading Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-rounder for Charlie Coyle, possibly strengthening their depth in the process. This outcome reminds the hockey world that they’ve been pretty outstanding even when their top-end players have to do most of the heavy lifting.

More on that Coyle – Donato trade.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sabres GM fires down talk of firing coach Housley

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Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill gave head coach Phil Housley the “vote of confidence” on Wednesday.

In an interview with reporters including The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington and The Athletic’s John Vogl, Botterill said that he is not looking to make a coaching change.

“We’ve made progress as an organization compared to last year. We’ve been in a position where we’ve been in games,” Botterill said. “I see the results on the ice. I see the communication that we’re going through here. There’s not going to be a coaching change.”

No doubt about it, there are Sabres fans who are frustrated with a team that looks like it will see a playoff drought extend to eight seasons. Buffalo also hasn’t won a playoff series since 2006-07, having lost in the first round in their two postseason appearances since.

Still, Housley hasn’t exactly had a ton of time to turn things around.

That 10-game winning streak and brief spell at the top of the NHL’s standings raised expectations, so seeing Buffalo trail eight-seed Columbus by six points stings. It’s probably not much comfort that the Sabres have already exceeded last season’s 62 points by generating 63 standings points in 59 games.

Such an improvement comes from a lowly point, no doubt, but it’s fair to argue that Housley might deserve one more season.

This is only Housley’s second campaign with the Sabres, and it’s tough to ignore the instability this organization has struggled with. Housley joins Dan Bylsma, Ted Nolan, and Ron Rolston as the fourth coach the Sabres have hired since dismissing mainstay Lindy Ruff in 2013. Botterill’s also only been in place since 2017, so a big front office change would serve as a pretty sudden swerve.

On one hand, you don’t want to keep doing something that isn’t working, and plenty will argue that the Sabres would be guilty of exactly that if they stuck with Housley behind the bench.

On the other hand, when you look at some of the most troubled organizations in sports, a big chunk of them seem to keep changing regimes. For all the benefits that can come with new methods and voices, it can be rough on players, whether that means useful contributors getting shipped out for the sake of change, or merely incumbent players having to learn new systems and connect with new coaches.

With Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin leading the charge, there seems like some light at the end of the tunnel for Buffalo. Like it or not, it seems like Botterill is giving Housley more time to prove that he can be the vehicle who can transport this franchise out of that darkness.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Patrick Kane powers another Blackhawks win

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Patrick Kane is unstoppable right now, and he continues to bring the Chicago Blackhawks with him.

Chicago couldn’t have been happy to see a 4-1 lead evaporate into a 4-4 tie against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Overtime provided another opportunity for Kane to exert his dominance, though, as he netted the overtime game-winner.

Not a bad way for Mike Tirico to end his first NHL foray:

With that, Kane’s now on a 19-game point streak, and even if it was just for a little while, the Blackhawks climbed into a playoff spot. The Avalanche bumped them back out of the top eight by clobbering the Jets 7-1 later on Wednesday, but the difference is small enough that Chicago can gain some confidence.

With two goals, Kane’s ridiculous run is at a mind-boggling 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in those 19 games. That’s absurd stuff, even by the standards of this high-scoring season.

This isn’t his longest point streak ever, but it is Kane’s most explosive.

Kane’s now at a scorching 92 points in 60 games. Those 92 points stand as Kane’s second-highest ever, and with Chicago having 21 games remaining, his career-high of 106 from 2015-16 being in sight. The milestones continue to pile up, as Kane now sits at 350 career goals and eight OT tallies.

The Blackhawks improved to 26-26-9 on the season, giving them 61 points (25 regulation/overtime wins) in 61 games. The Blackhawks slipped back to outside the second wild-card spot, but the goal is within reach.

WC 1: Stars: 29-25-5, 63 points, 59 GP, 29 ROW
WC 2: Avalanche: 25-24-11, 61 points, 60 GP, 25 ROW

Blackhawks: 26-26-9, 61 points, 61 GP, 25 ROW
Wild: 27-27-6, 60 points, 60 GP, 26 ROW
Coyotes: 27-28-5, 59 points, 60 GP, 24 ROW
Canucks: 26-27-7, 59 points, 60 GP, 23 ROW
Ducks: 24-27-9, 57 points, 60 GP, 21 ROW

As you can see, the Avalanche have the same number of points and ROW, while holding a game in hand over Chicago. The Blackhawks also don’t have much of a buffer ahead of Minnesota, among the other bubble teams.

Even so, it’s pretty surreal that Chicago’s even in this spot, as they’ve won 10 of their last 12 games. You could say they’re almost as hot as Kane himself.

More: Could Blackhawks be a threat if they make the playoffs?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.