NHL Power Rankings: Coaching hot seat tiers for 2021-22 season

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the 32 head coaches around the league and how comfortable they should be feeling in their position for the 2021-22 season.

In other words: The hot seat rankings. We placed the head coaches in different tiers ranging from the safest and more secure jobs, to the coaches that might be feeling some heat for one reason or another.

Where does each coach sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

Tier 1A: Not going anywhere. New guys (Everybody gets a season)

1. Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken. Whether or not you like the decision to go with Hakstol is irrelevant. He is a first-year coach for a first-year expansion team. Expectations for this season are low and that makes him probably the safest coach in the league.

2. Andre Tourigny, Arizona Coyotes. Similar to Hakstol in the sense that he is a first-year coach on a team that is actively gutting its roster and reducing expectations for this season. Is he the right coach long-term? We will find out. But he is safe this year.

3. Brad Larsen, Columbus Blue Jackets. The big challenge here is what can he get out of Patrik Laine.

4. Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers. He has the most pressure on him among the new coaches because the Rangers have such high expectations this season, but he is also the most proven and best coach of the bunch. 

Tier 1B: Not going anywhere. Top coaches, performance related

5. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning. In his eight seasons with the Lightning the team has reached the Eastern Conference Finals/Semifinals five times, played for the Stanley Cup Final three times, and has won the Cup in each of the past two seasons. As safe as you can get for an established coach.

6. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league under Brind’Amour and he just signed a new contract extension. He is safe.

7. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders. He is, quite honestly, the face of the Islanders right now and has helped completely change the culture of the team. He is going nowhere no matter what happens this season.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

8. Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche. If Colorado fizzles out in the First or Second Round maybe the Avs consider a change after the season, but I can not envision an in-season change.

9. Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers. The Panthers have real expectations this season and a roster that can compete, and that can be dangerous for a coach if the team underachieves. But Quenneville’s resume and track record keeps him safe.

10. Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild. It would take a massive regression and absolutely disastrous season for a change here.

Tier 2: Extremely safe, probably not going anywhere

11. Dominique Ducharme, Montreal Canadiens. That Cup Final run is going to buy him a lot of time even if the Canadiens struggle to repeat that success this season. And they probably will.

12. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins. Cassidy has been great for the Bruins and the team should still be a contender. Are you going to get a better coach than him right now?

13. Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals. The Capitals are still a Cup contender and they do not really make knee-jerk reactions with their coaches.

14. Peter DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights. The results should be good enough to keep him secure but the Golden Knights have proven to be the most ruthless, cutthroat organization in the league when it comes to making changes.

15. Darryl Sutter, Calgary Flames. Sutter is a giant in the Flames organization and they just brought him back. I am not ready to say he is completely safe, but it would be a shock if he went anywhere anytime soon.

Tier 3: Getting a little warmer

16. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues. Not that Berube has done a bad job, but every year a coach gets away from their championship the shorter the leash gets. The Blues have lost in the first-round two years in a row. Maybe he is not in danger yet, but he could be getting close.

17. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been a wildly successful coach in Pittsburgh, but their past three playoff performances have been disappointing and the current front office did not hire him. They have no loyalty to him.

18. Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils. It would be a major shock if Ruff got fired within his first two years, but the Devils spent major money this offseason and have an emerging superstar in Jack Hughes. They need to show some real progress this season.

19. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets. He is one of the longest tenured coaches in the league with a mixed bag of results. He always seems to be on the hot seat, but the Jets winning a round in the playoffs probably bought him some time.

20. Rick Bowness, Dallas Stars. There should be reasonably high expectations in Dallas this season, and if they fall short early in the season a change seems at least like it could be something that is discussed.

21. John Hynes, Nashville Predators. The Predators’ roster is weaker than it was a year ago and they needed Juuse Saros turning into superman to get into the playoffs.

22. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs. It feels like everybody’s seat in Toronto is getting warmer. The coach. The general manager. Star players. Time to do something.

23. Don Granato, Buffalo Sabres. He is entering his first full season, but the Sabres seem like they are set to embark on a disastrous season. I am not sure he will be the fall guy for it. But you never know.

24. Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks. He just signed a multi-year extension this offseason. They like him and think they are closer to competing than they might actually be. This seems like an “after the season” change if one happens.

25. Todd McLellan, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings should not have any delusions about competing this season, but they should expect some progress.

Tier 4: Danger zone

26. Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers. He is highly regarded, yes. But the Oilers have two MVPs in the primes of their careers and could not even win a single playoff game against the Jets. Nobody’s job in this organization is — or should be — totally secure.

27. Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers. To be honest, this probably depends on which version of Carter Hart the Flyers get this season.

28. D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators. I really have no idea what sort of coach Smith is and neither do you, mostly because he has been given the task of leading a young, rebuilding team that is starting from scratch. Tough situation to win in, and the losing will almost certainly continue this season.

29. Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. Like Smith it is impossible to accurately evaluate Blashill because of the rosters he has had to work with. Still, in six years the Red Wings have one playoff appearance with him and have missed the playoffs five years in a row and almost certainly going on six years. Not many coaches get to keep coaching a team that long.

30. Dallas Eakins, Anaheim Ducks. The problem in Anaheim is probably more centered on the front office, but GM Bob Murray seems invincible. That is probably bad news for the coach.

31. Bob Boughner, San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are trending in the wrong direction, have a lot of problems on the roster, some bad contracts, and have missed the playoffs two years in a row. Recipe for a change if things start slow.

32. Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks’ only playoff appearance the past four years (including three with Colliton) was the bubble season where they had the NHL’s 23rd-best record. They spent a ton of money this offseason, increased expectations, and still have a thin roster that looks nothing like a contender. Classic case of a team that might “disappoint” and make an early change.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.