Bring back or move on? Pondering the futures of 12 NHL coaches

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There are 10 days left in the 2021-22 NHL regular season, which means we’re approaching the time of year where teams make decisions on their current head coaches. Around the league, some are in charge on an interim basis; others are on expiring contracts; while a few may have term left but the on-ice results could lead to a change.

Let’s take a look at 12 NHL coaches and what the next few weeks and months might hold for their futures in their current jobs.


Andrew Brunette, Panthers
Martin St. Louis, Canadiens
Jay Woodcroft, Oilers

These three are easy, and it’s hard to imagine them not returning.

Brunette took over a 7-0-0 team from Joel Quenneville and has guided them to the top of the Eastern Conference and put them into the mix for the Presidents’ Trophy. The Panthers are Stanley Cup contenders and it’s only a matter of time before general manager Bill Zito lifts the interim tag and gives the 48-year-old a contract and the full-time gig.

St. Louis has breathed new life into the Canadiens during what was a dismal season. He’s 12-15-4 since taking over from Dominque Ducharme on an interim basis and his relationships with Vice President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton and GM Kent Hughes will likely lead to a return.

“I was brought in here to finish the season, so I’m going to focus on that,” St. Louis said last week. “Is my goal to be back next year? Yeah, absolutely. I don’t see many things why I wouldn’t be back, but you never know. But if I’m visualizing myself six, seven months from now, I see myself behind the bench. Until everything is concrete and stuff I’m going to stay the course of what I’m doing.”

Since Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett on Feb. 10, the Oilers have the fourth-highest points percentage (.703) and have improved greatly offensively. Edmonton is heading towards the playoffs and getting production from more than just Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Balance up front and better goaltending has put the Oilers in a good position as the First Round approaches.

Derek King, Blackhawks 

King took over from Jeremy Colliton on Nov. 6. The Blackhawks have gone 24-31-9, including losing 13 of their last 16, under his watch as the franchise goes through a transition phase. There will be no playoff hockey for the second straight spring. GM Kyle Davidson has a lot of work to do in the summer as he begins a rebuild and big questions will need to be asked of the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Given the expected changes, it doesn’t look like King will be the coach here going forward and Davidson’s next pick will give an indication of what type of roster he wants to construct for the future.

Dave Lowry, Jets

Speaking of franchises that need a refresh, Winnipeg has not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet but they’re on the verge of making it official.

Lowry was thrown into the fire following Paul Maurice’s surprising resignation in December. In 48 games the Jets have gone 22-20-6 and shown the roster needs a bit of a touch up. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to nail his next coaching hire as Winnipeg isn’t a team in need of a rebuild, but rather, some freshening up. Will experience be important for a team that’s typically been middle of the pack when it comes to average age or is there a long-time assistant out there (Lane Lambert, Kirk Muller) ready for a shot?

Mike Yeo, Flyers

A 15-32-7 record after replacing Alain Vigneault says it all in Philadelphia. The team is in need of a major injection of life in the post-Claude Giroux era. With management promising not a rebuild but an “aggressive retool,” does that mean another veteran coach should be in line to replace Yeo? Claude Julien is taking up as many Team Canada coaching jobs he can to keep his name out there, while former Flyers Jim Montgomery and Rick Tocchet are interesting options as coaches looking to do better their next gigs.

Canucks Boudreau
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Bruce Boudreau, Canucks

Since Boudreau took over from Travis Green on Dec. 5 the Canucks have 68 points in 51 games and have given themselves a chance at a playoff spot. They also have the sixth-best points percentage over that span (.667) — better than Pittsburgh, Calgary, Minnesota, and the Rangers.

But as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this month, his contract features an interesting wrinkle:

“He’s on a one-year contract and there’s an option for next year. Nobody will tell me exactly what it is but I think that I’ve kind of pieced it together, and that is that the Canucks have an option to keep him or not, but if they don’t, there’s a payment that has to go to Boudreau and also, Boudreau has an option not to return and if that was to happen, I don’t think he gets a payout but it would put him on the open market at the end of the year.”

Boudreau has said he loves the city and wants to stay. He’s certainly done enough to show that his voice was needed and it has worked. It’d be wise of GM Patrik Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford to want to continue this positive momentum into next season.

Rick Bowness, Stars

It’s been a weird ride for Bowness in Dallas. He replaced Montgomery on an interim basis in Dec. 2019, took the team to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, and then was given a two-year extension. This season, Dallas was looking out of it in January but has gone on a 24-12-3 run since Jan. 20. They are in the thick of the Western Conference Wild Card race and have a four-point lead on Vegas with six games to go (and a game in-hand).

It could have been easy for GM Jim Nill to let Bowness go at any point earlier this season, but he stuck with Bowness and now the two will have to have a conversation this summer about the future. It could simply boil down to what the 67-year-old Bowness wants in the end.

John Hynes, Predators

The Predators are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot during a season that’s seen a number of offensive turnarounds on the roster. Matt Duchene (77 points) and Ryan Johansen (58 points) are having bounce-back seasons; Filip Forsberg has career highs in goals (38) and points (75); and Roman Josi is having an other-worldly year (88 points). There is language in Hynes’ contract that allows the Predators to pick up an option for next season and when you look at the consistency in some of the management positions within the organization since they entered the NHL, it seems like a no-brainer he’s back for at least one more year.

jeff blashill
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Jeff Blashill, Red Wings

Blashill was given a two-year extension last spring, but this season will mark six straight years without playoff hockey. The Red Wings are 201-258-72 with him in charge and the only consistency he’s delivered is in losses. This season Detroit has only won three straight games once and have five losing streaks of four games or more. Let’s not forget fans have started the “Fire Blashill” chants at Little Caesar’s Arena.

There have been bright spots — Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond — but the time given to have the roster take steps forward under Blashill has passed. It has to be in GM Steve Yzerman’s plans to install a new coach who can further the development of the core of his team and not have them stagnate as the franchise continues its rebuild. Playoffs doesn’t have to be the No. 1 goal for 2022-23, but you want to see improvements up and down the roster that can be attributed to better coaching and a better system.

Bob Boughner, Sharks

How does Doug Wilson stepping down as GM and the potential of an outside hire coming in to take over the full-time job from Joe Will affect Boughner’s standing? He signed a three-year contract in 2020 and has a 64-82-22 in charge since replacing Peter DeBoer. Does the new GM keep everything in place for one season to evaluate or is there enough seen already to choose going in a different directon behind the bench?

Lindy Ruff, Devils

Sometimes a coach can only take a roster so far before a replacement needs to come in and take them further. That’s the feeling with New Jersey. While they were hamstrung by goaltending issues this year, the likes of Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, and Dawson Mercer give hope for the future. But a minus-46 goal differential is more than just who’s between the pipes.

Ruff has 782 career NHL wins as a head coach. He also has 765 total losses in 19 years behind the bench. The Devils have made the playoffs once in 10 seasons. If nothing changes, nothing changes.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers trade Pride-night boycott defenseman Provorov in 3-team deal

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Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Ivan Provorov, sending away the defenseman who boycotted the team’s Pride night as part of a three-team trade that included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings.

The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Provorov lands in Columbus and is set to enter the fifth season of a $40.5 million, six-year contract. He was the centerpiece Tuesday of the first major move under new Flyers’ leadership.

There were plenty of moving parts in the three-team deal.

— Philadelphia traded Provorov and forward Hayden Hodgson to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans and the Kings’ 2024 second-round pick. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs.

— Columbus acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton from Philadelphia in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick (22nd overall) and a conditional second-round pick in either the 2024 or 2025 NHL Draft. Columbus acquired Provorov from Los Angeles in exchange for Connauton.

The Flyers already hold the No. 7 pick in this season’s draft and now also have the 23rd pick as they start accumulating key assets for long-range success in what is expected to be a deep draft.

Flyers general manager Danny Briere had said no player was untouchable after the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and went to work with the Stanley Cup Final still underway. The Flyers named broadcaster Keith Jones team president last month and he is still working the Final for TNT. But it’s clear the overdue rebuild is underway for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 48 years.

“We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting,” Briere said. “We have a chance to really start building the team the way we wanted. The right way.”

Briere said the Flyers are “open for business” this summer and that included potentially listening to offers for No. 1 goalie Carter Hart. Coach John Tortorella, Briere and Jones have all tempered offseason expectations for any fan looking for a quick fix. The trio all insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future.

Provorov had 65 goals and 217 points in 532 career games with the Flyers. The Russian was widely criticized in January when he cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in pregame warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape.

“I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

Now, he’s traded during Pride month.

Briere said the backlash over Pride night had nothing to do with trading Provorov.

The Blue Jackets, who missed the playoffs this season, were ready to take a flier on a defenseman seemingly with many productive years ahead.

“Improving our blue line has been a priority for us and acquiring Ivan gives us an established left-shot defenseman who is still a young player with his best seasons in front of him,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He immediately improves our group on defense as he is durable, has great skill, skates well, is an excellent passer with an accurate shot and can effectively play at both ends of the ice.”

Provorov said at the end of the season he wasn’t necessarily happy the Flyers planned to rebuild but understood the decision. Briere declined to say if Provorov wanted out of Philadelphia.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing,” Provorov said in April. “Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that’s what determines the length of the rebuild.”

Turns out, the potential success out of the haul the Flyers got for Provorov just may determine the length of the rebuild.

Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

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LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

“I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

“They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

“We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

“He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

“We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

“I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

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MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.