Coaches dropping like flies, salvaging or sabotating?
By: Andy Palm, Columnist
We have already seen five head coaches lose their jobs so far in this NHL season, and we’re not even at the halfway point yet. For a multitude of reasons both on and off the ice, these coaches have been let go. So what does this mean for the teams who are now left with new coaches with more than half of the season left to go?
Toronto Maple Leafs – Salvaging
The Leafs were the first team to shock the league when they let go of head coach Mike Babcock. Toronto was left in the hands of the young up and coming coach, Sheldon Keefe. Early on, the reaction from the locker room to Keefe was very positive. A lot of team leaders felt the new direction would help the team and that his new vision would maximize the talent available in the north. At 17-14-4 (38 points) the Maple Leafs are on the outside looking in for the playoff race. They are three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final wild card spot in the East. When the Leafs fired Babcock, they did so with the belief that Keefe could give them a better chance to compete this season; not necessarily looking too deep into the future. With the roster they have, there is no doubt that this team could compete with anyone. The Toronto Maple Leafs made this move to salvage their season, the question is; will it be enough?
Dallas Stars – Sabotaging
It’s still unclear what really happened in Dallas that lead to Jim Montgomery being let go. The only information we’ve been given is that Montgomery was let go due to “unprofessional behavior.” This seems like it is 100% about an off ice incident, being that the Stars are having a fairly solid season as they stand at 19-12-4, which is tied for third in the central division. Dallas looked to be in contention for the western conference title this season, which is now very much in question. The move to fire Montgomery is bizarre, which leads us to believe his behavior off ice was extremely detrimental. What this could do to the rest of the team for the remainder of the season has yet to be determined. In my opinion, this move may cause the Stars to fall in the standings, therefore somewhat sabotaging a so far solid 2019-20 campaign.
New Jersey Devils – Salvaging
The firing of John Hynes was very clear, the team was trying to salvage their season. The Devils had a great offseason. Drafting forward Jack Hughes first overall, along with big time acquisitions in defenseman P. K. Subban and right winger Wayne Simmonds; the team expected to compete this year. So far it hasn’t gone to plan. They sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan division with only 25 points and are posting a -38 goal differential. The team is struggling and something needed to change. It may be too late for the Devils to really become competitive this year, but they can show progression. They just traded MVP-left winger Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes for two draft picks and three prospects. The team may continue to lose, but the future looks bright.
Calgary Flames – Just yikes
The Flames let go of head coach Bill Peters due to racial remarks he made in the past. This move needed to be made, and had nothing to do with the on ice aspect of things. Calgary is currently in the second wild card with 40 points, they’re a good team that fell victim to an unfortunate situation. This was not a move that will salvage nor sabotage this teams season, it was a move that had to be made.
San Jose Sharks- Salvaging
San Jose is a team that is in win now mode. They’re an older team and are looking to contend now. The status quo was not going to cut it. At 16-18-2, the Sharks weren’t necessarily bad, but they were underperforming. San Jose, much like the Maple Leafs, is looking for a new direction this season; in hopes it will lead to winning and success in the postseason. Peter DeBoer was a known quantity, and it was time to move on. The future could really go either way for San Jose, the same could have been said for the St. Louis Blues last year as well.
The number of head coach departures to begin this season has been absolutely shocking. What’s even more curious is that both Calgary and Dallas are playing fairly well this year. Having one coach dismissed over off the ice issues is bizarre in itself; to have two is unheard of. As far as other coaches on the hot seat, I think we are done with in season firings. Most teams have a specific direction at this point and are going to roll with what they have. It will be interesting to see how these five teams respond for the remainder of the season.