NHL: 5 Head Coaches on the Hot Seat Early in 2013
Peter Laviolette Leads Possible Exodus of Head Coaches
After watching the first 10 days of the 2013-14 NHL season, it is utterly clear there is a huge sense of urgency throughout the league, even if this season is playing under a full 82 game schedule instead of the shortened 48-game slate of 2012-2013. This urgency has resulted in a level of excitement throughout the league from players, fans, coaches and front offices that is hard to duplicate, but equally hard to feel secure under.
The result of this is that the start of the season has produced a number of classic games and performances -- Tomas Hertl's four goal effort against the New York Rangers immediately comes to mind -- as nobody wants to get left fighting back into playoff contention as the season progresses. Fans have clearly reacted to this positively, as the average attendance of 18,052, or 98.2 percent of capacity, throughout the league would serve as the greatest attendance figures in league history.
But while this step up in play as a result of the urgency of garnering points has been great the viewer, it has also served as a very scary prospect for many head coaches within the league who now fear for their jobs. Case one of why this fear is very real comes through Peter Laviolette, now formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Despite only being three games into the season, Laviolette became the first victim of the race for points in the NHL, as the Flyers fired him after an 0-3 start. Laviolette had been the head coach of the Flyers for the previous four seasons, guiding the team to three playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup Final appearance, a good amount of success for any franchise. This tenure was not enough to save his job though, and should strike some fear into some coaches who feel secure because of their historic contributions.
Knowing that teams are invariably anxious in the race for playoff spots it seems likely that Laviolette will be joined in the coming weeks by other coaches looking for new jobs. With this in mind, I have formed a list of the five head coaches on the hot seat early in the 2013-14 season.
5. Adam Oates
During the Washington Capitals first five games of the 2013-14 season, the team has been utterly dominant on the power play, with a 35.3-percent rate of scoring with an extra man. This would seemingly be a good reason to keep Adam Oates in town, but forgets that in the NHL you have to keep the other team from scoring in addition to scoring. The Capitals have not been very efficient at this, as the team has allowed 3.8 goals per game on its way to a 1-3 record. When it is considered that the Capitals have been discarded in the playoffs in recent seasons largely due to defensive failures serious questions are being formed about Oates ability to get the team to commit in both ends. History has shown that Capitals owner Ted Leonsishe is not afraid to fire a coach after a poor start,he did so in 2007 and 2011, leaving only so much time for Oates to get this ship turned around.
4. Barry Trotz
After serving as the Nashville Predators head coach since the franchises inception, conventional wisdom would seem to be that Barry Trotz will leave town when he wants to. But after a disappointing 14th place finish in the Western Conference during the 2012-13 season and a 1-3 start to the 2013-14 season it seems that Trotz simply is not getting the most out of his players any longer. In 2013-14, the Predators rank 20th or worse in goals scored, goals allowed, power play percentage and penalty-kill percentage, displaying that no unit has been remotely successful. Tenure will only get Trotz far with continued poor results in each end of the ice.
3. Dallas Eakins
With a young and talented cast that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov, it stands to reason that the Edmonton Oilers should be at the very least be fighting for a playoff spot. Through the first four games the team has simply not looked prepare for this fight though, letting up 4.8 goals per game on the way to a 1-3 record that has put Dallas Eakins' job in danger. Despite Eakins only being hired in June it would be no surprise to see Edmonton pull a quick trigger, as the franchise discarded three coaches in the last four years on the basis that they could not translate young talent into wins.
2. Ron Rolston
With an NHL worst 0-4-1 record and a -9 goal difference, there is no doubting that the Buffalo Sabres have been awful during the 2013-14 season. Even for a Sabres team that prior to the season was not expected to finish higher than eighth place in the Eastern Conference this has been a disappointing result, and undoubtedly put Ron Rolston's job in jeopardy. Fans in Buffalo are already beginning to call for Rolston's job, and with each loss dwindling any chances of Ryan Miller returning past this season it is likely that before long management will decide a change is necessary.
1. Alain Vigneault
Prior to the 2013-14 season it was expected that the New York Rangers appointment of Alain Vigneault would serve the franchise well, as John Tortorella's antics grew old during the 2012-13 season. But after recording a 1-3 record and an NHL worst five goals allowed per game- despite Henrik Lundqvist starting each game- this feeling has been replaced by rumblings as to who should be the replacement for the ineffective Vigneault. This is surely not a comfortable place to be for any coach, let alone for one in the demanding and menacing media market that is New York, and has put immense pressure on Vigneault to get the Rangers turned around sooner rather than later.