If you're an NHL coach and have spent more than two or three seasons in the same city one of two things is probably happening. You're either really good at your job, or you're really lucky. The shelf life of an NHL coach is a ridiculously short one, and teams seem to make changes every other year, if not sooner.
Sometimes they seem to pull the trigger a bit too soon, other times it's clear a new direction is needed.
Since the end of the 2010-11 season and through the end of this past season, the NHL saw 14 of its teams (or just about half the league) change coaches within the calendar year.
Some produced better results than others, so let's go ahead and put a grade on them (simply going in alphabetical order).
Anaheim Ducks (In-season change)
Out: Randy Carlyle (7-13-4)
In: Bruce Boudreau (27-23-9)
Bruce Boudreau wasn't out of a job for long after the Washington Capitals fired him this season. He was the guy that took the fall for the team's slow start, and the Anaheim Ducks were right there waiting to pick him up as a replacement for Randy Carlyle (the guy that took the fall for Anaheim's slow start). After the change the Ducks were almost immediately a more successful hockey team, not only when it came to the standings, but also their ability to control the play. Under Carlyle the Ducks were an awful team in terms of possession, and were routinely outshot in what seemed to be every single game. This immediately started to change under Boudreau, and for much of the second half the Ducks were at least able to get back into playoff contention.
Carolina Hurricanes (In-season change)
Out: Paul Maurice (8-13-4)
In: Kirk Muller (22-20-12)
After a slow start with Paul Maurice behind the bench, the Carolina Hurricanes plucked one of the hottest coaching prospects in the league out of the Nashville Predators organization in Kirk Muller. He was touted as one of the best coaching prospects in the league after a successful playing career. There was a slight improvement in Carolina after he was brought on, and he's already gained some significant help this summer as the Hurricanes acquired a top two-way center in Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins over the NHL draft.
Columbus Blue Jackets (In-season change)
Out: Scott Arniel (11-25-5)
In: Todd Richards (18-21-2)
The Blue Jackets definitely saw an improvement in the second half of the season under interim coach Todd Richards, but how much of that was the result of better coaching and how much of it was the result of there simply being nowhere to go but up remains to be seen. It was a troubling season for the Jackets with the Jeff Carter trade not working out, the constant circus around the Rick Nash trade rumors and, to put it politely, the black hole that currently occupies their goal crease. It's a tough job, but the Blue Jackets apparently saw enough from Richards last season that they were willing to commit to him as their full-time coach.
Dallas Stars (offseason change)
Out: Marc Crawford (42-29-11)
In: Glen Gulutzan (42-35-5)
The Stars were closer to make the playofs under Marc Crawford during the 2010-11 season, missing on the final day of the regular season, but they seemed to be a slightly better team under Glen Gulutzan in some areas in 2011-12 with a little worse luck.
They also saw some areas of regression.
The Stars saw a slight improvement this season in terms of possession during 5-on-5 play, but also saw a bit of a decline with their special teams, particularly their power play which ended the season 30th in the league. Some good, some bad, and maybe it's just a hunch at this point but Gulutzan strikes me as a bright young coach with a good future in Dallas.
Florida Panthers (offseason change)
Out: Pete DeBoer (30-40-12)
In: Kevin Dineen (38-26-18)
What a bizarre season for the Florida Panthers. It started with a new coaching staff and a hectic offseason that saw them acquire almost an entirely new roster. It ended with the first division title in franchise history and their first trip to the playoffs in a decade. They also did it while being outscored by more than 20 goals over the course of the season, gaining a lot of overtime and shootout points, and winning what was widely believed to be the worst division in the NHL.
Los Angeles Kings (in-season change)
Out: Terry Murray, John Stevens (15-14-4)
In: Darryl Sutter (25-13-11)
Well this is pretty easy. The Kings were an absolute juggernaut under Sutter and went on to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup, rolling through the playoffs in just 20 games as the first No. 8 seed to ever be crowned as champions in the NHL. They did it by beating the top-three seeds in the Western Conference (Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix) and then beating a 102-point team (New Jersey) from the Eastern Conference. They also became the first team in NHL history to take a 3-0 lead in every postseason series they played.
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Minnesota Wild (offseason change)
Out: Todd Richards (39-35-8)
In: Mike Yeo (35-36-11)
For the first two months of the season Mike Yeo appeared to be some sort of a miracle worker in Minnesota as the Wild had the best record in hockey through the middle of December. The real miracle workers at that time, of course, were goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, keeping the team afloat while they were consistently outshot and outchanced (by significant margins) everytime they stepped on the ice. When the play of Backstrom and Harding leveled off to a more reasonable level, the losses quickly started to pile up and the Wild ended up as one of the worst teams in the league in the standings. For the second year in a row they finished as the worst Fenwick (the percentage of shots on goal and shots that miss the net taken by the team) team in the league, indicating they still have a major problem when it comes to controlling the puck and generating offense. Until that changes they're going to need Backstrom and Harding to carry them on their backs. Some of that falls on coaching, some of it falls on the organization giving said coaches better players.
Montreal Canadiens (in-season change)
Out: Jacques Martin (13-12-7)
In: Randy Cunneyworth (18-23-9)
When you coach in Montreal you're already in a fish bowl with vultures circling around overheard seemingly waiting for you to fail or have a slip up. In the case of Randy Cunneyworth, he seemed to be doomed to a no-win situation the minute he took over in place of Jacques Martin, in large part because a vocal minority was upset at his inability to speak French. The entire thing was more of a circus than anything else, and the Canadiens slumped all the way down to the bottom of the NHL standings. Now Cunneyworth is gone and the Canadiens are getting a repeat of the Michel Therrien era. This after they let two of the top young coaching prospects in the league get away from their organization in recent years (Muller and Guy Boucher).
New Jersey Devils (offseason change)
Out: John MacLean, Jacques Lemaire (38-39-5)
In: Pete DeBoer (48-26-6)
A terrible start during the 2010-11 season under John MacLean had the Devils in a hole they could never climb out of, pretty much ending their season within the first two months. Pete DeBoer came in this season from Florida led the Devils to a 102-point season and their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2002-03. The Devils used an extremely aggressive forecheck to pressure their opponents and essentially play defense by playing offense (they were at their best in the early rounds of the playoffs, particularly against Philadelphia in Round 2). He also turned Ilya Kovalchuk into a regular on the team's penalty kill, which ended up as the best in the NHL by not only shutting down every team's power play, but also by scoring a league-leading 15 shorthanded goals.
Ottawa Senators (offseason change)
Out: Cory Clouston (32-40-10)
In: Paul MacLean (41-31-10)
I'm not going to lie, I thought before the season the Ottawa Senators were going to be one of the teams in the "Fail for Nail" campaign and end up as one of the worst teams in the NHL. Instead, Paul MacLean ended up taking the Senators back to the playoffs in his first year on the job and nearly led them to a first-round upset over the No. 1 seed New York Rangers, losing a one-goal Game 7 on the road.
St. Louis Blues (in-season change)
Out: Davis Payne (6-7-0)
In: Ken Hitchcock (43-15-11)
The Blues were a team on the rise coming into this season and showed some signs of being on the verge of a breakout season. After a slow start through 13 games management decided to replace Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock. It's hard to question the results. The Blues went on to finish as one of the best teams in the NHL, dominated possession, and were the toughest team in the NHL to score against while using a goaltending duo of bargain basement free agent pickup Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.
Toronto Maple Leafs (in-season change)
Out: Ron Wilson (29-28-7)
In: Randy Carlyle (6-9-3)
It seemed like everybody was waiting for this move to happen all season, and then by the time it did happen (after the fans had seen enough) it was too late to make any sort of a difference on what was another lost season in Toronto. Both coaches had to do their best to get by with a revolving door of mediocrity in net, and by the time Carlyle took over there wasn't enough time to get any sort of a read on what direction he has the team going in.
Washington Capitals (in-season change)
Out: Bruce Boudreau (12-9-1)
In: Dale Hunter (30-23-7)
This is a move that resulted in a lot of praise from the hockey community as the season progressed, but I'm not sure I see it now that Hunter's brief run in Washington has come to an end, or ever saw it while it was happening.
The Capitals weren't really any better in the standings under Hunter, went as far in the playoffs as they ever did with Boudreau (Game 7 of the second round) and spent far more time stuck in their own end of the ice defending without the puck. Was that a sustainable way to keep winning? Or would it eventually catch up to them? We'll never really know at this point as Hunter won't be back next season, instead opting to return to the London Knights.
People like to point to the improved defensive play of the Capitals under Hunter, but let's also keep in mind that during the 2010-11 season under Boudreau the Capitals finished the regular season allowing the fourth fewest goals in the league and the eighth fewest shots.
Winnipeg Jets (offseason change)
Out: Craig Ramsay (34-36-12)
In: Claude Noel (37-35-10)
New city, new new name, new coach ... pretty much the same results. At least as far as the standings are concerned. While the Jets only saw a three-game improvement, there were some signs that Noel's version of the team is on the right path (or at least a better path) in terms of its style of play. After finishing the 2010-11 season as one of the worst possession teams in the league under Craig Ramsay, Noel's team seemed to create more offense and chances (their Fenwick rating improved 10 spots under Noel, with a similar roster). Goaltending was a problem for the Jets as neither Ondrej Pavelec or Chris Mason did much to stand out.
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