As a general rule of thumb, underperforming teams who need to shake things up make a drastic move -- fire the coach.
|Andy Murray can't be happy with whispers he's losing his team. (Getty Images)|
The outlook seemed even better when Dallas made the biggest deal at the trade deadline by acquiring Brad Richards, who responded by getting five assists in his first game wearing a new uniform. But since then, the Stars have been in a tailspin, dropping six of their past seven, including a crucial home-ice loss Wednesday to the powerful Anaheim Ducks, the team they are likely to face to open the playoffs.
It doesn't bode well for Dallas, or for Tippett, whose future likely depends on getting the team at least beyond the first round for the first time in the past three seasons. In other words, he's on the hot seat right now, but he's not alone. Here's a look at the others who are in similar situations.
Andy Murray, St. Louis Blues: Murray looked like a miracle worker when he took over the Blues in the middle of last season, leading the team to a 27-18-9 finish that created the kind of optimism heading into the new campaign that hadn't been felt around St. Louis for years. The Blues were still rebuilding when the season began, but after adding free agent Paul Kariya and bringing back Keith Tkachuk, they were expected to at least mount a serious challenge for a playoff spot.
St. Louis stayed in the hunt until around New Year's, but with the league's worst offense and poor special team play, it faded fast and is now in line for a shot at the No. 1 lottery pick. Along the way, there have been growing whispers that the overbearing style that cost Murray his last coaching gig in Los Angeles has started to wear thin among the Blues players.
John Stevens, Philadelphia Flyers: For much of the season, the Flyers were the model of how to turn it around quickly in the salary-cap environment. Philadelphia underwent a massive personnel turnover during the offseason and under Stevens, in his first full season behind the Flyers bench, the season started off well enough to become a challenger for first place in the competitive Atlantic Division.
Key injuries hampered the team by the time the second half began, and these days, Philadelphia is struggling to maintain its grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. It won't be easy because the Flyers have lost four of their past five and have a very tough schedule from here on in. More troubling for Stevens is GM Paul Holmgren's recent questioning of the team's preparation.
Don Waddell, Atlanta Thrashers: If nothing else, Waddell knows he has the support of the general manager because he happens to hold down that job as well. Waddell took over behind the bench after the Thrashers lost their first six games under Bob Hartley. The team improved enough to play .500 hockey for the next three months, which in the weak Southeast Division was enough to create the illusion of progress. But the Thrashers have collapsed in the past month -- losing 14 of their past 16 -- and Waddell has been unable to do anything in either of his capacities to stop the bleeding.
He has been running the show from upstairs since the franchise was born, and all he has to show for it is one playoff appearance, a sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers last spring. Atlanta hasn't been able to make any real inroads in its market either, and with Waddell getting that dreaded vote of confidence from his owner recently, he has to be on thin ice.
Jacques Martin, Florida Panthers: There are some in Florida who would suggest that Martin, a career coach, has done his best work with the Panthers in his role as general manager, a job he added to his duties before last season. Martin resolved the team's goaltending issues by acquiring Tomas Vokoun in June and he has made several other lower-profile moves that have provided nice fits. But his primary responsibility has been to move the Panthers forward, and in the three seasons he has been behind the bench, that hasn't really happened.
Florida tends to make belated charges at a playoff spot, and it is doing so again this season, but the odds are still not in favor of a team that has not seen postseason action since 2000. The natives, those who are still paying attention in South Florida, are getting restless and another early vacation for the team could spell Martin's demise.
Marc Crawford, Los Angeles Kings: He won a Stanley Cup coaching the Colorado Avalanche and had some modest success with a pretty good Vancouver Canucks squad, but has done nothing to improve the fortunes of a team in what should be a critical market for the NHL.