If an NHL team isn’t living up to expectations, there’s a good chance that the coach is to blame. Or at least, the person that takes the fall for the team’s lackluster performance.
Recently, we’ve seen the last-place Montreal Canadiens part ways with Dominique Ducharme after the coach led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2021. Additionally, the Edmonton Oilers opted to fire Dave Tippett with his team underperforming.
Ducharme and Tippett are far from the first coaches to be anointed scapegoat status – and far from the last. In fact, a few more coaches could be gone before the start of the 2022-23 season. Let’s take a look at three coaches who are on the proverbial hot seat.
3. Derek King – Chicago Blackhawks (Interim)
Since taking over for the fired Jeremy Colliton in November, Derek King has been fine as the interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. The team has played .500 hockey, despite injuries and a handful of stints on the COVID-19 list. It hasn’t been a complete turnaround, but King has done an adequate job steering the Blackhawks away from rock bottom.
His inclusion on this list, though, is more to do with the Blackhawks’ ongoing search for a new general manager. Typically, new GMs like to bring in a hand-picked coach to run the team – one who jives with the new GM’s vision for the franchise.
To that point, I don’t think King has done enough to warrant being kept around when the new GM takes over. Again, he’s been fine, and he’ll probably finish out the season in Chicago. But consider his seat warm at the moment with new leadership arriving soon.
2. Mike Yeo – Philadelphia Flyers (Interim)
Similar to King, Mike Yeo has been the interim coach of the Philadelphia Flyers since Alain Vigneault was let go in December. The Flyers have also dealt with their fair share of injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses, leaving Yeo with a less than ideal roster at times.
But unlike King, Philadelphia’s interim coach has not done an adequate job at the helm. Under his watch, the Flyers endured a 13-game losing streak running from Dec. 30 to Jan. 25. Additionally, key players like Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, and Rasmus Ristolainen have underperformed so far this season.
Yeo will likely ride out the rest of the year as the interim coach barring another massive losing skid, but expect the Flyers to pursue a new coach in the offseason. TNT’s Rick Tocchet has been rumored to be a top candidate for the gig.
1. Bob Boughner – San Jose Sharks
After a 15-year NHL career with eight different teams, Bob Boughner has yet to translate coaching success in the junior ranks to the big league. He won coach of the year with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in 2008 and 2009 and won back-to-back Memorial Cup championships in 2009 and 2010. However, Boughner has yet to make a single playoff appearance as an NHL head coach.
In addition, the Sharks are a team in transition as they rebuild on the fly. They may want a new voice in the room to guide their young team. Plus, Boughner is in the last year of his contract with the Sharks.
This year, the Sharks are again on the outside looking in with regard to the postseason. They may sneak into the playoffs, but are far from the powerhouse of previous years. And with San Jose’s general manager situation currently in limbo, we may see change during the offseason once the dust settles.
The Grass Is Always Greener
More than ever, NHL coaching jobs seem like they are always in jeopardy. The popularity of fixing the team with a firing picked up after what happened in 2018-19. That year, the St. Louis Blues fired Mike Yeo in November and hired assistant Craig Berube. In January, they were mired in a 15-18-4 record and sat dead last in the league. Then, the team went on a 30-10-5 run leading into the playoffs, where they would win the Stanley Cup.
The three teams noted above—the Blackhawks, Flyers, and Sharks—are unlikely to follow in St. Louis’ footsteps. The Oilers could, but are in dire need of reinforcements. But then again, no one expected the Blues to win the 2019 Stanley Cup.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.