The NHL's Coaching Carousel
Toronto Maple Leafs
Since the end of the 2010-11 season, 14 NHL teams have replaced their head coaches. Maple Leafs bench boss Ron Wilson was the latest to go, getting fired on Friday following an ugly 1-10 stretch that dropped them to 11th in the Eastern Conference. Wilson signed a contract extension in December and will be paid through next season. GM Brian Burke turned to Randy Carlyle, a man he hired in 2005 as the GM of the Ducks. Carlyle brought the Ducks their only Stanley Cup just two years later.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Scott Arniel, in his second season as bench boss of the Blue Jackets, was fired on Jan. 9, 2012 when he couldn't pull his team out of its extended funk. The hope engendered by the acquisitions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski quickly dissolved as Columbus got off to the worst start in the franchise's history (1-9-1) and owned the poorest record in the league (11-25-5) by the time Arniel was booted in favor of assistant coach Todd Richards, who had been dismissed by the Minnesota Wild in April 2011. Richards was told he would finish the season on an interim basis.
Montreal's worst start in 70 years -- seven losses in their first eight games -- put coach Jacques Martin's job in jeopardy. GM Pierre Gauthier served up a warning in October by firing Martin's longtime assistant coach Perry Pearn, but the Canadiens still hit the bottom of the Northeast Division. Their sloppy play, inability to hold leads, and beat cupcake teams bode ill for the defense-minded Martin, who was finally given the axe on Dec. 17, two seasons after guiding the Habs to the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Finals. He was replaced by assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth, the former bench boss of Montreal's AHL Hamilton affiliate. Martin departed with an overall mark of 96-75-25 with the Habs. His 613 career victories rank in the NHL's top 10 all-time.
Los Angeles Kings
On Dec. 12, the Kings dismissed Terry Murray, whose underachieving team was on a four-game losing skid that left it 11th in the Western Conference at 13-12-4. Having lost in the first round of the playoffs the previous two seasons, the Kings added forwards Mike Richards and Simon Gagne during the offseason, but their offense remained surprisingly anemic (2.24 goals per game.) Murray, their coach since 2008, ended his stint with a 139-106-30 mark that included tying the franchise record for most wins (46) in each of the past two seasons. He was replaced on an interim basis by John Stevens, who coached of Philadelphia from 2006 to 2009. On Dec. 17, the Kings announced they had hired former Flames coach and GM Darryl Sutter, who is known for his hardnosed style.
After signing a three-year extension during the summer, Randy Carlyle was handed the proverbial pink slip on Nov. 30 with the Ducks off to a disastrous 7-13-4 start. Assistant coaches Dave Farrish and Mike Foligno, and video coordinator Joe Trotta were also shown the door. The winningest coach in franchise history (273-182-6), Carlyle had been bench boss since August 2005, guiding the team to its only Stanley Cup (2007). Since then, the Ducks had won only one playoff round. His replacement, Bruce Boudreau, had been dismissed by the Washington Capitals less than 72 hours before Carlyle got the axe.
On the hot seat for a month, Paul Maurice's second stint as the Hurricanes' coach ended Nov. 28 with the team mired in last place in the Eastern Conference at 8-13-4 after having lost 10 of its previous 13 games. Maurice was coach when the franchise moved from Hartford to Carolina in 1997. He led the 'Canes to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final and served until 2003 before returning in Dec. 2008. His combined record was 384-391-145. Carolina's new rookie coach, Kirk Muller, was in his first season as bench boss of Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee when he got the call to fix a sputtering offense weighed down by Eric Staal's prolonged slump.
On Thanksgiving Day 2007, Bruce Boudreau was promoted from Washington's AHL affiliate and he immediately began to work magic that included reaching 200 wins faster than any coach in modern NHL history. The Capitals' dramatic turnaround included four consecutive division titles and winning the Presidents' Trophy in 2010, but for all their high-profile firepower, the team was routinely a disappointment in the playoffs. The gregarious Boudreau tried making his team more defense-minded in 2010-11, but the results were the same. Their hot 7-0 start in 2011-12 fizzled amid talk that the coach was feuding with star captain Alex Ovechkin, and Boudreau was dismissed on Nov. 28. His replacement, Dale Hunter, a former Capitals great, was summoned from the AHL with a reputation as a stern, no-nonsense taskmaster, but no NHL coaching experience.
St. Louis Blues
Loaded with promising young talent but perennially underachieving, the Blues fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6 after getting off to a 6-7 start. Payne had coached the team for parts of three seasons, compiling an overall mark of 67-55-15 while failing to make the playoffs. He was replaced by veteran taskmaster Ken Hitchcock, who won the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Hitchcock had been serving as a consultant with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and was rumored to be in line for a second term as head coach of that team, when the Blues entrusted him with fixing their ailing special teams and jumpstarting the club, which he did by going 11-2-3 for the best debut by a new coach in franchise history.
New Jersey Devils
Jacques Lemaire, who at the end of the 2010-11 season retired from coaching for the second time, had ridden to the dramatic rescue of the Devils in December 2010 with them off to a horrific 9-22-2 start under John MacLean. Lemaire, who had served two previous stints in New Jersey and guided the team to the 1995 Stanley Cup, took it on a run that fell just short of the playoffs. On July 19, the Devils hired Peter DeBoer, who had coached the Florida Panthers for three seasons before being fired in April. "I've known Pete and watched Pete coach for many years," Devils President Lou Lamoriello said. "He's technically as sound as anyone." Said DeBoer: "My plan here is I want to keep the defensive structure that's made this organization so successful, and at the same time try to create some more offense."
The announcement on May 31 that the Atlanta Thrashers had been sold to True North Sports and Entertainment and would be moving to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season cost Craig Ramsay, and GM Rick Dudley, their jobs. During his lone season behind Atlanta's bench, Ramsay had compiled a 34-36-12 record and kept the Thrashers in contention for a 2011 playoff berth until they faded down the stretch. The new Winnipeg Jets announced on June 24 that they had hired Claude Noel, the coach of the AHL's Manitoba Moose. His sole NHL head coaching experience was in an interim role with Columbus for part of the 2009-10 season. "Claude is someone that can teach, bring players together as a group, make the sum better than the whole of their parts," said the Jets' new GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Missing the playoffs with a loss on the final day of the 2010-11 season earned Marc Crawford his walking papers. It was the fifth consecutive early tee time for Crawford's teams (Dallas, 2; Los Angeles, 2; Vancouver, 1). The most bitter blow was that the Stars' 95 points tied the 2006-07 Avalanche for the most ever by a team that failed to secure a postseason berth. "We have a lot of good things in place," said GM Joe Nieuwendyk. "The hardest thing for Marc to probably accept [is] that I don't feel he's the guy going forward that takes us to the next level." That guy was Glen Gulutzan, who was hired on June 17 after serving two seasons as head coach of Dallas' AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, with whom he compiled an 87-56-7-10 record and a Calder Cup Finals appearance in 2010.
Todd Richards spent two seasons as head coach of the Wild before he was dismissed at the conclusion of the 2010-11 campaign. Along with failing to make the playoffs, Richards fell short in his assignment of making the defensively stodgy Wild more offense-minded. They ranked 26th in the NHL with 2.48 goals per game during his final season. On June 17, the team announced the hiring of Mike Yeo, who had spent one season coaching their AHL affiliate in Houston and reached the Calder Cup Finals. Prior to that gig, Yeo spent five seasons as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. His tenure in Minnesota began well, with the Wild becoming one of the top teams in the Western Conference during the first three months.
Three seasons, one playoff appearance (a first-round exit in 2010), and an overall mark of 95-83-20 earned Cory Clouston his dismissal as soon as the Senators concluded their 2010-11 campaign at 32-40-10. "Just simply based on performance over the course of the year, we felt that a change was necessary," GM Bryan Murray told The Canadian Press. On June 14, Paul MacLean was announced as the new coach of the Senators, who are now in rebuilding mode. An assistant to Mike Babcock in Detroit for five seasons that included the 2008 Stanley Cup, as well as two in Anaheim with Babcock and Murray, MacLean brought a fresh, upbeat atmosphere to the Senators' dressing room for 2011-12.
Owners of a 10-year playoff drought and a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers fired former OHL coach Peter DeBoer on April 10 after three full seasons and an overall 103-107-36 mark. DeBoer's first campaign in Florida (93 points) had been his best, but a late-season collapse after the 2011 All-Star break sealed his fate as new GM Dale Tallon shook things up by bringing in a raft of new players. On June 1, he announced the hiring of Kevin Dineen, an NHL rookie coach who had been guiding the AHL's Portland Pirates since 2005. "I like to think outside the box and take risks ... this is not a risk," said Tallon. "I'm really charged up that Kevin has accepted the challenge to come here and help us win a Stanley Cup." Dineen's team started well, leading the Southeast Division with a 16-9-5 mark by December 13.