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So who had three games in the Peter Laviolette pool?
Most of us knew that Lavy might be the first coach to go, having already been on the hot seat last season for the Philadelphia Flyers. An 0-3-0 start that saw the offense sputter, following what owner Ed Snider called the worst training camp he’s ever seen, and Laviolette was turfed in favor of Craig Berube.
So … who’s next?
Here are seven coaches that could be on the firing line this season:
Kevin Dineen, Florida Panthers
Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports says that speculation about GM Dale Tallon’s dismissal under new ownership is unfounded.
That said … dude could be GM’ing for his job, which is the sort of thing that leads one to sign Tim Thomas and, potentially, to fire a head coach if the team doesn’t come out of the gate strongly.
Is Dineen in trouble? "No, he's not,'' Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel. "He made the playoffs in his first year as a coach. Last year you can't judge his coaching on what happened. It wasn't a coaching issue. I believe he's going to do a great job for us. We were ripped with injury; I'm fine with our coaches.''
It should be noted that Dineen is in the final year of his contract.
Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames
Hartley was hired in May 2012 by GM Jay Feaster, with whom he had a working relationship back in their Hershey Bears days. He took over a roster dotted with veterans that was soon imploded, with the departure of Jarome Iginla and the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff.
Everyone expects Calgary will be terrible this season, as the Flames are in full rebuilding mode and have worse goaltending than some NCAA teams. Firing Hartley would be pointless; that said, with Brian Burke running the show, how long before he wants his own long-time associate in the coaching position rather than a guy who wasn’t his hire?
Kirk Muller, Carolina Hurricanes
This is an absolutely critical year for Muller, who enters his third season with the Hurricanes but his first with an actual training camp. Carolina has yet to make the playoffs under his watch.
He arrived with much fanfare about his ability to communicate with players and his effectiveness in building strong special teams. Welp … Carolina was 27th on the power play last season (14.6) and 28th on the PK (77.6). In Muller’s first season, they were 20th and 22nd respectively.
As for being a player’s coach, Chris Vitiello of Indy Week writes:
Muller seems like a really nice guy—too nice, perhaps. Having held the job for nearly two years since Paul Maurice was sacked, Muller gives the appearance of having settled into the "player's coach" identity of a lot of young coaches whose own playing days are not very far behind them. The result, at least in Raleigh, is a complacent locker room. Players seem assured of their spot on the depth chart by reputation rather than performance. The word's been out for a couple seasons now that you can blitz the Canes in the first period and build a lead that they're not talented enough to surmount over the final 40 minutes.
Ouch. Cardiac Cane has it right: If Carolina is a mess around the turn of the calendar this year, Muller could be done.
Claude Noel, Winnipeg Jets
While GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was given a 5-year extension, Noel was given a one-year deal. It’s not hard to read between the lines that ownership thinks the construction of the team is solid, but the results haven’t been there.
That’s not exactly fair to Noel, who is a very good coach but hasn’t, in our opinion, been given the depth of personnel with which is work. (And who has had to wait for players like Mark Scheifele to ripen.) But clearly, the time is now for Winnipeg to compete, especially in a Central Division that’s top-heavy.
Fighting For Stanley says it’s a make-or-break season for Noel, and he could be broken in-season if the Jets struggle. So far, they haven’t, which is good news for a good coach.
Ron Rolston, Buffalo Sabres
Much like with Hartley: What’s the point?
The Sabres are in a rebuild, Rolston’s there to work with younger players and firing him in-season does nothing for a team destined for the lottery (or so it would seem). But when you come out of the gate going 0-3-0 with two goals and nothing on the power play … well, your seat is going to warm up at least a little.
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
Well, he has to go at some point before the sun explodes, right?
But seriously: There’s no reason why Trotz, after arguably the worst season in franchise history, isn’t on the hot seat. He’s coached the Preds since their inception in 1998, making the playoffs seven times with teams that, frankly, weren’t made of the stuff of playoff teams.
But expectations have changed about the Predators over those years. They should do what they’ve done in the past under Trotz, which is overcome player defections like that of Ryan Suter. They should score more than they do. They should be a playoff team with Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber as a multi-million-dollar foundation.
GM David Poile, himself on the hot seat, added several free agents and Seth Jones to the mix in the offseason.
According to Josh Cooper, Poile has only fired two head coaches in 30 years as a GM; however, last season:
Last season forced Poile to make some changes, however. He fired associate coach Peter Horachek and replaced him with Phil Housley. Head trainer Dan Redmond was also fired.
While those decisions may seem like small-scale moves, they created large-scale impact within the organization. Redmond had been the trainer since the franchise’s inception, and Horachek had been on the NHL staff since 2003.
“Win or lose it’s inevitable, you’re going to make changes through promotion or people going in a different direction,” Poile said. “My thought at the end of the season is we needed to make changes off the things we have done.”
If the Predators struggle, and with Housley as a potential candidate to replace him, will Barry Trotz take the fall?
Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild
By far, the coach most mentioned as the next one to go if his team struggles.
Yeo helped the Wild make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons in 2013, although they needed a win in the final game of the season to get there.
With the money committed to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and with the bar set for the Wild to be a playoff team again, the pressure on Yeo is enormous. As he told the Star Tribune, on GM Chuck Fletcher keeping him last summer:
“He gave me the job in the first place and then doing that? It’s fair to say I’d go to war for him,” Yeo said. “People are going to talk about it. It’s inevitable. How many coaches last more than two years in this league? I’m not going to get caught up in that stuff because I’m focused on what’s real, and I know that this team has gotten better and I know that I’ve gotten better as a coach and I know that my best years are still ahead of me.”
Yeo is in the final year of his contract. Writes Judd Zulgad on owner Craig Leipold and the Yeo:
Leipold is unlikely to want to hear any excuses. What he does want is for the Xcel Energy Center to be sold out on a nightly basis once again and for that to happen deep into the spring. He gave Yeo the pieces to make that happen by signing Parise and Suter in July 2012 and then approving Pominville's five-year deal that will pay a reported $28 million.
Yeo must now take that talent and make sure it can deliver victories. If that fails to happen, there might be someone new behind the home bench at the X before the snow begins to fly.
The time to watch out for a change: March and April. The Wild stumbled last April to a 5-8-1 finish. In the previous season, they were 6-7-1 in their final 14 games. It might be a case where the Wild fire Yeo as a way to rally the team late in the season.