What’s the worst decision ever made by NHL coach? (Roundtable)


The Puck Daddy Roundtable is a semi-frequent debate about a topic, issue or trope. Sometimes it’s Yahoo Sports editors and writers seated at the table; when called for, the seats are filled with insightful guests. Enjoy!


As the Kansas City Royals celebrated their World Series win, New York celebrated the start of the World Series of Second Guessing Mets Manager Terry Collins.

While the five-game victory for the Royals was filled with Collins managerial blunders, his decision to leave starter Matt Harvey in the ninth inning after walking the leadoff man – and leading to a Kansas City rally for the extra-innings win – will be forever picked apart as a terrible one.

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That got us thinking: What is the worst decision ever made by an NHL coach?

We chewed on that in the latest Puck Daddy Roundtable:

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Editor

I suggested this week’s debate topic, and limited it to the NHL. So it’s my fault the most momentous coaching blunder in the history of hockey isn’t No. 1:

Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov benching Vladislav Tretiak in the first period of the 1980 Winter Olympic “Miracle On Ice” game for reasons that we’re still a little unclear about.

But hey, it’s put food on Mike Eruzione’s table for 35 years.

(Marc Crawford leaving Wayne Gretzky on the bench for the shootout in 1998 deserves a dishonorable mention.)

But there’s really no debate on the No. 1 coaching blunder in NHL history. See if you can guess from these clues:

- 9 goals.

- Angry goalie.

- Avalanche.

Yes, it’s Montreal Canadiens coach Mario Tremblay’s ridiculous, petty decision to leave Patrick Roy in the net for nine goals on home ice against the Detroit Red Wings. Roy left the ice after that ninth goal and told team president Ronald Corey that he had played his last game for the Habs. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche four days later in one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history.

Now, Corey deserves a lot of blame here. It was his decision to sweep out GM Serge Savard and his head coach Jacques Demers after an awful start, and his decision to replace them with Réjean Houle and Mario Tremblay, who had no previous coaching experience.

So Roy leaves the ice all angry and such, and basically demands a trade. In 2014, Tremblay looked back on the incident with Chris Nilan on the radio:

Tremblay told Nilan that he had asked Roy during the first intermission of that infamous game against the Red Wings, after he had already let in five goals, if he was OK. “I said, ‘Are you OK?’ and his answer was yes,” Tremblay told Nilan. “So I let him go back. But the mistake I made, Chris, I should have pulled him out after the seventh goal.”

Tremblay also added: “But the thing is, in that case I don’t think that Patrick should have reacted the way he did. I mean, there’s always a time to talk with the coach, talk with the GM.

“He made a mistake, I made a mistake, so let’s move on.”

Well, one of you made a mistake, and the other guy won multiple Cups with another franchise …

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 11:  Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins answers questions during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup media day at the United Center on June 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Ryan Lambert, Puck Daddy Columnist

Claude Julien refusing to give Tyler Seguin a real chance to succeed on a scoring line in the 2013 playoffs springs readily to mind here.

Seguin played the first six games of the Toronto series alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and they dominated every facet of the game not related to scoring goals (60% possession, 63.4% high-quality chances, 62.6% shots-for, etc., but only one goal for and one against).

So then he gets shuffled down to the David Krejci/Milan Lucic line for Game 7. That line gets scored on in its first two shifts. After that, he spent the rest of the playoffs with Chris Kelly. Over the next 15 games, he went 1-6-7 despite 41 shots on goal in all situations, giving him 70(!!!) for the entire playoff run of just 22 games.

Let's be perfectly clear: That playoff run, in which he scored once in 22 games despite shelling opposing goalies like it's the Battle of the friggin' Somme, is the reason Seguin got traded to Dallas. And by extension, it is the reason the Bruins missed the playoffs last year and Peter Chiarelli got fired and why the team's window to be truly competitive is closing quickly.

The repeated demotions based on results rather than process was, on Julien's part, demonstration of a profound lack of patience. And it cost the team one of the great players in the NHL today.

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson deflects the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Jen Neale, Puck Daddy Editor

In Round 2 of the 2013-2014 playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks used a total of three goaltenders in their eventual loss to the Los Angeles Kings. To start the series, Jonas Hiller dropped two games. In Game 3, the Ducks turned to Frederik Andersen who wasn’t fully healthy after a Round 1 injury against Dallas. Andersen gave up one goal before leaving the game after 49:50 of play. Hiller ended up with the W.

John Gibson was called up, originally assumed to backup Hiller. He was then inserted as the Game 4 starter, blindsiding most, especially Jonas Hiller. It looked like a genius move when Gibson won the next two games … and then it all went to crap. With the Ducks up 3-2 in the series, Gibson dropped Game 6.

Bruce Boudreau kept with him for Game 7. A Game 7 against their hated enemy. A Game 7 they had dropped a year earlier despite being heavily favored. Gibson allowed 4 goals in 22:02 and was replaced by Hiller. A Hiller that was angry for being passed over despite getting the win in Game 3, leaving him apathetic without a true stake in the game as he knew his time in Anaheim was coming to an end.

This isn’t the first playoff goaltending decision for Boudreau that raised eyebrows. Anyone remember the goaltending circus in Washington’s 2010 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens? Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov, anyone?

As always, Boudreau’s worst enemy is his own mind.

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 27:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Nashville Predators reacts in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 27, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Predators 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Josh Cooper, Puck Daddy Editor

The Nashville Predators’ decision to bench Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for two games during the 2012 playoffs is my ‘bad coaching decision’ choice.

Radulov and Kostitsyn, were out late the night before Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal – a loss at the Phoenix Coyotes.

After catching wind of this indiscretion, the Predators opted to discipline the two players – both offensive scorers on a team with few offensive weapons – in favor of Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk for Game 3. The team was already down 0-2 in the series.

The Predators grinded out a 2-0 Game 3 win, but coach Barry Trotz opted to stay with Tootoo and Halischuk in Game 4. The Predators got shut out 1-0 and lost to the underdog Coyotes in five games.

The Predators had their best chance to make a deep playoff run since the organization’s inception with that group and their lack of firepower against Phoenix, along with the distraction the decision created, altered the series. Also, this wasn’t just a coaching decision. Management was part of the choice.

“The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things,” general manager David Poile said in a statement. “We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates.”

Several months later, defenseman Ryan Suter left the team in unrestricted free agency and teammate Shea Weber almost joined him in departing Nashville when he signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers.

There’s still some second-guessing to this day as to whether a deeper playoff run would have prevented Suter’s leaving – and Weber’s attempted leaving – from the Music City, as a long-term impact.

Disciplining Radulov and Kostitsyn by putting them on the fourth line and making them re-earn their minutes probably seemed like a better option. It would have kept the two offensive players in the lineup and still given some level of punishment.

Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber penned it best:

“The moral high ground had a spectacular view of the abyss: down 3-1 in the series, the Predators faced elimination in Game 5 on Monday night.”

Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan talks to Mikhail Grigorenko (25) and Drew Stafford (21) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)

Sam McCaig, Yahoo NHL editor

Not sure if it rates as a bad coaching decision, exactly, but Sabres coach Ted Nolan fighting with Dominik Hasek in 1996-97 didn't work out real well for Nolan.

John Tortorella trying to charge the Flames' dressing room was symbolic of his one-year flameout as Canucks coach.

How about, Mike Babcock leaving his perch with the Wings to take on the ultimate NHL challenge in Toronto...

Don Cherry and the Bruins' infamous too-many-men penalty vs. Habs in Game 7 of 1979 semis...Lafleur tied it late and Yvon Lambert won it in OT...(it was the first time the Habs were facing playoff elimination in four years.)

The coaching decision to make Wayne Gretzky a coach. Ditto when the Oren Koules/Len Barrie-owned Lightning brought back Barry Melrose.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 27: Pierre McGuire poses for a photo just before the start of a NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals on February 27, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy Editor

Back during the 1993-94 NHL season, Pierre McGuire was head coach of the Hartford Whalers. As the Hartford Courant would detail a few months later following his dismissal, the now-NBC commentator believed he was some sort of hockey coaching god, which rubbed plenty of people the wrong way.

One of those people was Jaromir Jagr, who played for McGuire in Pittsburgh when he was an assistant. During a game in December 1993, McGuire called for a stick check on JJ with 4.2 seconds to go and was successful -- that gave the Whalers a power play as the game headed into overtime tied 6-6.

Two minutes and eight seconds later, Jagr scored on a breakaway to give the Penguins the win and shoved it in the face of McGuire afterward.

"It was the most important goal in my career, because, hey, Pierre McGuire thought he was the smartest guy after they called the thing," Jagr said via the Hartford Courant. "He thought the game was over, they were going to win the game. I said I want to win the game so bad. It's a good feeling.

"[McGuire] called it because he was the coach on our team. He knows it. I just thought he'd call it when we were ahead, 6-5. He thought he had won the game already. But it wasn't over yet. I would say, he lost the game. Pierre McGuire lost the game."

We'd all still like to see Pierre back in the NHL as a head coach or GM someday. Just think of the content he'd provide us!

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