NHL coach hot seats: Who’s the warmest entering 2017?

Greg Wyshynski
Getty Images
Getty Images

With 2016 ending in a few days, we figured it was a good time to check out the hot seat status for a few coaches around the NHL whose teams have not fared well this season.

Or last season. Or several seasons in a few cases.

Which NHL coaches should be seeking an ice bath for their smoldering rumps entering 2017? Glad you asked …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Dan Bylsma, Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres aren’t getting results. It’s as simple as that. They’re in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings at 12-13-8 in 33 games. Their goal differential is minus-20, second-worst in the conference (inexplicably better than that of the New Jersey Devils … more on that in a bit).

The heat is coming down on Bylsma and GM Tim Murray, although admittedly it’s a bit warmer for the former than the latter. (Such are coach/GM thermodynamics in the NHL.)

Mike Harrington eviscerated Bylsma in a column this week in the Buffalo News, listing his various lineup sins (including some discipline for Jack Eichel) and his overall game-plan:

Bylsma’s plodding system is flat-out unwatchable at times. Players’ instincts are stunted in place of where-should-I-be second thoughts. Zemgus Girgensons clearly can’t make heads or tails out of it. Tyler Ennis, when he was healthy, had the same problem. Many others seem baffled.

The Sabres need to skate and not think so much on the ice but their coach has to allow them to play that way. You wonder if that’s possible.

Lately, it seems as if Bylsma has lost his mind. It’s to the point where it’s now an open discussion among Sabres fans if Bylsma, in just the second year of a five-year contract, should be heading down Ryan Road to the unemployment line too if his team continues to implode:

“Ryan Road” as in Rex Ryan, that other high-profile, heavily hyped coach Terry Pegula hired that hasn’t gotten results.

HOT SEAT STATUS: Like bleachers at a Little League baseball game in the middle of an August afternoon.

Jack Capuano, New York Islanders

You’d figure the Islanders would have already turfed Capuano given their 13-14-6 record in 33 games and pathetic underlying numbers (45.93 Corsi at even strength).

But he’s Garth Snow’s guy, and he’s been Garth Snow’s guy since he was hired as the full-time head coach on April 12, 2011. It appears they’re a package deal, which means the likelihood they’re both tossed into the bay when the Islanders hire a new team president soon is increasingly higher.

Say what you will about Capuano’s failings as a coach – there’s no question that Snow hasn’t given him the soldiers this season, especially after losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to free agency.

HOT SEAT STATUS: Like scalding hot coffee that you drink anyway because there are no other options.

John Hynes, New Jersey Devils

It’s not just that the Devils are losing – 13-14-7 in 34 games – but it’s how they’re losing.

Going 4-12-5 on the road is inexcusable. A minus-22 goal differential is inexcusable. Having Cory Schneider second in the NHL in the number of mid-danger shot attempts he’s faced (242, second only to Cam Talbot of the porous Oilers) is inexcusable.

Hynes has coached the Devils for two seasons. In both, the team is well below respectable in puck possession (46.17 last season at 5-on-5 Corsi; 47.38 this season), leading one to wonder if a team allegedly committed to analytics is even looking at the data.

HOT SEAT STATUS: Like watching last night’s mac-and-cheese bubble and boil in the microwave. You know it’s hot, but it’s only going to get hotter.

John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

Sorry, force of habit.

HOT SEAT STATUS: Seriously, who among us thought that Torts’ seat would be slightly colder than the surface temperature of Neptune? (The planet. Not, like, New Jersey.)

Getty Images
Getty Images

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche

Bednar is in a thankless position in his first year as head coach, having been thrown into the job when Patrick Roy lost his smile. The Avs are “the laughingstock of the league” according to the Denver Post, but Mike Chambers believes that Bednar is safe in the short term and, perhaps, the long term:

But Bednar’s job is currently not in jeopardy. He didn’t construct this mess. His coaching isn’t the problem, and it has become obvious that former coach Patrick Roy wasn’t the problem either. The blame is on the players — specifically the highly paid mid-20s core — and front office led by general manager Joe Sakic. The GM can’t build team chemistry, but clearly that’s the primary problem. This talent-rich team simply doesn’t play well together more times than not.

I sense that Bednar knows he’s not the problem, because his first Christmas in Colorado won’t be his last. His wife, Susan, and daughter, Savega, arrived in Denver on Monday, both having been living on the East Coast since Bednar’s late-August hiring by the Avs. They’ll settle in for the holidays and beyond with son/brother Kruz, who moved to Colorado with his father and attends Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.

The only issue for Bednar, if it is deemed to be the players that need to change: What if ownership decides Sakic isn’t the guy to make those deals? If there’s a new GM, there’s likely going to be a new coach, too.

HOT SEAT STATUS: If these were hot springs, Bednar’s would be that one that uncomfortably warm but the players’ would be that one that no one can use because it takes your skin off.

Willie Desjardins, Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks coach’s future is being polled right now by fans, even as the team sits seven points out of a Western Conference playoff spot in a year no one really had them contending for one. Desjardins is eventually going to be fired in 2017, but at 14-18-3 can the Canucks give him a stay of execution until at least the offseason?

HOT SEAT STATUS: He’s on his fifth round of blister ointment and they’re not going away.

Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are three points out of the wild card, which is a little stunning considering how inconsistent they’ve been (and how below average their defense has been). Maurice’s seat has been warming throughout the season, but how you feel about an admittedly above average coach is likely how you feel about this Jets team – should they be better than they are, given the roster?

HOT SEAT STATUS: Like a pile of mashed potatoes on a buffet, where some parts are scorching and other parts are ice cold.

Dave Tippett, Arizona Coyotes

Oh, hey, look, what do you know, another lost season in Arizona.

The Coyotes are 11-18-5 with 27 points. Tippett’s last appearance in the playoffs was 2012. Granted, there have been a few mitigating factors – the tank, the relocation rumors – that have undermined the team during this stretch, but after eight years, you’d figure there would be more talk about Tippett being turfed, especially with a new GM this season.

Instead, the Coyotes basically made Tippett a partner in player personnel with John Chayka last summer.

HOT SEAT STATUS: A ghost pepper that would cause you to break out in sweats and seek out a quart of milk, but that your friend from Glendale eats like a grape with no problem.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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