The recent firing of John Paddock in Ottawa once again signals that the ax can fall any time in the NHL, whether it's early in the season, late in the season or after the season. This week's power rankings, which are updated every Tuesday, look at who is behind each bench and how secure is their future.
1. Anaheim Ducks (38-23-7, Previous: 1) – Randy Carlyle has coached seven playoff rounds and won a Stanley Cup in his first two years of coaching. He and Anaheim general manager Brian Burke are close work associates. There's no reason to think this relationship and Carlyle's tenure with the Ducks won't last a long time.
2. San Jose Sharks (37-21-8, Previous: 10) – Ron Wilson became the franchise leader in coaching wins with his 193rd victory on Saturday, but he's performed all season with marching orders he must go deep in the postseason to save his job. Hogwash. This is one of the most prepared, smart, creative and experienced coaches in the game. Remember, if you fire a coach you have to hire someone who will do better. Who is out there that fits the bill?
3. Dallas Stars (41-23-5, Previous: 3) – Dave Tippett received a one-year contract extension at midseason after Les Jackson and Brett Hull took over for fired GM Doug Armstrong. Tippett has gotten a lot out of the Stars, but ultimately he'll be measured by postseason success and expectations are high considering Dallas' standing and the recent acquisition of Brad Richards.
4. Detroit Red Wings (43-18-6, Previous: 4) – Mike Babcock is simply one of the best coaches in the league. He took Anaheim to Game 7 of the Cup finals his rookie year of 2003-04. After rejecting a one-year extension following his second season with the then-Mighty Ducks, Babcock replaced Dave Lewis in Detroit. He managed a number of egos and successfully navigated a transition from one era of contending Red Wings' teams to another.
5. Montreal Canadiens (36-22-9, Previous: 8) – There's quite a love affair between the fans and Guy Carbonneau, who was still a player as recently as 2000. Things can change quickly, however, in this hockey-mad market. Carbonneau will get his first postseason experience this spring in his second year behind the bench. Because the first 12 of his 18 seasons as a player were spent in Montreal he already understands the pressure and expectations are for Cup or bust.
6. New Jersey Devils (37-23-6, Previous: 2) – Brent Sutter is the fourth of six brothers to play in the NHL who have gone on to be a head coach. Like Brian and Darryl before him, Brent is having success. There was an adjustment period of the Devils getting to know him, and Sutter getting to know the Devils because he came into the organization from the outside. But his relationship with GM Lou Lamoriello is solid, and that's half the battle in Jersey.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins (37-23-7, Previous: 5) – Michel Therrien was fired after his third season in Montreal and he's in his third season with the Penguins. Fair or not, he will be closely scrutinized, especially in the postseason since the Penguins appear to be a team that could contend for the conference championship despite a youthful roster. Therrien might not survive if Pittsburgh doesn't win at least one round, and it might need to win two to ensure his return.
8. Minnesota Wild (37-24-5, Previous: 11) – Jacques Lemaire has been at this a long time – 13 years total, the last seven with the Wild. He won a Cup with New Jersey in 1995. It's probably as much his call as anyone when it's time for a change, but does anyone else find it a bit curious that Kevin Constantine, a coach with similar defense-first beliefs as Lemaire, was hired by the team's top affiliate this season?
9. Ottawa Senators (37-24-6, Previous: 6) – You've got to figure GM Bryan Murray's inbox is already filled up with anxious applicants to replace the fired John Paddock, which certainly won't happen until next season unless Scotty Bowman raises his hand. Only an experienced coach with a track record will get hired here.
10. Calgary Flames (34-23-9, Previous: 7) – Laugh all you want, but Mike Keenan is at it again. He's at the helm of another team that looks quite formidable. GM Darryl Sutter knew what he was doing when he called Iron Mike last offseason with the offer.
11. New York Rangers (34-24-8, Previous: 13) – There's no secret Tom Renney will come under the microscope during the postseason, and he'll have a very uncertain future on Broadway if the Rangers don't get there. New York has taken one step each year Renney has been behind the bench, winners of a round last season a year after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
12. Boston Bruins (35-24-6, Previous: 12) – Claude Julien didn't last long unemployed after getting fired for the second straight year last season (from New Jersey a year after getting relieved by Montreal). He's rejuvenated the Bruins to the point they're competing for a playoff spot despite the loss of their top offensive player (Patrice Bergeron) early in the season and the absence of much goal-scoring on the roster.
13. Colorado Avalanche (34-26-6, Previous: 18) – In a division that has arguably the best coaches from top to bottom, Joel Quenneville has a great reputation but he might come under fire if the Avalanche fall short. Colorado was aggressive at the trade deadline, adding veterans in hopes of returning the proud franchise to the playoffs after missing by a point last season.
14. Vancouver Canucks (32-23-10, Previous: 9) – Like Jacques Lemaire, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien and Guy Carbonneau, Alain Vigneault got his first head coaching job in Montreal. Vigneault has the reputation as a stout defensive-minded taskmaster, an approach that certainly makes sense with Roberto Luongo in goal. Interestingly, however, GM Dave Nonis has talked about trying to add more offense to the group before next season so we'll see if that affects any other decisions he might want to make.
15. Philadelphia Flyers (33-25-8, Previous: 19) – John Stevens would probably be walking a tightrope after looking like a Jack Adams candidate the first half of the season if he had not signed a one-year extension in December that takes him through next season. Still, that has not prevented teams from making changes in the past.
16. Washington Capitals (31-28-8, Previous: 22) – Bruce Boudreau was an in-season replacement for Glen Hanlon, fired in late November. He's turned around the program, and has the Capitals in division-title contention. A minor-league coach since 1990, Boudreau has made the most of his first crack in the NHL and there's no reason why he shouldn't continue in Washington.
17. Nashville Predators (33-25-8, Previous: 14) – Barry Trotz is the only head coach the Predators have known for all of their nine seasons. He's looking to guide Nashville into the postseason for a fourth straight season, where his teams have failed in the first round each try. His relationship with original GM David Poile is solid, the two have worked very well together. What a missed postseason or first-round loss might mean with new ownership is the big question mark.
18. Carolina Hurricanes (34-29-5, Previous: 15) – Winning the Stanley Cup was tremendous for Peter Laviolette in 2006, his second year with the Hurricanes and fourth as a head coach. But if Carolina doesn't win the Southeast Division this season, his teams will have missed out of the playoffs the two years since winning it all, and that might signal a change in the wind.
19. Buffalo Sabres (31-26-9, Previous: 17) – Lindy Ruff is the league's longest-tenured coach, completing his 10th season with the Sabres this year. It's been a year of transition for Buffalo, but the team is still in the hunt to reach the playoffs for the seventh time during his tenure. If the Sabres fall short it's hard to imagine the blame would fall on Ruff's shoulders.
20. Phoenix Coyotes (33-28-5, Previous: 16) – Wayne Gretzky came under national scrutiny as the Coyotes finished in last place his first two seasons behind the bench, but he survived a front-office shakeup in the offseason and has kept a young Phoenix team in playoff contention. There have even been some whispers of a Jack Adams nomination for coach of the year. It's hard to imagine arguably the game's greatest player has to worry about job security even if his team falls short of the playoffs.
21. Chicago Blackhawks (31-28-6, Previous: 21) – There's no reason to believe Denis Savard won't be part of the solution in Chicago, where the Blackhawks have taken a big step toward respectability this season, even if they fall short of the playoffs.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets (30-27-10, Previous: 24) – No question here what a huge difference Ken Hitchcock has made with a franchise that's still looking to reach the playoffs for the first time. They're likely going to miss again, but like Murray in St. Louis, Hitchcock has instilled previously missing ingredients for success, mainly defensive awareness and accountability for Columbus' young stars.
23. Toronto Maple Leafs (29-28-10, Previous: 25) – Paul Maurice is running the bench for now, but clearly there is going to be a new GM in place sometime in the offseason and he may want to bring in his own coach. It's hard to evaluate Maurice's performance because he hasn't had much to work with this year, and it would be a second straight season out of the playoffs. In this hockey-mad town, he's probably a goner.
24. New York Islanders (31-29-7, Previous: 20) – Ted Nolan was a smashing success last year in leading the Isles into the postseason while returning behind an NHL bench for the first time since 1996-97. This year he just hasn't been given much ammunition, especially in terms of goal-scorers. The team will be hard-pressed to return to the postseason, but it's hard to blame Nolan.
25. St. Louis Blues (28-27-10, Previous: 23) – Andy Murray has given the Blues structure and discipline, two important factors that were missing the last two non-playoff seasons. St. Louis is going to fall short in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff chase, but Murray has the Blues pointed in the right direction.
26. Edmonton Oilers (31-30-5, Previous: 30) – Craig MacTavish has enjoyed playoff appearances during alternating seasons for six straight years, but that string will be snapped this spring when the Oilers miss out for a second year in a row. That won't go over well in Edmonton. MacTavish is a players' coach, being a former Oilers' star and a clutch playoff performer in his playing days. Don't be surprised if he survives.
27. Atlanta Thrashers (29-31-7, Previous: 26) – Don Waddell fired Bob Hartley after the Thrashers started 0-6 and decided to stay behind the bench since, splitting his GM role with coaching. Obviously he wants to see what's available in the summer. An American GM probably wouldn't do this, but with a star like Ilya Kovalchuk, wouldn't it be interesting for someone to take a chance on, say, Igor Larionov?
28. Florida Panthers (29-31-8, Previous: 27) – How can anyone look at this and say it's working? Jacques Martin has been coach and GM for the last two years, only a coach in 2005-06, and the result has always been the same – Florida hopelessly out of playoff contention. How obvious is it that change is needed?
29. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-32-7, Previous: 28) – The emotional, critical and demanding John Tortorella won a Cup during his second year as a head coach in 2003-04, but has lost in the first round each of the last two years before finishing out of the playoffs this season. With ownership in the process of a change, this might signal a change both behind the bench and in the GM office where Jay Feaster has resided since 2001-02.
30. Los Angeles Kings (26-36-5, Previous: 29) – You have to figure there's a better than 50-50 chance there will be a change here. Marc Crawford is 0-2 in getting anything out of the Kings. He missed the playoffs his final season in Vancouver before getting hired in Los Angeles.