The 2016-2017 season hasn’t been the best for NHL Head Coaches. This season is proving that no job is safe anymore, and one mediocre season, you’re gone. For many coaches this season, one mediocre half-season, and you’re out of a job.
While there haven’t been too many coaches fired this season, there have been some big-name releases, including Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues. He is a great example of the never-secure position of a head coach. After three fantastic seasons as the Blues’ coach, the team wasn’t doing too well this season, and Hitchcock was released from his contract.
It’s not often that the league sees this kind of action, before the NHL Trade Deadline nonetheless (which is March 1 this year). We typically see this movement after the regular season is over, when Owners and General Managers aren’t happy with their coaches, and release them at the end of the season.
Other coaches to have been fired are Gerard Gallant, formerly of the Florida Panthers; Claude Julien, formerly of the Boston Bruins; and Jack Capuano, formerly of the New York Islanders.
As previously stated, Hitchcock was fired from his position of Head Coach in early February of this season. He inherited a decent St. Louis Blues organization, after coming from Columbus, during the 2011-2012 season. Since then, he brought the Blues to five straight playoff runs. The farthest he brought the blues was the third round, during the 2016 playoffs.
Hitchcock can be seen as a positive addition to the St. Louis organization, but caused a lot of controversy through his five seasons. One of the questionable moves made was when he traded Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames, for current goaltender Jake Allen.
Neither goaltender has seemed to really work out for their new squad, so many wonder why Hitchcock traded Elliott in the first place. However, as a possible consequence, the Blues are now fourth in the Central Division (27-22-5, 59 P).
Hitchcock could’ve also been seen as a coach that didn’t get along too well with his players. In April of 2016, when the Blues were facing the Chicago Blackhawks, he seemed to have a little disagreement with Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko was benched the rest of the man-advantage that they had at the time.
As a result of a poor halfway performance, General Manager, Doug Armstrong, “…made a…tough decision to change coaches.” Associate coach, Mike Yeo, would now replace Hitchcock for, what looks like, the rest of the season.
The Boston Bruins parted ways with head coach Claude Julien in early February as well. Julien was halfway through his ninth season with the organization, and it can be said that he had a great run with the program, up until the last couple of seasons.
Julien brought the Bruins to the playoffs in seven of his nine seasons as head coach. He even brought them to the finals twice, and came back with the Stanley Cup during the 2010-2011 season.
A big move he made in the beginning of the season was bringing in Dominic Moore, formerly of the New York Rangers. A low-scoring player, but a strong presence player. He has helped the Bruins in a silent way (8 G, 8 A – 16 P).
A small move that he made, however, was waiving Seth Griffith, a strong AHL player who could’ve been a key factor within the next couple of years, should he have had the chance. However, he’s been bounced around the league now.
A decision that he leaves behind is what to do with goaltender, Malcolm Subban. With a strong goaltender presence in the NHL, between Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, there is a possibility of trading him, so that he has a better chance to make it in the NHL.
Replacing the legendary coach, who has 419 wins (the most in Bruins franchise history) is assistant coach, Bruce Cassidy. He is placed on an interim basis for now.
Jack Capuano was fired in January after about five seasons of leading the Islanders. He didn’t have straight success over the five seasons, but still had some decent memories that fans will always remember.
He joined a team that didn’t go to the playoffs in his inaugural season, nor his first full season as head coach. They barely made it during the 2013 playoffs, and were defeated by Pittsburgh. They haven’t had much playoff success since then.
The best they did was Capuano’s last full season, as he brought them to the second round of the playoffs, but ended up losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a dominating fashion. One of the highlights of that season was the John Tavares goal against the Florida Panthers in the playoffs.
A questionable move that Capuano made was the inability to re-sign Kyle Okposo, who was an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season. With no re-signing, Okposo went to the Buffalo Sabres after a decent season with 64 points (22 G, 42 A).
Capuano was “relieved of his duties,” allowing Doug Weight, who was the assistant coach and general manager, to become the head coach on an interim status as well. It was also well-believed that he was headed home to Maine.
Gallant was the first coach fired this season. He was fired in late November, after only a couple seasons in the Sunshine state. His tenure wasn’t very long, and had a decent amount of success in his second season; but after setting the standards high, a rough beginning to the season lead to him without a coaching position.
This wasn’t his first time being fired as a coach, either. After 15 games, he was fired from the Columbus Blue Jackets organization during the 2006-2007 season. Ten seasons later, he was fired after 22 games from Florida.
Gallant was responsible for drafting Aaron Ekblad, one of the league’s better defensemen. They took him with the first overall pick of the 2014 draft.
He also brought in some other good names, such as Keith Yandle, Teddy Purcell, as well as Jiri Hudler. All of which were signed in the off-season. Even he himself was re-signed through the 2018-2019 season, but couldn’t stick throughout his entire contract.
Gallant was fired due to the Panther’s organization wanting “…a second consecutive playoff berth and [to] bring a Stanley Cup to South Florida…” Along with Gallant, assistant coach Mike Kelly was also let go of his contract.
Gallant’s replacement, Tom Rowe, was already involved in the Panther’s franchise, as the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. He takes on a struggling Florida Panthers team, who wants to at least try to make the wild card to keep the expectations alive.