Being an NHL head coach is no easy task. Sure, it's cool to make seven figures, wear fancy suits and coach the best players in the world, but it's a job that's not as easy as it may appear on paper.
Unless you're winning multiple Stanley Cups in short time frames (it's nearly impossible in this day and age), the media and fans are quick to call for your dismissal. Some head coaches also love their jobs a little too much to the point they let their blood boil - John Tortorella, anyone?
Some of the current NHL head coaches have accomplished so much, that they don't have to worry about their jobs for a long time. But there are some NHL head coaches that should prepare for a new life, because their jobs are on ice.
Here is a look at some of the NHL head coaches who are safe for the long run, and seven who could soon earn a pink slip.
15 Safe: Bruce Boudreau
The Minnesota Wild hired Bruce Boudreau in the summer of 2016 in hopes that he could fix their lack of playoff success. They gave him what was reportedly a four-year contract, which gives him at least a couple of seasons to prove himself as the right man for the job.
Thing is, Boudreau already looks like a Jack Adams candidate. The Wild, who barely got into the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, are the top team in the Western Conference, and they're averaging 3.26 goals per game - the highest rate in franchise history thus far. Boudreau has also implemented a strong defensive system that has helped Devan Dubnyk get the support he needs - making him the Vezina Trophy frontrunner.
With all these amazing things Boudreau has done early on, he's safe in Minnesota for the long run. He's only getting started in the State of Hockey.
14 Fired: Willie Desjardins
Willie Desjardins has taken a battered, ageing Vancouver Canucks roster and turned them into a playoff hopeful. This team is right in the Western Conference postseason race, and few men could do that with the lack of talent this team has.
So why is Desjardins on this list? Well, logic says the Canucks are bound to regress more and fall out of the playoff picture altogether. Missing the postseason would likely mean a pink slip for Desjardins. The Canucks have delayed an inevitable rebuild for three years, and once they finally come around to it, you can expect them to search for a new head coach.
Desjardins has been a nice fit for the Canucks young guys, but seeing how he was their third coach in as many seasons (when he took over in 2014-15), it's a sign that patience is limited in Vancouver. No playoffs likely means the Canucks fourth coach in five years. And don't expect the playoffs to return to Vancouver this year.
13 Safe: Mike Babcock
After 10 memorable seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, took an eight-year, $50 million contract to join the Toronto Maple Leafs and headline their rebuild. The Leafs were the NHL's worst team (by miles), in 2015-16, but Babcock has turned them into a legitimate playoff contender this season. The Leafs currently hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Even if the Leafs finish last in the NHL this season and in 2017-18, the Leafs will not fire Babcock. They know this is a long rebuilding process, and Babcock needs a lot of time to put it all together. He has nice pieces in Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner to build around, so this rebuild may not take as long as expected.
The Leafs paid a lot of money to land Babcock, because they desperately wanted him to transition them into a new golden era. That lengthy contract and his track record suggests he won't be leaving Toronto any time before Donald Trump leaves office.
12 Fired: Dave Tippett
Dave Tippett won the Jack Adams Trophy in his first year as head coach of the Coyotes in 2009-10. He took a team with very little talent and was able to turn them into a playoff team for three seasons - from 2010 to 2012. But the Coyotes have been among the league's absolute worst teams for five years now, and Tippett remains the bench boss.
The Coyotes put up just 56 points in 2014-15 and followed it up with 78 points the following season. Arizona's ownership seems to love the idea of having him continue to work with the youth movement, but it's not panning out.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the only superstar, while promising prospect Anthony Duclair is struggling to find his groove. The Coyotes appear to be stale under Tippett, and he should be let go after 2016-17 if and when Arizona finished near the bottom of the league standings. Again.
11 Safe: Peter Laviolette
Peter Laviolette seems to be lost in the shuffle when it comes to discussing the NHL's best head coaches. After the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs in 2013-14, Laviolette led them to a 104-point season that saw them finish second in a tough Central Division. Nashville followed that up with 96 points and a first-round upset of the Anaheim Ducks in last year's playoffs.
The Predators were one win away from reaching their first-ever Western Conference Finals, too. And despite key injuries to stars in 2016-17, Laviolette has this team at third in the Central Division. He took over Barry Trotz' system and was able to implement the traditional shutdown defence while helping forwards Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Colin Wilson maximize their scoring potentials.
Laviolette has turned this Predators team into a juggernaut, and his job is as safe as it can be for now, and in 2018.
10 Fired: Jeff Blashill
The Red Wings wanted to keep Mike Babcock as their head coach, but there was no way of matching the Maple Leafs ludicrous contract offer. As a result, they hired Jeff Blashill (head coach of the Wings AHL farm team), to be the new bench boss. In year one, Blashill narrowly guided Detroit to the playoffs.
However, Detroit is now threatening to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season. Nobody is scoring at their usual standards, the defence is awful and the goaltending has been mediocre at best. Blashill has high expectations to keep this playoff streak going. Even though he has little talent to work with, he's going to get the blame if Detroit keeps struggling.
There's no reason to really believe the Red Wings will turn it around. At this point, they need to give up on the streak and commit to a long-term rebuild. If they do that, it should mean bringing on a new coach to begin the new era.
9 Safe: Todd McLellan
Todd McLellan's first year with the Edmonton Oilers was one to forget, as the team finished second-last in the NHL. However, the Oilers seemed to buy well into McLellan's system, and the team was playing a much better all-around game. The front office made the right call in giving him another chance to improve the squad in 2016-17.
Here sit the Oilers, third in the Pacific Division and not far out of first place. Connor McDavid's health has been key to the turnaround, while goalie Cam Talbot is playing like a top-tier goaltender. Many of Edmonton's young players haven't even reached their full potential yet - so the sky is the limit with this group.
McLellan appears to be the ideal fit for this young Oilers team. They listen to him and play the way he wants them to. Edmonton is on the rise, and McLellan will be trusted in leading them to glory.
8 Fired: Jared Bednar
It's hard to blame Jared Bednar for the disaster that is the Colorado Avalanche, AKA the worst team in the NHL by miles. Former head coach Patrick Roy resigned after Joe Sakic refused to make trades that would give the former the right players he needed.
The front office refused to make changes, and it appears as though Roy was right all along. The Avalanche aren't competing despite world class talents in Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Semyon Varlamov and Nate MacKinnon. Bednar had to step into an ugly situation, but I don't think even Mike Babcock nor the great Scotty Bowman would be able to do much with this roster.
With the Avalanche facing the tough task of doing a full-on makeover, don't expect Bednar to come back. Again, it's not his fault this team is underachieving. They just need a new brand, and that usually means bringing on a different bench boss.
7 Safe: Peter DeBoer
The San Jose Sharks' postseason struggles were well-documented for years. Then, Pter DeBoer became the Sharks head coach and took them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 - his first year with the team. The Sharks roster appeared to be stale and in need of a rebuild, but DeBoer had other ideas.
He allowed Brent Burns to play his own game, becoming arguably the league's top-rounded defenceman, while having the Sharks rely more on the younger duo of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, while Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau became second-liners. The Sharks Stanley Cup window appears to be open longer than we thought two years ago. DeBoer has the Sharks competing for the top spot in the Pacific Division again - even though Marleau and Thornton are wearing down significantly.
That's a sign he has this team ready to compete, even when the two franchise icons move on in the near future. That's a good sign for DeBoer, who should be this team's bench boss for years to come.
6 Fired: Michel Therrien
It's not often that a team fires a head coach who has guided them to a pair of division titles, especially when they're also currently in first place in the Atlantic Division. But for the Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien's time should be up, and another guy's time should be now (John Cena, anyone?).
The Canadiens were the NHL's top team over the first two months of 2015-16, but after Carey Price sprained his MCL and missed the rest of the season, the Habs were among hockey's worst teams. That means Therrien doesn't know how to manage this team without its top player.
Must it be reminded that the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Therrien during the 2009 season and won the Stanley Cup? Therrien has also called out his own players - namely Max Pacioretty. His relationship with the team seems stale, and the Habs simply need a change if they want to win a Stanley Cup. But Marc Bergevin seems too confident in a man that should have been let go last year.
5 Safe: Barry Trotz
Barry Trotz was the Nashville Predators head coach from their inaugural season to 2013-14. Once the team decided to cut ties with them, the Washington Capitals hired him to be their new bench boss - and it's turned out to be one of the greatest hires in recent memory.
The Capitals were once a high-flying scoring team, led by Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But Trotz turned the Capitals into the league's best defensive team, while Braden Holtby emerged as the NHL's top goalie. Washington won the Presidents' Trophy in 2016 and nearly reached the Eastern Conference Final the season before - falling one game short.
Washington is the NHL's most complete team - with dynamic scorers, shutdown defencemen and the league's best goalie. With Dale Hunter, Bruce Boudreau and Adam Oates all failing to get the most out of this team years prior, it's safe to say Trotz is going to be in D.C. for a long time.
4 Fired: Claude Julien
The Boston Bruins used to be the class of the Eastern Conference. They won the 2011 Stanley Cup and reached the Final again in 2013, falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in a close six-game series. Boston followed it up with a Presidents' Trophy in 2013-14, only to see the Montreal Canadiens shock them in the second round.
Boston collapsed miserably near the end of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, missing the playoffs altogether. Claude Julien entered this season on the hot seat, and the Bruins haven't been all that much better. Making the playoffs is a 50-50 toss up, but don't expect them to make it past the first round if they get in. The Bruins have an ageing core - Patrice Bergeron (31), Zdeno Chara (39), David Krejci (30), and David Backes (32), aren't getting younger nor better. Boston needs to accept an inevitable rebuild soon. Once they do that, they'll realize it's time to find a new head coach to start the new direction of the organization.
3 Safe: Mike Sullivan
The Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be in serious trouble during the 2015-16 season. Sidney Crosby wasn't scoring (like at all), and the Penguins weren't even in the playoff race. They hired Mike Sullivan to take over. Next thing you knew, this team was scoring in bunches, they were the 2016 Stanley Cup champions and Sidney Crosby has maintained his status as the best player in the world.
Sullivan had a poor track record as a head coach with the Boston Bruins and assistant with the Vancouver Canucks (in the John Tortorella year). He built a system that fit the skills of the team: Speed and quick-passing/puck movement. The Pens were unstoppable in the second half of 2015-16, and they didn't have many troubles winning their fourth Stanley Cup.
Sullivan was given a three-year extension in December, meaning he has a vote of confidence from the front office. Should we mention that Stanley Cup-winning head coaches usually get plenty of time before their jobs are in jeopardy? Moving on...
2 Fired: Paul Maurice
With all due respect to Paul Maurice, it's beyond me how this man has a job. The Winnipeg Jets went from a playoff team in 2014-15 to one of the league's worst the following season. They are third-last in the Western Conference (as of this writing), despite featuring stars and studs Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Jacob Trouba and Tobias Enstrom.
So basically, Maurice isn't really doing anything with a star-studded team. Should I mention in his 18 years as a head coach, Maurice's teams have made the playoffs five times? Or twice in the past 11 years?
He's not finding a way to get this group to gel together. Winnipeg is just a mess right now, and they're becoming the old Oilers in loading up in promising prospects/young stars and doing nothing with it. At least the Oilers tried out different coaches until they found one in McLellan.
Winnipeg appears poised to finish near the bottom of the standings for the third time in four seasons under Maurice's guidance. Where's the change?
1 Safe: Joel Quenneville
After over a decade of being a terrible organization, and 49 years without a Stanley Cup, Joel Quenneville led the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2010 championship. That alone bought him plenty of time to remain the head coach for the foreseeable future. Then, the Blackhawks won another Stanley Cup in 2013 - impressive, right?
Then, the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. And then, they won the Stanley Cup in 2015 - becoming a dynasty. The Blackhawks were the laughingstock NHL organization from 1997-2007, but Quenneville came to town and turned them into the NHL's model club in a short amount of time.
At this point, Quenneville is not going to be fired in Chicago. He's going to stay there until he wants to retire or head over to another team. He's done so much for the city, there's no way the front office will ever have the courage to cut ties with him.
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