In light of the recent success of the Pittsburgh Penguins, you will undoubtedly hear about how Mike Sullivan came in at mid-season and turned around a club that had under-performed under the guidance of Mike Johnston. Now, it doesn't take a miracle worker to find success when you can slot Sidney Crosby into your lineup, but there is something to be said for some teams simply needing a change in culture or a new voice in the room.
Coaching changes are nearly always a desperate response to inadequate performance. That doesn't mean that the incumbent coach has necessarily done a poor job, per se, but it does mean that the status quo is no longer sufficient. If a team has completely bottomed out, then they have nothing to lose, making at least marginal improvement by the next guy in charge a practical certainty. Where mid-season coaching changes can get risky, however, is when something remains on the line. It takes a gutsy General Manager to pull the trigger on a coaching move when that team remains in the playoff hunt, a risk that has been known to both pay off and turn disastrous.
The NHL seems to be a particular haven for these kind of coaching moves. As a league that thrives on parity and sees its fair share of streaky, momentum-shifting play, it has witnessed more mid-season changes made behind the bench among its 30 teams than any other among the North American 'Big Four' (NBA, MLB and NFL). When things go well and a coaching change brings about a desperately needed breath of fresh air, a middling club spinning its wheels can suddenly become an elite, contending force. But when the wrong guy winds up being put in charge, a less than ideal situation suddenly turns into an absolute trainwreck. Sure enough, the NHL has seen plenty of examples of both scenarios.
16 Worked: 1993-94 Washington Capitals
15 Didn't Work: 1973-74 California Golden Seals
14 Worked: 1978-79 Winnipeg Jets
13 Didn't Work: 1970-71 Montreal Canadiens
12 Worked: 2002-03 Colorado Avalanche
11 Didn't Work: 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens
10 Worked: 1999-2000 New Jersey Devils
9 Didn't Work: 2001-02 New Jersey Devils
8 Worked: 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins
7 Didn't Work: 1937-38 Montreal Maroons
6 Worked: 1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs
5 Didn't Work: 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs
4 Worked: 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings
3 Didn't Work: 1997-98 New York Rangers
2 Worked: 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
1 Didn't Work: 1976-77 Detroit Red Wings
Speaking of those same Red Wings, it's hard to think back to a time where the franchise, the owners of 25 straight playoff appearances and counting, wasn't successful. But the Original Six club has certainly had its share of low points, not the least of which came in the tumultuous 1976-77 season, one that saw not only a mid-season coaching change but even a General Manager change. Detroit legend Alex Delvecchio played both roles at the start of 76-77 before resigning amidst an unimpressive 13-26-5 season. Sadly, his coaching replacement, Larry Wilson, wound up being historically bad, winning just three times in 36 games of what, unsurprisingly, was his only NHL head coaching stint.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!