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8 NHL Mid-Season Coaching Changes That Worked And 8 That Didn't

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

via bleacherreport.com

15 Didn't Work: 1973-74 California Golden Seals

via youtube.com

14 Worked: 1978-79 Winnipeg Jets

via winnipegfreepress.com

13 Didn't Work: 1970-71 Montreal Canadiens

via nytimes.com

12 Worked: 2002-03 Colorado Avalanche

via host.madison.com

11 Didn't Work: 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens

via news.nationalpost.com

10 Worked: 1999-2000 New Jersey Devils

via nhl.com

9 Didn't Work: 2001-02 New Jersey Devils

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

8 Worked: 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

7 Didn't Work: 1937-38 Montreal Maroons

via twitter.com

6 Worked: 1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs

via indie88.com

5 Didn't Work: 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

4 Worked: 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

3 Didn't Work: 1997-98 New York Rangers

via reuters.com

2 Worked: 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

1 Didn't Work: 1976-77 Detroit Red Wings

via icehockey.wikia.com

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.

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8 NHL Mid-Season Coaching Changes That Worked And 8 That Didn't