With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ firing of Mike Babcock, we have already seen one of the bigger coaching changes in the NHL this season. Babcock was the highest-paid coach in the league, the biggest name behind a bench and the person who was supposed to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. It did not work out, it had not been working for a while, and the change seemed inevitable after another postseason disappointment and the slow start to this season. It will not be the only major change made by a team this season. Here we take a look at some NHL players, coaches and GMs who are also on the hot seat.
Note: This list does not include Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters, who is currently embroiled in a controversy that seems likely to cost him his job. 1 of 19
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning (head coach)
Overall, Cooper’s tenure in Tampa Bay has been successful. The Lightning have been one of the winningest teams in the regular season, they have had deep playoff runs (Stanley Cup Final, two other Eastern Conference Final appearances) and won a Presidents’ Trophy with a record-tying 62 wins, all within the past five years. But their inability to close out playoff series and then getting swept in Round 1 a year ago in one of the most stunning upsets in Stanley Cup Playoff history, plus a slow start this season has no doubt put Cooper on his hottest seat yet. A coaching change is the one significant card this ultra-talented team has to play. 2 of 19
Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks (general manager)
All eyes are on Bowman in Chicago. The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs two years in a row, they fired their future Hall of Fame and three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach (Joel Quenneville) and attempted to retool around their core this summer by adding several players to the defense. So far not much of it has worked. A third consecutive non-playoff season should put even more pressure on Bowman than he is already facing. 3 of 19
John Hynes, New Jersey Devils (Head coach)
This is Hynes’ fifth season behind the Devils bench, and to date he has made the playoffs one time. Given all of the talent the Devils added over the summer, expectations were significantly higher this season and the team has — to this point — failed to deliver on them. The most disappointing part of their season is the fact they have lost four games in which they held multiple-goal leads.
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Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild (head coach)
This just seems to be a matter of when, and not if. You know at some point that first-year general manager Bill Guerin is going to want to bring in his own coach, and with the Wild stuck near the bottom of the NHL standings, it is worth wondering if the team will look to make a change in season. Boudreau is an excellent coach, but he does not have much to work with in Minnesota, and it might just be time for all parties involved to get a fresh start elsewhere. 5 of 19
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings (head coach)
Who would have ever guessed that Blashill would last longer in Detroit than Mike Babcock did in Toronto? That is exactly what has happened, though, as Blashill remains behind the bench for the Red Wings. But how much longer will he be there? It is impossible to put the team’s struggles on him given the state of the roster, but this is going to be a fourth consecutive non-playoff season for him, the team has one of the worst records in the league and new general manager Steve Yzerman is going to eventually want his own coach. 6 of 19
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (goalie)
The Sharks one Achilles’ heel remains in net where the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is again among the league’s worst. This is a Stanley Cup-caliber team if it can get some saves. Jones and Dell have not yet shown an ability to do that on a consistent basis.
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Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (forward)
Considering the fact the Kings have pretty much already relegated him to a permanent healthy scratch, it seems that “hot seat” might be underselling his current status with the team. Following a six-year stop in the KHL, the Kings brought Kovalchuk back to the NHL at the start of the 2018-19 season by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract. It has proved to be a rather poor fit from the beginning. He never gained the trust of the previous coaching staff and does not really fit in the Kings’ current long-term plans as they look to rebuild. The only question that remains now is what team he finishes the season with because it will almost certainly not be the Kings. 8 of 19
Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators (forward)
A few years ago he was general manager David Poile’s big in-season acquisition and was supposed to be one of the final pieces of a Stanley Cup puzzle. The Predators immediately signed him to a long-term contract extension and made him a central part of their team. The results have not been what anyone involved expected, and now Turris has found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion this season while his production continues to decline. The Predators are paying him $6 million per year and not getting much of a return at the moment. 9 of 19
Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins (Forward)
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to move on from mistakes, and if Galchenyuk does not start producing more offense he might find himself as the latest example. Acquired in the offseason trade that sent Phil Kessel to Arizona, Galchenyuk went 14 games to begin the 2019-20 season before finally scoring a goal and really has not provided any of the offense the Penguins were hoping to get from him. With his contract up at the end of this season, it would not take much for the Penguins to move on with a trade.
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Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Goalie)
When the Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency, it was generally accepted that it was going to be a significant long-term risk. He might still be really good for a few years and help get the Panthers back in the playoffs, but what would his career look like on the back end of that contract? So far the Panthers aren’t even getting the short-term gain that was expected. Bobrovsky is off to one of the worst starts of his career and has not looked anything like the two-time Vezina Trophy winner the Panthers thought they were getting. Given his contract the Panthers don’t really have many options other than hoping he figures it out and gets back on track. 11 of 19
Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils (general manager)
The head coach is not the only person on the hot seat in New Jersey. Shero went all in this offseason on trying to fix his roster, but he made the costly mistake of not fixing the team’s biggest issue: goalie. He also has to deal with the Taylor Hall contract and decide whether he can get him re-signed, and if not, whether he has to trade his best player and a former league MVP. 12 of 19
Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres (general manager)
Botterill hasn’t had a lot of time to fully build a team in Buffalo, but ownership is desperate for a competitive team. The Sabres have already made another coaching change, tweaked the roster and have enough core building blocks in place that some meaningful progress should be made. They had a great start to the 2018-19 season before falling apart in the second half and are in danger of going in a similar direction this season. That will not be good news for the general manager.
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Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators (Head coach)
Laviolette is an outstanding coach and if the Predators ever decided to go in a different direction, he would not have to wait long for his next head coaching job. But every coach has a shelf life, and with the Predators off to a disappointing start — after taking a step back a year ago — it is fair to wonder if Laviollete and Nashville have reached their ceilings together. This seems like a classic “we need a change to shake things up” situation. 14 of 19
The Dallas Stars top line
The duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are not really in danger of going anywhere, but the pressure is on them to perform because for the second year in a row they have found themselves the target of internal criticism for their play. A year ago it came from CEO Jim Lites (in a rather profane manner), and this year it is from head coach Jim Montgomery (before he later apologized). In both cases the criticism was probably a little unfair, but those are the stakes when you are the highest-paid and most visible players on the team. 15 of 19
Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks (head coach)
Green hasn’t done a bad job in Vancouver, and he hasn’t always had a great team to work with, but it all comes down to results. Ask yourself this question: How many head coaches get three years in a row without making the playoffs before being replaced? That is what Green would be looking at this season if the Canucks do not qualify in the Western Conference. It would probably take a huge meltdown for an in-season change to happen, but if they end up missing again, an offseason change could be on the horizon.
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Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks (Head coach)
The Sharks under DeBoer have been remarkably consistent, winning 45, 46, 45 and 46 games in his first full seasons behind the bench. That includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, another run to the Western Conference Final and six postseason series wins. He has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final (New Jersey being the other) and has a strong track record. But the Sharks expect championship-level play, and so far this season they have not delivered on that. A coaching change might be a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t think it is likely, but if the Sharks keep hovering around the .500 mark with this roster it might became a bigger discussion. 17 of 19
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Forward)
The options here are limited because Lucic’s contract is essentially buyout proof given how it is made up almost entirely of signing bonuses. Trading him would only get the Flames another undesirable contract in return. But you kind of have to put him on the hot seat given that he started with zero goals and four assists in his first 24 games, while the guy he was traded for (James Neal) scored 14 goals in his first 26 games for the Flames’ biggest rival (Edmonton). 18 of 19
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks (Defenseman)
It was probably overdue, but Seabrook found himself as a healthy scratch earlier this season and was not particularly happy about it. He still thinks he can contribute, but the Blackhawks at some point need to start thinking about the future and their long-term outlook. Seabrook was a major contributor to three Stanley Cup-winning teams and a mini-dynasty in Chicago, but it is not unfair to say his best days as an NHL defender are in the rearview mirror. At some point you have to begin a new chapter.
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Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (general manager)
He is not really in danger of being fired because the Maple Leafs are clearly committed to him and his direction. But make no mistake: With Mike Babcock out of the mix, this is now Dubas’ team in every way. His vision, his roster, his coach. I think it can work (and most likely will work), but if it does not there is only one other place to point the finger.
By: Adam Gretz