NHL Hot Seat: Who Will Be The First NHL Coach Fired?

We don’t usually get the answer to the ‘who will be the first NHL coach fired’ question until a few months into the season, but that isn’t always the case.

While 10 of the 12 mid-season coaching changes over the past three years have taken place in December or later, there have also been some extremely early casualties. Columbus canned Todd Richards seven games into the 2015-16 season, and Philadelphia handed Peter Laviolette his walking papers just three games into the 2013-14 campaign.

In order to get fired before the calendar turns to November, a coach needs to be on pretty thin ice to begin with. At that point, all it takes is a slow start to the year for an owner or general manager to get an itchy trigger finger.

Here are five NHL coaches who either start the year on the hot seat or could find themselves in the firing line if things go south this season.

Who Will Be The First NHL Coach Fired?

1. Bill Peters, Carolina

Peters’ record through three seasons as the Hurricanes head coach is an unimpressive 101-103-42, with Carolina finishing no higher than sixth in the Metropolitan Division during that time.

Still, ownership saw enough in Peters’ first two seasons in Raleigh to hand him a three-year contract extension last spring. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround,” Peters told reporters when the extension was announced. “It takes time.”

Time could run out on Peters this season, however, because general manager Ron Francis has addressed some needs in an effort to end Carolina’s eight-year playoff drought. After signing goalie Scott Darling and veteran winger Justin Williams, the ‘Canes are clearly accelerating the rebuild. If the Hurricanes get off to a slow start, there’s potential for Peters to get blown out of town.

2. John Hynes, New Jersey

Hynes is another coach whose recent struggles have been excused by the fact that he didn’t have the best talent to work with. In two years behind the Devils bench, Hynes owns a record of 66-76-22 and New Jersey has finished seventh, then eighth in the Metropolitan.

After his first year in the Meadowlands, Hynes could at least point to the six-point improvement the Devils showed from the previous year. But any of that goodwill may have been lost during last year’s horrible 28-40-14 showing, when New Jersey was 17 points behind the next-worst team in the division.

There will be no excuses for Hynes if the Devils aren’t significantly better this year. With Marcus Johansson and first-overall pick Nico Hischier in the lineup to give Taylor Hall some badly-needed support up front, management has bolstered an attack that ranked third-last in the NHL in goals last season.

Hynes may not need a playoff appearance this season to save his job, but the Devils need to at least contend for one. If they aren’t showing signs of being able to do that early in the year, don’t be surprised if we see the axe drop.

3. Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia

The Flyers are best known for being a goaltending meatgrinder, but they’re also proving to be a graveyard for coaches.

Excluding Hall of Famer Fred Shero, the longest tenure for any coach in Philadelphia has been the four years put in by Mike Keenan in the mid-1980s. 15 coaches have walked the plank within a three-year span, and Hakstol just happens to be going into his third year in Philly.

That isn’t the only reason Hakstol could be shown the door, of course. After starting last season with a 19-10-3 record through 32 games, the Flyers were just 20-23-7 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs. Hakstol has also yet to prove that he’s capable of getting favorable line match-ups on the road in the NHL level, something he didn’t have to do as much during a successful college career at the University of North Dakota.

We already know what Flyers fans think of Hakstol after attacking the head coach last year when he supported the U.S. women’s hockey team’s fight for fair pay. Another mediocre campaign in Philadelphia could make management think the same way.

4. Jeff Blashill, Detroit

Blashill was already on the short list of NHL coaching candidates to get fired last year, facing odds as low as 8:1 in mid-February. The black eye of being the first Red Wings coach to miss the playoffs in 25 years can’t have helped.

Blashill survived the off-season, and not much is expected of Detroit in a rebuilding year. Still, Detroit general manager Ken Holland is on the hot seat himself, and may end up throwing Blashill overboard in order to preserve his own job.

At the very least, Blashill needs to figure out how to get the Red Wings to play a more exciting brand of hockey as they enter their first year in Little Caesars Arena. Detroit ranked 23rd in the league in goals scored two years ago, then dipped to 26th last year. If we start seeing empty seats in a new rink, Blashill will probably be the scapegoat.

5. Joel Quenneville, Chicago

At first, it might seem ridiculous for the Blackhawks to consider firing the man who led them to three Stanley Cup championships this decade.

However, plenty of Cup-winning coaches have been fired in the past, and every coach has his shelf life. Before last season started, who would have expected the Blues to fire Ken Hitchcock midway through the year?

Chicago is coming off back-to-back first round playoff exits, including an embarrassing sweep at the hands of eighth-seeded Nashville last spring. Many expect the Blackhawks to regress a bit this season after losing Artemi Panarin, Scott Darling, Marian Hossa, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Quenneville didn’t hide his disappointment about the Hjalmarsson trade, and he’s butted heads with general manager Stan Bowman before. Speaking of Bowman, he may have sent Quenneville a message by firing assistant coach Mike Kitchen – a close friend of Quenneville’s – in April.

With a career 413-203-83 record as Blackhawks coach, Quenneville has set the bar high in Chicago. Ironically, those high expectations could be precisely what does Coach Q in if the Hawks don’t live up to them this season.

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