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NHL head coaching hot seat: Seven NHL coaches who could be at risk of losing their jobs

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The 2022-23 NHL season has been in full swing for about a month now, and we are starting to get an idea of which teams are pretenders and who are contenders. As clubs struggle out of the gate it bodes the question — which coaches are on the hot seat?

While there have been plenty of pleasant surprises this season, such as the Devils, Flyers and Kraken, there have been a number of disappointing starts. Certain teams that had Cup aspirations look far from a club that can lift the Stanley Cup by season’s end. 

However, there is still much of the season left, and a coaching change could be the spark that certain organizations need in order to right the ship. We saw it just four seasons ago when the Blues fired Mike Yeo and replaced him with Craig Berube (more on him later) in November. The move paid dividends as Berube was able to lead the team to the playoffs and by the end of the season, St. Louis had won the Stanley Cup. 

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Let’s break down the seven coaches who could be at risk of losing their job this early in the NHL season. Sports Interaction has odds on who will be the next coach looking for a new job.

NHL coaches on the hot seat

Mike Sullivan, Penguins (+800)

Hired: Dec. 12, 2015

Contract: Signed through 2026-27 season

Hot seat meter: Cool

It feels like the sky is falling in Pittsburgh. After a sensational start to the season, the team has dropped seven contests in a row, with six of those losses coming in regulation. The Penguins are falling behind in a very competitive Metro Division and have to figure things out fast. 

However, the problem isn’t with the coach or his staff. Sullivan is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, currently in his eighth season with the Penguins. He helped bring two Stanley Cups to the city and has brought the club to the playoffs every season he’s been in charge.

The talent is there in Pittsburgh and this rough patch will eventually end. Sullivan is too strong of a coach to fire, having proven year after year that he can guide the team to success, no matter how many injuries the team has to deal with. Plus, the Pens just signed him to a three-year extension this offseason, so he isn’t leaving the Burgh anytime soon. 

Sheldon Keefe, Maple Leafs (+292)

Hired: May 23, 2019

Contract: Signed through 2023-24 season

Hot seat meter: Mild

How is it that a coach of a team who is 7-4-2 and third in their division can be at risk of losing their job? Because it’s Toronto and literally anything and everything that goes on in the organization is put under a microscope.

It hasn’t been the start the Maple Leafs hoped for, as the team closed out October on a four-game losing streak which included bad losses to the Ducks and Sharks. However, the team responded with three wins over tough opponents and earned points in four consecutive games. 

Should Keefe be on the hot seat? Probably not, but this is not a regular hockey market we are talking about. There are expectations in Toronto, and if the team isn’t performing up to those standards, something has to change and it’s always easy to point the finger at the coach, especially given the lack of playoff success.

John Hynes, Predators (+800)

Hired: Jan. 7, 2020

Contract: Signed through 2023-24 season

Hot seat meter: Medium

Every year since Hynes was hired in the middle of the 2019-20 season, there is a stretch where the Predators play poorly and Hynes’ name is brought up as a potential firing. We are at that point in the 2022-23 season, as Nashville is 5-7-1 with a record of 3-7-1 after sweeping the Sharks in the NHL Global Series to start the season.

Nashville’s recipe for success has been relying on Juuse Saros to keep them in games and hope to pull out victories in low-scoring contests. But when Saros isn’t standing on his head, things have been ugly, as an offense averaging 2.62 goals a game isn’t going to cut it. 

GM David Poile just signed Hynes and his staff through the 2023-24 season, so it’s unlikely that the trigger is pulled this soon after handing out those extensions. Plus, Nashville is known as an organization that has a long leash with coaches. But the Predators need to start winning on a consistent basis for Hynes’ job to be completely secure. 

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Craig Berube, Blues (+141)

Hired: Nov. 19, 2018

Contract: Signed through 2024-25 season

Hot seat meter: Medium

Out of all the surprises this season, good and bad, none might be more shocking than what is happening with the Blues. After three straight wins to start the year, St. Louis has dropped eight games in a row — all in regulation. 

St. Louis is ranked 29th in goals allowed per game (3.91) while the offense is dead last, averaging 2.09 goals per game. Their penalty kill is bottom-five at 70.8%. Despite having a majority of the roster back from last year’s 109-point team, it looks like a completely different squad. 

The Blues have made it to the playoffs every year under Berube, including winning the Cup in 2019 after he took over in the middle of the season. Firing Berube shouldn’t be the first change within the organization, but if the results don’t get better soon, St. Louis will be forced to make a move somewhere. 

Brad Larsen, Blue Jackets (+403)

Hired: June 10, 2021

Contract: Signed through 2023-24 season

Hot seat meter: Hot

The Blue Jackets weren’t expected to be a Cup contender, even with the addition of Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason. That said, a league-worst 3-9-0 record wasn’t anticipated either. 

Columbus is ranked 31st in both goals scored per game (2.50) and goals allowed per game (4.58). The power play has been awful, as the team has converted on just two of their chances thus far, connecting at a 6.1% success rate, the worst in the NHL. 

It’s only Larsen’s second season with the team and while Columbus exceeded expectations last season, the club is going in the wrong direction this year. Many were skeptical about the Larsen hiring when it happened, and it looks like they may have been right. 

D.J. Smith, Senators (+450)

Hired: May 23, 2019

Contract: Signed through 2023-24 season (option for 2024-25)

Hot seat meter: Hot

With the additions of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux and the young core in Ottawa getting another year of development, the Senators were touted as playoff contenders. A month into the year and the Sens are where they have typically been the last few seasons — towards the bottom of the standings. 

The Senators are 4-8-0, dropping six consecutive games in regulation. In five of those losses, the defense has allowed at least four goals. While the offense is scoring 3.50 goals per game, the Senators are allowing 3.67. 

GM Pierre Dorion recently came out and adamantly stated his approval of Smith, saying that no coaching change would be coming. However, it would not be the first time a GM has had to go against his previous comments, and if the Senators want to make the playoffs, Smith may not be the guy. He has yet to bring the club to the postseason in his three years as coach. 

Bruce Boudreau, Canucks (+454)

Hired: Dec. 5, 2021

Contract: Signed through 2022-23

Hot seat meter: Burning

The match has been lit. There is a rope attached to Boudreau’s chair that is soaked in gasoline and the tip is already on fire. It’s a ticking time bomb waiting to go off in Vancouver. 

Boudreau’s days as the Canucks coach are numbered. When the president of the organization comes out and bashes the way the team’s training camp preparation and the systems currently in place, that’s a sure sign that the club isn’t happy with the way things are going. The defense in particular has been a massive problem for the Canucks, allowing 4.00 goals per game, the third-lowest mark in the NHL. 

The veteran coach was going to have a short leash this season. He wasn’t hired by the current regime of Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin and was not offered an extension this summer. Between the comments from Rutherford recently and the underwhelming 4-6-3 record, Boudreau’s magic has run thin in Vancouver. 


Credit: sportingnews.com

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