In shorter NHL season, coaches can’t escape the hot seat: Here’s who needs to step up

The Montreal Canadiens began the season with an offensive explosion and a 7-1-2 record.

Since then, their goals dried up and they went into a 2-4-2 slide.

And in a short season, that was enough for general manager Marc Bergevin, who fired coach Claude Julien on Wednesday and replaced him with interim coach Dominique Ducharme. (He lost his debut as the top man behind the bench 6-3 on Thursday.)

"I just saw a pattern where I didn’t want to wait any longer," Bergevin told reporters.

A rough stretch will become magnified during a 56-game season, with less time to get back on track.

With that in mind, are there any other NHL coaches who could be feeling the heat? USA TODAY Sports' experts weigh in:

Calgary Flames' Geoff Ward: It's easy to point to lower-rung teams such as the New York Rangers or Detroit Red Wings, but Ward is facing a different kind of pressure. Calgary added one of the top goalies on the market, Jacob Markstrom, and defenseman Christopher Tanev during the offseason and is operating close to the salary cap, further signaling it fashions itself as a contender. But here we are, 21 games into the season and the Flames are 9-10-2 following a 6-1 loss Thursday to the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators, sitting in fifth in the all-Canada (North) division after losing in the first round of the NHL playoffs in 2020. Ward has already called a recent road trip "make-or-break" and Matthew Tkachuk has called it a "huge, huge moment in our season," so it's easy to see Ward's group must raise its play or changes could be made. — Jimmy Hascup

Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward finds himself on the hot seat (Photo: John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports)

Vancouver Canucks' Travis Green: Owner Francesco Aquilini tweeted about two weeks ago that it would take time for the team to come together in this unique season, he had faith in Green and GM Jim Benning and had no plans to make changes. But the Canucks are losing ugly. In three recent losses, they've blown two 2-0 leads and a 3-0 lead. They were outmatched by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and are in a 2-9-2 slide after they were shut out 3-0 Thursday night by the Edmonton Oilers. Personnel appears to be an issue as Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Tyler Toffoli left in free agency. The Canucks look nothing like the team that had a promising postseason in the bubble. — Mike Brehm

New York Rangers' David Quinn: Though generally competitive on a night-to-night basis, the Rangers are just 6-8-3 on the season and seem destined for more losing in the immediate future with leading scorer Artemi Panarin out of the lineup. That situation, of course, is not Quinn's fault, but Panarin's absence could reveal the biggest issue of Quinn's tenure: the lack of development of the Rangers' young offensive players. No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere has just two goals and no assists in 17 games while skating 14:33 a night. In a vacuum that's OK – Lafreniere is just 19 years old and not every top pick puts up Auston Matthews-type production right out of the gate. The problem for the Rangers, though, is Lafreniere is not the only young forward who has struggled under Quinn. As it pertains to the current squad, 20-year-old Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 overall pick in 2019, has just two goals and one assist in 14 games this season while skating 14:59 a night. The Rangers got great lottery luck to draft these two talented players, but if the youngsters are going to play with the big club this much the team needs to actually develop them. So far, their production on the ice has not provided much evidence that Quinn can take their careers to the next level – a particularly perplexing issue given Quinn came to the NHL from the college game and is ostensibly good working with young players. — Jace Evans  

Source: Read Full Article