So I was at the Devils / Capitals game yesterday in Washington when news broke that the Toronto Maple Leafs had fired their head coach Ron Wilson. With only one win in their past dozen games having fallen five points out of the playoffs, the time had come for Brian Burke to fire his close friend Ron Wilson. Earlier this week chants of “Fire Wilson” taunted the team in a game against the Florida Panthers. The Leafs’ woes are well documented, and while the firing may not come as a surprise, it is interesting to examine reason why NHL coaches get fired.
St. Louis, Washington, Carolina, Anaheim, Montreal, Los Angeles and now Toronto have all fired their coaches this season. That is nearly a quarter of the league and there are still handful of other coaches that are on the hot-seat. The question becomes why the surge in coach dismissals? Let’s examine reasons why NHL coaches get fired.
7 Reasons Why NHL Coaches Get Fired
#7. The Inmates (players) are running the asylum (locker-room) – in some instances on veteran team the scenario is that they players are calling the shots. Yes the coaching staff is attempting to lead the team, but ultimately, the players are marching to the beat of their own drum especially when there is a country club atmosphere happening in the locker room.
#6. Timing – sometimes the team just needs a change. In this day and age it has become difficult to trade players or make a dramatic change on the ice. A lot of times the coach is a scapegoat for the poor performance of a team forcing the GM to make a coaching change.
#5. Hockey has become a business – and there is no successful business in having a team under perform or in losing as we see in professional sports. You can only be an also-ran for so long. Eventually the business of hockey will dictate who stays and who goes… coach or players or both.
#4. The team has checked out – for some coaches who have had a fairly long tenure with the same team, such as Ron Wilson with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the players may check out. Especially if the core of the team consists of the same players for consecutive years. Once the players check out, it is all over for the head coach regardless of their ability to lead the team.
#3. Player conflict – just ask fans of the Washington Capitals. Bruce Boudreau is a good coach, but rumors suggest that a few players were in conflict with Boudreau. While reports suggest that Ovie was not at odds with Boudreau, many who follow the team closely suggest otherwise. Replacing Boudreau with longtime Capital fan favorite Dale Hunter is a great move, yet the Capitals are still struggling as evidence by the 5-0 loss at home to the New Jersey Devils that I witnessed yesterday.
#2. Coaches are hired to be fired – coaching in the National Hockey League can be a thankless job. Just ask Don Cherry, Pat Quinn, or Bruce Boudreau. You can be a very strategic, tactical and successful coach, only to be dismissed for any number of reason including the old “… it’s time for a change…” scenario. There are some teams where the GM and the coach are close and that does not always translate into NHL success. Just ask Brain Burke and Ron Wilson. The worst gig in the NHL? Probably an NHL coach.
#1. The coach is simply a poor coach – there are times when a coach is fired simply because they cannot lead their team or they simply do not have the experience to get the best out of the team that they have. They fail to understand the dynamic and ability of each of the players and as a result they fail to motivate the players and establish a system for success. We will not mention any names here, but almost every year we see NHL coaches who probably should not be coaching in the NHL.