By Brad Lee
Hot or not? Coaches nearing the chopping block
So the premise is coaches on hot AND cold teams could be fired. The Devils and Senators concur.
As a general rule of thumb, underperforming teams who need to shake things up make a drastic move -- fire the coach. But in Dallas earlier this season, the struggling Stars went against the conventional wisdom by dumping GM Doug Armstrong and keeping Dave Tippett behind the bench. It appeared to be a brilliant move at the outset because the Stars quickly gelled and started climbing the standings, taking over first place in the Pacific Division and turning themselves into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the process.
Wait a second. Firing the Dallas GM helped the Stars come together? You think Marty Turco gives a damn who the GM is? No. You think Mike Modano skates harder knowing Doug Armstrong isn't up in press box watching? Hell no.
The outlook seemed even better when Dallas made the biggest deal at the trade deadline by acquiring Brad Richards, who responded by getting five assists in his first game wearing a new uniform. But since then, the Stars have been in a tailspin, dropping six of their past seven, including a crucial home-ice loss Wednesday to the powerful Anaheim Ducks, the team they are likely to face to open the playoffs.
What, did the Stars all of a sudden rehire Armstrong? I'm confused. What does firing the GM have to do with any of this?
It doesn't bode well for Dallas, or for Tippett, whose future likely depends on getting the team at least beyond the first round for the first time in the past three seasons. In other words, he's on the hot seat right now, but he's not alone.
Oh, so the coach is still on the hot seat. I hope I'm never behind Wes Goldstein at a fast food restaurant. I bet he takes as long ordering a double cheeseburger and fries as he does making a damn point in his column.
Here's a look at the others who are in similar situations.
I wonder how long it will take for him to get to the head coach of the St. Louis Blues.
Andy Murray, St. Louis Blues: Murray looked like a miracle worker when he took over the Blues in the middle of last season, leading the team to a 27-18-9 finish that created the kind of optimism heading into the new campaign that hadn't been felt around St. Louis for years. The Blues were still rebuilding when the season began, but after adding free agent Paul Kariya and bringing back Keith Tkachuk, they were expected to at least mount a serious challenge for a playoff spot.
Isn't it interesting that a guy that just one season ago was viewed as a miracle worker (Goldstein's own term) is the very first name on his hot seat list? We wrote a lot at the beginning of the year that the Blues looked like a ninth-place team that could be fighting for a playoff spot until the end of the season. Obviously, we were mistaken.
St. Louis stayed in the hunt until around New Year's, but with the league's worst offense and poor special team play,
Now that's not fair. The power play sucks, but Goldstein addressed that with the worst offense comment. Penalty killing was spectacular early in the season and still isn't that bad now.
it faded fast and is now in line for a shot at the No. 1 lottery pick.
Hogwash. That implies the Blues are last in the NHL. They are tied with the Islanders for the fourth-lowest point total in the league, thank you very much. And there's no chance the Blues will fall below the Kings as the 30th team in the NHL.
Along the way, there have been growing whispers that the overbearing style that cost Murray his last coaching gig in Los Angeles has started to wear thin among the Blues players.
Wait a second. That's exactly the premise from Greg Wyshynski's column on AOL Fanhouse I linked in the first paragraph. The Fanhouse piece even quoted something written around the time Murray was fired by the Kings. So in reality, the only way the whispers are growing is if Goldstein writes about them and doesn't give any attribution where he read the whispers in the first place. Outstanding work by him.
I must admit that a lot of the stuff we wrote about Murray at the end of last season made him out to be some savior, a guy who could walk on water. He brought structure to a team that was aimless under Mike Kitchen. He made players accountable. And they responded. Even as the best offensive players were sent packing, the team kept plugging away, giving us hope that the Blues would continue to grow this season. And it seemed to be working when St. Louis had more off days in October and November than any other team in the league. The Blues were on the right track. And then something happened that no one can explain. Around the time of the Doug Weight for Andy McDonald trade in December, the offense started to sputter. Manny Legace looked a little human. The schedule became a little more unfriendly. And it all went to shit.
It is patently unfair to crucify Murray for his style while the team sucks when he was praised for doing the exact same things when the team was winning. However, if we could ever sit down with Murray over a cold beer or three, we'd love to ask him about a few things that are driving us towards full-blown alcoholism.
- When you do play a young guy like David Perron, he's apparently earned the ice time. But why skate him on a line with D.J. King?
- When John Davidson says Cam Janssen has a lot of qualities needed on this team and he never plays, what's that say about your opinion about your boss?
- Do you make line combinations by drawing names out of a hat?
- Captain Eric Brewer. Really?
- When Ryan Johnson was centering the second scoring line, was that some sort of deeper comment on the state of the game or society in general that we somehow missed?
- What was it like starring in the first Spiderman movie?
In the end, Murray is still the first coach for this front office and ownership (Mike Kitchen's aborted tenure shouldn't count, they inherited him). There are a number of reasons that Davidson will want to give Murray more than one full season behind the bench, including the fact that hiring a good candidate might be difficult when the first guy on the job didn't get 18 months if they were to fire him at the end of the season. In other words, we'd be fucking shocked if Murray is fired no matter how this nightmare of a season grinds to an end.