Last season, Darryl Sutter took over the Los Angeles Kings with 49 games remaining in the season, and led them to squeak into the playoffs and the Kings went on to make history as the first 8th seed to win the Stanley Cup. The Kings were in 11th place, 5 points back of 8th, when Sutter took over behind the LA bench.
It is widely acknowledged that former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff will be the top name on a lot of lists for coaching vacancies when they come up. And that could be sooner rather than later, with a number of coaches firmly sitting on the hot seat.
So, will Ruff be behind a bench before this season is over, and will he have enough time to turn around a club with around 20 games left.
The coaches on the proverbial hot-seat include Guy Boucher in Tampa, Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia and John Tortorella in New York.
If Tampa GM Steve Yzerman decides to pull the trigger on Boucher, they have one of the top minor league candidates in their system in Jon Cooper, so they would most likely promote from within. The Flyers are teetering on the precipice of falling out of the playoff race and GM Paul Holmgren gave Laviolette a public vote of confidence. So his firing is now almost inevitable. I don’t know if Ruff could turn that around in time.
Which brings me to the Rangers. I said a couple of weeks ago that I thought Tortorella was on thin ice, and his inability to get his team going has seen them slip out of a playoff spot as of Thursday night, and I still think he could be on the way out as his message is obvioulsy getting lost in the dressing room after 3 full seasons. The Rangers are on the slippery slope, but are by no means out of the running. They have scored only 1 more goal than the Senators, while not having anywhere near the level of impactful injuries that Ottawa has suffered. The poor play of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards is indicative that Torts’ message is being tuned out. The time for a change might be now, before the Rangers slide too far to get back into the playoffs. The Rangers could still make the playoffs under Tortorella, and I wouldn’t count them out yet. However, the optics from outside the New York area doesn’t make it look good whatsoever.
They have the talent, defense, goaltending and on-ice leadership in place to make a solid run in the post-season. They might just need a change at the top to get there, and if I was Ruff I would be waiting for that particular call.