At the start of every season, almost like clockwork, the names of coaches who might be on the hotseat are thrown around and predictions are made as to who will be the first coach fired in the upcoming season.
Coaching is a tough job, and they are hired to be fired. This year could be the exception to that rule, because of the attrition that has gone on in the last 2 seasons. Since the end of the 2010-11 season, 21 of the 30 teams have made coaching changes, with one team, the Edmonton Oilers, actually making two changes. That means that 21 teams have coaches who have been behind the bench of their current franchises for 130 games or less. Ten have 48 games or less and 5 will be making their debut behind their respective benches this coming October. That isn’t much of a sample size, so most of those coaches should be safe for this season.
So among the 9 coaches with more than 2 seasons of tenure, are there any that would be on the hotseat and have their jobs relying on a quick start? Three of them (Peter Laviolette, Dave Tippett and Barry Trotz) missed the playoffs last season. Tippett, despite missing the playoffs signed a long-term extension in Phoenix and the team no longer has the huge distraction of where they will be playing in the near future. So he will get a pass.
Which brings me to Trotz. Trotz is the only coach the Predators have ever had, and 1114 games later, remains the face behind the bench. The loyalty the team has shown him has been returned in spades, but a slow start might make David Poile think long and hard about whether or not his shelf life has finally expired. However, Poile has been the GM of the franchise since the beginning as well, and the two have made it what it is today, so my guess is that Trotz won’t be going anywhere unless Poile is going with him.
So the remaining coach is Laviolette. Laviolette is under the gun because of the massive salary load the Flyers are carrying, and now that the distractions of Ilya Bryzgalov are gone, expectations will be high. The Flyers will be going with a bargain-basement goaltending tandem, but as long as they put their heads down and just focus on hockey, the team in front of them is talented enough to make the playoffs again, and to be a factor. If they get out of the gates slowly, I think Laviolette might be the first current coach in the lineup for the next opening.
However, I am not convinced that will happen, and this could be the first season in recent memory where there might not be a coaching change. Of course, that depends on the fact that the GMs are level headed and willing to wait out the odd losing streak. And we know just how likely that is. Although the recent spat of firings might have cleared the deck and given the bench bosses some respite. But if I had to pick one name, it would be that of Laviolette.