The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just one week away. Half of the league will endure grueling weeks, or months of extra hockey if they are fortunate, while the other half will hit the golf links early. Whether a team misses the postseason by a single point, or 20, the question remains the same: what must the franchise do differently to contend next season? In a league increasingly defined by parity, coaching turnover in the NHL is among the highest in the four major North American sporting leagues. I expect this offseason to be no different. Here are five coaches hanging on to their jobs by a thread.
Phil Housley, Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo started the season on a roll; at one point posting a ten-game win streak, propelling the Sabres to the top of the league’s standings entering December. They have looked lifeless since, with the league’s lowest point total since reaching their zenith in December. Fans in Buffalo are becoming impatient with the lengthy rebuild, and its lack of results. Although Housley has only been behind the bench for two seasons, the availability of high profile coaches such as Joel Quenneville may tempt the Sabres to look elsewhere.
UPDATE: Phil Housley was fired by the Buffalo Sabres on April 7, 2019.
Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild
A perennial candidate for this list, Boudreau’s regular season success is mired in disappointing playoff performances. He was fired by the Capitals and Ducks respectively, after failing to lead division-winning teams to postseason success. Minnesota is fighting for their playoff lives, and their consecutive first round exits loom large over Boudreau’s future.
Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
Up to the All-Star break, Bednar’s future in Colorado looked secure. The Avs were holding their own in the highly-competitive Central Division, led by the offensive prowess of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. However, a losing streak in February that saw Colorado go 1-9 over a ten game stretch puts Bednar’s job in jeopardy. The Avs are currently clinging to the second wild card spot, but missing the playoffs or a lopsided first-round defeat could send Bednar packing.
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets appear to have all the tools to be competitive in the relatively weak Metropolitan Division. Offensively-gifted forwards, shut down defenders, and a two-time Vezina Trophy winning goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite their talented roster, Columbus is just barely clinging to a wild card spot. Fans in Columbus are hungry for success, as the franchise has yet to win a single playoff series in its 19-year history. Although Tortorella is signed through 2020-21, his lack of postseason success, and the potential of losing Artemi Panarin and Bobrovsky to free agency, could signal a rebuild in Columbus.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings
This is a bit of a controversial pick, as most of Detroit’s media considers an extension for Blashill a foregone conclusion. However, Blashill’s future with the Wings rests largely on if GM Ken Holland receives an extension. Steve Yzerman has returned to Detroit, and his contract with the Lightning ends after this season. His arrival, along with hiring Dan Bylsma as an assistant, generates speculation that the organization is considering a major leadership change. Holland has been extremely patient with Blashill during Detroit’s extended rebuild, but if his contract is not renewed, a new GM may want a new coach behind the bench.
UPDATE: Jeff Blashill was re-signed by the Detroit Red Wings on April 2, 2019, just 10 short hours after this article was published. ■
Joe Banish is a die-hard Red Wings fan who lives in the pro hockey vacuum of the Pacific Northwest. He also likes beating goalies high glove side, playing basketball, and cheering on his alma mater, Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @BanishJoe.
Photo Credits: NHL