The coaching change effect in NHL
NEWARK, N.J. -- To fire, or not to fire? That is the question not just for New Jersey Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello, but every GM of an underachieving NHL team.
Off to their worst start in over 20 years, the Devils are at a crossroads. How will they navigate out of an unfamiliar hole?
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The same debate percolates in Buffalo, where the Sabres have just 10 points in 15 games (29th in the NHL); on Long Island, where the Isles have lost seven straight; in Calgary, where the Flames have lost four straight and look like anything but a playoff team; and in Toronto, where the Leafs haven't made the playoffs since 2003-04 and have won just once in their past nine games.
With all due respect to the coaches in those cities, we would suggest that if their GMs haven't at least considered whether a coaching change would help their clubs, they are not doing their jobs.
Firing a coach is almost always a last resort, an admission of defeat on the part of everyone connected with the team, from the GM on down. And for every coaching change that sparked a dramatic turnaround, there's another that provoked little change with events having already spiraled out of control.
Here's a look at some recent coaching changes and how they worked out (or didn't):
After losing in the first round against Pittsburgh in 2009, Stevens' Flyers got off to an uneven start last season. The team was 13-11-1 with 27 points and out of the playoff picture in early December, when GM Paul Holmgren decided to bring in Peter Laviolette, who had won a Cup in Carolina in 2006. The move paid off as the Flyers snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season (in a shootout, no less) and marched all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.Vancouver Canucks. Last season, the Blues got off to another difficult start and were especially dreadful at home. After 40 games, Murray was fired in favor of minor league coach Davis Payne. A furious second-half rally left St. Louis just short of the playoffs. Would the outcome be any different if the Blues had pulled the plug on Murray 10 games earlier? As for this season, St. Louis is off to a blistering 9-1-2 start through 12 games.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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