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Predicting the First NHL Head Coach to Be Fired

NHL Prediction - Head Coach Fired First

It’s early in the NHL season, but in this league you are playing for your job every single night. Coaches are coaching for their jobs every night while general managers are managing for their job every single night. In other words, if you aren’t the owner, professional sports can be a cruel, cruel game.

In terms of the coaching aspect, there are a handful of coaches around the league that you can make a case for being on the hot seat when the season began on opening night October 3rd. Early in the season, some have alleviated some of that pressure while some others find their back ends very warm at this point.

Bovada has some odds listed for the first NHL head coach to get the axe this season, and I think there’s a big profit to be made here. Let’s first make a quick comment on all the coaches with odds listed at Bovada and see how warm their seat is at this point on a scale of 1 to 10.

Todd McLellan (EDM)
+210

There’s absolutely no doubt that McLellan is coaching for his job every single game this season. The Oilers ended a lengthy playoff drought in the 2016-17 season before collapsing towards the bottom of the Pacific Division a year later, with a very similar cast of characters aboard.

The cast of characters remains very much the same this season, and you aren’t going to fire 23 skaters. This means that McLellan will be the first domino to fall should the Oilers trend in the wrong direction through the first month or so of the season. You can count GM Peter Chiarelli among the folks with their job on the line every day this season as well.

Should Edmonton falter for the first 10-15 games this season, it would not be surprising to see both McLellan and Chiarelli on the unemployment line.

I would consider the heat on McLellan’s seat an 8.5 out of 10 at the moment.

Guy Boucher (OTT)
+230

Head coaches are usually fired because their team does not live up to expectations. That would be the reason why McLellan would be fired. Guy Boucher does not have that problem.

Boucher’s Senators are a consensus basement team this season, perhaps the team with the lowest expectations in the NHL after a summer sale that shipped out franchise icon Erik Karlsson as well as offensive weapon Mike Hoffman.

This has been the most embattled team in the league over the last several months. GM Pierre Dorion is leaning on Boucher’s experience and firmness to guide the rebuilding Senators forward. As a result, I don’t think is seat is all that hot, but keep in mind this is the final year of his contract. I still don’t think he’ll be the first to get canned.

His seat is a 3.5 out of 10 in my opinion.

Joel Quenneville (CHI)
+270

Along with Mike Babcock, Quenneville regarded as one of the very best coaches in the league. That said, the last-place finish in the Central Division didn’t exactly increase his job security, either.

To be sure, that last-place finish was not on Quenneville whatsoever. The Blackhawks lost star goaltender and team backbone Corey Crawford for the season before Christmas, which spelled their demise. Quenneville also doesn’t manage the salary cap or sign players to contracts, something that has hamstrung the Blackhawks for years. The roster Quenneville was left to deal with last season was uninspiring to say the least.

The Blackhawks are looking good up front to start the season while the back end should improve with Crawford on the verge of a return, so things look somewhat bright in the windy city moving forward.

Quenneville’s seat has cooled as a result and sits at about a 2 out of 10 to me.

Jeff Blashill (DET)
+950

Blashill is in a very similar boat to Boucher in the sense that his club is free of lofty expectations. Detroit is one of the youngest teams in the league and will get younger when veterans are either traded at the deadline or are no longer with the team for whatever reason after this season.

He was also dealt a bad hand. Blashill came aboard for the 2015-16 season, right after Mike Babcock left the declining Wings to sign with the up-and-coming Toronto Maple Leafs. Blashill received a team that was over the contention hump and headed directly for a rebuild. He has also lost franchise players in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, so what can a guy do?

I think he gets more time to coach many of the same players he coached with Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids prior to moving up to the NHL.

His seat is a 4 out of 10.

Randy Carlyle (ANA)
+1000

I’m a little surprised to see Carlyle at these odds considering what the Ducks accomplished last season.

Despite a myriad of injuries to the team’s top players, the Ducks surged to second place in the Pacific Division on the back of a lights-out home stretch.

It would appear Carlyle and the Ducks will have to do so again as they are ravaged with injuries to their top forwards once again. Still, given what they have done with the injury luck they’ve been dealt, it’s extremely tough to see Carlyle getting the hook any time soon.

I would consider his seat a 2 out of 10.

Bob Boughner (FLA)
+2000

Boughner’s Panthers are on the rise, and I wouldn’t consider him a betting candidate here.

Florida missed the playoffs last season by just one point despite losing Roberto Luongo for a couple months in the middle of the season. They now own one of the best top-six forward groups in the league, but they will once again miss Luongo for a few weeks with a lower-body injury.

I would consider Boughner a potential coach of the year candidate if the Panthers can march their way to the playoffs this season, not the first head coach to be fired.

I would have his seat’s temperature at about a 0.5 out of 10 at this point.

Mike Yeo (STL)
+3000

Yeo took over for the retired Ken Hitchcock for the 2017-18 season, and his Blues fell well under expectations in missing the playoffs his first year as the head coach.

Apparently, GM Doug Armstrong believed it was his responsibility and not his coach’s to improve this team, as he went out and did some damage in the offseason. Armstrong traded for Ryan O’Reilly and added free agents Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Pat Maroon in free agency to beef up a forward group that largely stunk the joint out last season.

Given the roster makeover, Yeo should get some time to turn this team into the contender it appears to be on paper, but if the Blues don’t show early improvement, the axe might fly.

Yeo’s seat would be about a 6.5 out of 10 right now.

Dave Hakstol (PHI)
+3000

Since coming to the Flyers for the 2015-16 season, the Flyers have made the playoffs in two of three seasons and lost in the first round in both of their playoff years.

A coach only gets so many seasons to improve on those results, especially when his team has postseason expectations on an annual basis in a big-time sports market. Philadelphia is a passionate sports fan base and if the fans don’t like the coach, his job is in trouble.

The fan base for Philadelphia’s hockey team is losing patience with Hakstol. GM Ron Hextall hired Hakstol, which explains his patient approach to this point. Clearly, Hextall’s temper has simmered since his playing career.

The Flyers’ 8-2 home loss to the Sharks on October 9th does not bode well for Hakstol’s job security. I would consider him a big betting candidate here.

All factors considered, Hakstol’s seat is a 9 out of 10 in my opinion.

Mike Babcock (TOR)
+6600

To be quite honest, I’m not sure why Babcock has odds listed here.

Toronto is looking like one of the very best teams in hockey, and this is a team that finished 30th in Babcock’s first season in Toronto in the 2015-16 campaign.

Sure, winning the draft lottery and notching Auston Matthews has helped, along with other high picks coming into their own in Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, and William Nylander.

Still, Babcock holds his players accountable more than any other coach in the league and he is going nowhere in the fourth season of his eight-year contract as the highest paid coach in hockey.

Prediction

This is an extremely profitable bet here. I think this is a two-man race between McLellan and Hakstol. Maybe the ownership in Edmonton will be quick to pull the trigger, but I can guarantee you Hakstol’s job is on the line as we speak and for the next week or two of the season.

The Flyers watched the Penguins fire Mike Johnston in December of 2015, and his replacement Mike Sullivan led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup that season. A GM has to swallow a lot of pride to fire a head coach that he himself hired, which is likely why Hextall has given Hakstol another chance to start this year after three mediocre seasons at best.

The Philly fan base has just about had it with Hakstol, and his team’s play hasn’t been all that inspiring to begin the year. Another ugly loss could have Hakstol seeing the first axe of the season at fantastic betting odds.

My Pick
Dave Hakstol (PHI)

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