Breaking down how other teams are faring after mid-season coaching changes
The Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world Tuesday, when they announced they had fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien to take over the head coaching duties.
The decision comes with the Habs leading the Atlantic Division but struggling with one win so far this month, and exactly one week after the Bruins fired Julien, the 2009 coach of the year and 2011 Stanley Cup champion.
Therrien becomes the fifth NHL coach fired this season. For three of the four teams that had previously made mid-season coaching changes, wins suddenly followed in the aftermath, although the sample sizes are smaller in those cases. Keep in mind that just because a team has instant success after a coaching change doesn’t mean it will be sustained for a longer period of time, or that a change is the sole reason for a sudden uptick in wins.
Here is a breakdown of how the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins have fared since making their coaching changes.
Gerard Gallant fired, Tom Rowe takes over as interim coach:
The Panthers have gone 13-11-9 since Rowe took over from Gallant in certainly one of the more controversial firings of the season. Contrary to later case studies around the league, the Panthers won only once in their first six games with Rowe as the interim coach. Florida is five points back in the wild card race, but while there was a change behind the bench, the Panthers have been beset by injuries to a number of players, including their best young forwards in Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for lengthy periods of time.
Islanders fire Jack Capuano, who is replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight:
Despite a “humbling loss” to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the New York Islanders have vaulted themselves right into the Eastern Conference playoff race, going 8-2-2 since Weight took over for Capuano on Jan. 17. They’re one of the hottest teams over the last month, with the sixth best goals-for total in that span. Prior to the change, they were middle of the pack in league scoring, while 18th in the league in goals-against. The Islanders had underwhelmed through three-and-a-half months this season under Capuano but could be an intriguing comeback story in the East if they can qualify for the playoffs. The more pressing concerns for the franchise appear to be away from the ice: Arena issues in Brooklyn, more scrutiny on management, and the John Tavares contract situation.
Blues fire Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo takes over:
Yeo was going to take over from Hitchcock for next season, but the succession plan was accelerated with the Blues barely holding on to a playoff spot in the West. On Feb. 1, general manager Doug Armstrong made the move to relieve Hitchcock of his duties and replace him sooner than expected with Yeo. Since the coaching change, the Blues have won five of six games to move back into third in the Central Division. Goaltender Jake Allen, who did not accompany the team on a road trip last month because of his struggles, has been stellar since Yeo took over. Only once in the last five games has he given up three goals or more in a single game, and that was against a very dangerous Pittsburgh team.
Bruins fire Julien, Bruce Cassidy takes over coaching duties:
It’s only been one week, but the Bruins have since gone on a three-game winning streak since Cassidy took over from Julien. It’s certainly a nice way to go into a bye week at this point in the season. But really, the Bruins had been getting decent results even before the change, with a three-game winning streak toward the end of the Julien era in Boston. Leading the league in puck possession at five-on-five, the puck has actually starting going in the net with a little more regularity for the Bruins. With the change came plenty of questions for management, which has admitted this is a roster that still needs help.
Meanwhile, back in Montreal . . .
There is no doubt the Habs wanted Julien to take over and help shake things up in Montreal. They had a terrific start to the season but have dropped off since then, now in a fight with Ottawa, Boston and even Toronto for the division as the schedule soon enters the stretch run. Perhaps this will give the Canadiens an instant jolt.
This was a bold move. It remains to be seen if GM Marc Bergevin has another ace up his sleeve for the trade deadline.