Well, with the firing of Alain Vigneault by
the Philadelphia Flyers that makes 4 coaches who have been 'relieved of their
duties' so far this season. Barely a quarter of the way through the season and
already on a record setting pace. Forget about McDavid and Draisaitl and
Ovechkin, the real race is to see who can purge the most staff members.
Of course, coaching changes are as old as the game itself. But you
have to wonder why clubs do it so early in the campaign. Or rather, why didn't
they do it during the offseason? Are you telling me that Chicago, Vancouver,
and Philly all looked at their rosters and thought "we got a real shot, if only
our coaching holds up!" Not a chance.
I know that it's easier to fire
the coach versus firing the players. Yes, sometimes s new voice seems to change
everything (see Berube, Craig). I also recognize that GM's will fire the coach
as a way to buy themselves more time. However, in the modern analytic driven
NHL, what exactly does a head coach do? They don't seem to have much to do as
most staffs have specialists for every tiny aspect of the game. Gone are the
days when Scotty Bowman actually taught his players anything.
know this and direct their anger towards assistants who can't fix a special
teams problem, goalie coaches who can't unlock a tenders technique, or any
other small flaws that become the focal point of an aggrieved fanbase. At best,
a Head Coach is a middle-manager, PR specialist, and sacrificial lamb for the
work everyone else does.
Which begs the question: why do teams spend
so much money on these guys?
Let's take a look at the Sharks for a
Can anyone tell me what positive changes Coach
Boughner has brought to the club? As opposed to the work done by assistants
Rocky Thompson, John Madden, and Evgeni Nabokov? Has Coach B unlocked the
abilities of youngsters like Mario Ferraro and Jonathan Dahlen, or is that a
product of Mike Ricci? Does he bring accountability to the squad, or is that
the result of having a staff full of ex-players who can command the respect of
This isn't meant to downplay the work of Coach Boughner, but
as I watch other teams fire their coaches I wonder "why?" What are they hoping
to achieve when it can be argued the role doesn't have that large of an impact
on what takes place on any given day? Lucky, hot streaks, and health seem to
matter much more - all of which are beyond the coaches control.
it's time for clubs to start spending less on their head coach and more on
building a staff that can honestly assess the abilities of the players on the
roster? Spend that extra cash on scouting and development, two areas that
really do impact the fortunes on a franchise. Once clubs knew exactly what they
had, and what they were developing, expectations could be properly managed
leading to fewer in-season firings.
Sure, it would make for fewer
headlines, but then again who really cares about these firings for more than a
few moments? Let's leave the record setting to the players on the ice, and save
the coaching changes for April and May when they can get the attention they
truly deserve; which is none.