The Edmonton Oilers dismissed Jay Woodcroft last week, making him the first head coach fired in the NHL this season.
It wasn’t completely unexpected as the Oilers — a Stanley Cup favorite by some — got off to a terrible start to the season that culminated in a loss to the potentially historically poor San Jose Sharks on Nov. 9. Despite a victory two nights later in Seattle, GM Ken Holland made the move and brought in Kris Knoblauch from AHL Hartford to lead the team.
So while Woodcroft has the title of first coach fired, he unlikely won’t be the last. Who is is on the hot seat in the NHL?
Lane Lambert, New York Islanders
In some ways, it’s unfair for Lambert to find his name on this list, as possible a more deserving candidate to lose their job on Long Island is GM Lou Lamiorello. But Lou has likely — at least — one more firing from ownership to play to right the ship.
The reason it’s unfair to have Lambert here is that it’s a coach’s job to coach the players the general manager gives him. Last year’s Islanders were not very good but snuck into the playoffs mostly on the back of goaltender Ilya Sorokin has emerged as one of the league’s best netminders, who helped cover up scoring issues that plagued the team.
Lamiorello did nothing to bolster the roster over the summer and the team’s scoring woes (30th in goals per game at 2.44) coupled with Sorokin looking human (.907% and 3.28 GAA) have the Islanders near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division with just two wins (2-4-4) in their last 10 contests.
The fans on Long Island chanted for Lambert’s dismissal before the team’s current road trip, which began 0-1-2. They’ve won one game in November. Will Lambert be on the bench when his team returns home Wednesday night?
David Quinn, San Jose Sharks
Teams in the middle of rebuilds who just moved out the reigning Norris Trophy winner expect to be bad. But there’s bad and then there’s the San Jose Sharks level of bad.
San Jose began the season 0-10-1 with just 12 goals scored and allowed 10 goals on back-to-back nights earlier this month. They currently sit 3-13-1 with just 26 goals scored and a -47 goal differential.
No, that isn’t a typo.
It’s difficult to put all the blame on Quinn, but this could become a historically bad team and it’s difficult to have faith that he’s the man to steer the ship through this rebuild, having managed to win just 22 games last season before the rebuild was in full swing.
The wins may not matter, but the message does. GM Mike Grier may feel Quinn’s isn’t resonating and that it could be time for a new voice.
DJ Smith, Ottawa Senators
Things are getting late early in Ottawa for a team many thought would take its next step and compete for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Is DJ Smith the man who will take the fall?
We know it won’t be long-time GM Pierre Dorion, who was fired on Nov. 2 following a fine issued by the league regarding something unrelated to the team’s performance this season. But with Dorion, who hired Smith to lead the club, out of the picture, the next general manager will likely want to make his own hire. That, coupled with his team in last place in the Atlantic, doesn’t bode well for Smith.
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The offense hasn’t been the issue in Ottawa, where eight different players have at least 10 points on the season. The gamble of signing goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to a long-term deal to be the team’s No. 1 goalie hasn’t paid off, as he’s rocking a .907 SV% with a 3.17 GAA.
Like Lambert, the natives in Ottawa have grown tired of mediocrity and have chanted for Smith’s dismissal, much to the chagrin of the team’s stars like Claude Giroux and captain Brady Tkachuk.
Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild
If there’s a team that always feels like it’s stuck in the mushy middle of the NHL, it’s the Minnesota Wild. As of Sunday, the Wild are 5-8-3 and are sixth in the competitive Central Division.
The Wild’s 3.27 g/game is — you guessed it — right in the middle at 16th. Goaltending, though, has been an even bigger issue with Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson combining for a .876 SV% and a GAA above 4. It’s difficult to win games with mediocre goaltending, and the Wild are proving that with just five wins in 15 games.
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Evason is in his fifth season behind the bench and hasn’t gotten out of the first round. Right now his team wouldn’t qualify for the postseason. Things must turn around, and turn around quickly.