The 2022-23 NHL season is fast approaching and while we’re still more than a month away from regular season play, we’re also probably not too far from the first coach firing of the season.
Every team has a clean slate, and most have high expectations. Without question, one team is going to struggle out of the gate and make a coaching change within the first 15-20 games.
The Chicago Blackhawks fired Jeremy Colliton in November last season, while both Travis Green (Vancouver Canucks) and Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia Flyers) were let go in December. Who’s on the chopping block this NH; season?
There’s no NHL coach under more pressure than Sheldon Keefe. The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered another heartbreaking first-round playoff exit this past season, and many thought one, if not both, of Keefe and general manager Kyle Dubas would be on their way out of town. Instead, president Brendan Shanahan opted to bring the gang back for another run.
If last season wasn’t the “Last Dance” for the Maple Leaf’s management and a core group of players, then it’s certainly this season. The pressure is on everyone to, at the very least, win a playoff round. But Toronto has Stanley Cup aspirations, and if things aren’t going according to plan early on then, Keefe will be the first one to go. Dubas will presumably get at least until the end of the season.
It doesn’t help that Dubas and the Leaf’s brass ultimately doubled down on this roster as well. Toronto didn’t make any major changes in the offseason, choosing instead to make small adjustments as opposed to wholesale changes. There’s only so long players can listen to the same coach without seeing results.
The Nashville Predators were a surprise playoff team last year under third-year head coach John Hynes, but went out with a whimper in the first round. They’ll have higher expectations this season, especially after some key offseason acquisitions, and Hynes will be the first person to go if they aren’t on track.
In addition to re-signing Filip Forsberg, the team’s all-time leading scorer, to an eight-year, $68 million contract, Nashville brought in veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed forward Nino Niederreiter.
Hynes has been great in Nashville, especially compared to his previous five seasons in New Jersey, but his stern messaging may start to wear thin on the Predators players.
Dallas Eakins has always been considered a players’ coach, albeit one with some strange idiosyncrasies and awful ideas – he famously cut out donuts and other baked goods from the media room in Edmonton. His ability to inspire young players made him a great (OK, solid) coach in Anaheim over the last couple of years, but he might reach his expiration date this year.
Eakins has a record of 77-100-32 through three seasons with the Ducks. The team has developed young NHL players like Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Jamie Drysdale during this time and now hopes to contend for a playoff spot in 2022-23. Anaheim added John Klingberg on a one-year contract last month and could have one of the most exciting teams in the league.
If the Ducks are sitting near the bottom of the NHL standings once again after the first month or so, general manager Pat Verbeek will likely have no trouble moving on from Eakins.
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