27 November 2008

GMs - always somebody else to blame?

To accompany a quite excellent blog on coaching longevity I stumbled upon recently (LINK), I thought I'd take a similar look at how the NHL GM fraternity has fared.

Contrary to my initial suspicions, a similarly high proportion of GMs have also only been in place for fewer than three seasons. It is clear from the top end of the list below, however, that GMs tend to stick around a lot longer than the average coach.

I'd suggest this is understandable, since a change in GM usually signifies a wider shift in the direction of a franchise and wouldn't normally be used as a short-term fix to shake up a team's performance.

What is quite interesting is that several GMs have gone through three or more different coaches during their tenure. The list below shows the number of coaches (as at 26 November 2008) each GM has been responsible for _appointing_ (i.e. excluding any incumbent when the GM was hired) - this includes any interim coaches that lasted more than a few games.

This brings to mind a quote from a famous football manager in England (Brian Clough, for any native readers):
"If a chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well."
(In North American terms, "If a GM fires the coach...")

So, there is certainly an argument that Messrs Waddell and Sather are lucky to still be in their jobs, given the relative lack of success they have presided over. Also seems unlikely that Dale Tallon would be given the opportunity to appoint a fourth coach with the heightened level of expectation in Chicago these days.

Post-script (2 February 2009)
Jim Rutherford has since hired a new coach (at the same time an old coach), as has Bryan Murray (now dangerously straying into Waddell/Sather territory). As widely expected, Brian Burke has also taken over from Cliff Fletcher in Toronto.

It would not be a surprise to see the GMs in Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Edmonton make their first coaching appointments at some point in 2009. Overall, though, the GMs still look to be much more secure in their posts than their coaching colleagues.

Post-post-script (27 May 2009)
Six more coaching departures (in Minnesota, Edmonton, Manhattan, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Calgary), only accompanied by a GM change in one (Minnesota), although Francois Giguere is also out in Colorado - with his coach seemingly a lame duck.

25 November 2008

NHL Coach - a thankless role?

"If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm." - Vince Lombardi
It's fair to say that nobody is attracted to coaching in the NHL (or any other pro sports) for the job security. As of today (24 November 2008), 19 out of the 30 head coaches in the league started their current job since the end of the 2005/06 season and 10 of those have only a quarter of a season under their belts (if you exclude Tony Granato's first incarnation as main man behind the Avs bench).

While there is certainly some pressure on a handful of these men already (hello, Mr Keenan), looking towards the 11 long(er)-serving coaches shows that only three have not taken their team as far as a Conference Final.

Barry Trotz is widely accepted to have done a good job in Nashville, particularly with ever-weakening resources over the last few years, and it seems unlikely that Gretzky would ever be fired before he chooses to walk away. Hence, my spotlight shines on Tom Renney.

Given this lead-in, you might think I was going to advocate Renney's firing. Not true. I recognise and also get frustrated by a lot of the things he is criticised for (such as line-tinkering, letting the team sleepwalk through too many non-divisional games and, above all, the continually awful powerplay), but I still struggle to understand the level of dissatisfaction that appears to emerge every time the Rangers hit any sort of skid. Maybe it is just the infamous NYC fan attitude that means the critics always shout louder than anyone else?

I'll be clear - every coach does have a shelf life and sooner or later Renney will have to lead the team past the second round of the playoffs, but the negativity now (and over much of the last two years) puzzles me. Through the glorious Muckler/Low/Trottier years, I was crying out for a coach who could just bring some basic organisation and defensive structure to the team - actually making the playoffs being a complete pipe dream at that point. So I don't see the last few years being any sort of failure. I also don't see the team yet being at the point where it should be seen as an automatic Cup contender this year.

[As if to prove I'm not totally soft, I'd be delighted for Sather to be replaced yesterday...]

Post-script (2 February 2009)
A couple of changes since I first wrote this - Laviolette and Hartsburg out in Carolina and Ottawa respectively. I'm not sure whether Paul Maurice's return makes the average tenure of the coaches in the league higher or lower.

Also fair to say that Mike Keenan seems to have ridden out the early-season pressure in Calgary, with finger-pointing being more evident in Vancouver and Pittsburgh now. My negativity over the Rangers' performance has also increased since the first two months of the season.

Post-post-script (27 May 2009)
Nothing ages faster than an article on coaching, eh? Several more have gone - including some of the long-servers - namely, Lemaire, MacTavish, Renney, Therrien, Carbonneau and Keenan, with Granato seemingly on the brink (again).

5 November 2008

A guide to booing

Top 10 reasons the crowd might be booing at the game you were at (I'm sure there are many more - additions are welcome...):
  1. One of your highly-paid D-men has compounded his work on your team's anaemic PP by coughing up the puck twice leading to SHGs for your local rivals
  2. This man is on the puck:
  3. Or this man is on the puck:
  4. The PA announcer mentions something including the words "NHL Commissioner" - even if followed by the words "will present the Stanley Cup"
  5. You are in Pittsburgh and a player who won 2 Cups, 5 scoring titles and an MVP while in the city dares to return with another team
  6. Your team is hosting a political publicity st... er, I mean a "No. 1 Hockey Mom" promotion:

  7. A fan wearing the road team's jersey is shown on the video screen during a TV timeout
  8. A fan misses the net during the puck shooting contest in the period break
  9. It's not actually booing, but your team has one or more players with a (nick)name that sounds like booing. For example, the Rangers team of 2007/08 was stacked in this area:
    Fedor Tyutin ("TOOOOOTS!")
    Chris Drury ("DROOOOOO!")
    Petr Prucha ("PROOOOCH!")
    Brandon Dubinsky ("DOOOOBIE!")
    Fredrik Sjostrom ("SHOOOOO!")
    Marek Malik ("BOOOOOO!")
    Any PP unit ("SHOOOOT!")
  10. Fans in Minnesota are showing appreciation for another strong game by their #8:

    "I was saying Boo-urns"