Grading the Midseason NHL Coaching Changes

NHL Coaching
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 21: Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Vegas Golden Knights on January 21, 2020, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2019-20 NHL season has been unique for a multitude of reasons, one being a large number of midseason NHL coaching changes. There were eight teams that fired their head coach during the regular season. It’s time to break down how each team performed after making the change.

Midseason NHL Coaching Changes

Out of the eight teams to make a change at head coach, six of them come from the Western Conference. Some teams saw good results, some saw more of the same, and some teams continued to struggle.

The Good

Vegas Golden Knights

The youngest NHL franchise made a jarring move this season when they decided to part ways with the only coach in team history, Gerrard Gallant. The move was surprising to most since Gallant took the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season and a playoff birth the following season.

Gallant led the Golden Knights to a 24-19-6 (.551 point-percentage) record this season before being fired. Gallant was fired on January 15th with the Golden Knights in fifth in the Pacific Division.

The Golden Knights replaced Gallant with former San Jose Sharks coach, Peter DeBoer. Upon taking over in January, DeBoer has 15-5-2 (.727 point-percentage) record and moved the Golden Knights from fifth place to first in the division.

With Vegas going from middle of the division to a three-point-lead in the division, DeBoer gets the nod for best mid-season hire despite being the second shortest tenured coach in the league.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames fired coach Bill Peters in November after going 12-12-4. They replaced him with Geoff Ward, who has helped propel the Flames into a playoff spot.

Peters had a .500 point-percentage in his 28 games before being fired, Ward has a.607 point-percentage (24-15-3 record) during his tenure. While the Flames aren’t playing up to last season’s standards, they’ve managed to save what was a sinking ship at the beginning of the season.

Ward’s presence has been a breath of fresh air in the organization. The team has rallied around him and he has given them new life. Calgary was fifth in the Pacific Division when Peters was fired, now they sit at third in the division. All things considered, this coaching change was for the better.

The Not So Bad

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars decision to make an NHL coaching change came when they fired Jim Montgomery and replaced him with Rick Bowness is one that didn’t drastically change the team.

Dallas had an 18-11-3 record when Montgomery was fired. At the time, Dallas was fourth in the Central Division. It was a move that surprised some, but the organization felt such a move was needed.

Montgomery was replaced with Bowness who has led the Stars to a 20-13-5 record under him this season. Their point-percentage went from .609 with Montgomery to .592 with Bowness.

For the most part, the Stars are who they are. The coaching change didn’t change much in terms of on-the-ice performance. However, they jumped from a wild card spot to third in the division since Bowness took over.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Mike Babcock had been coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs for five seasons before getting fired in November. The Leafs were just 9-10-4 at the time and the writing was on the wall.

Babcock was in charge of one of the most talented groups in the league yet they started poorly. This was coming off another first-round loss to the Boston Bruins. Babcock had talented teams in Toronto but failed to win a playoff series. When the team started poorly this season, it was time for a change.

Sheldon Keefe took over for Babcock with the Leafs in fifth place in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs season has been very up-and-down, and by most standards, underwhelming. Due to a top-heavy division and no real threat to be caught in the division, Toronto sits in third place.

Keefe has led the Leafs to a 27-15-5 record since taking over but there’s only one thing Toronto wants to see, and that’s playoff success. Due to the situation in Toronto, Keefe’s grade will be determined by his team’s performance in the playoffs.

Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators fired head coach Peter Laviolette after a 19-15-7 record this season. At the time, Nashville was out of a playoff spot and sixth in the Central Division.

John Hynes, the former New Jersey Devils coach was brought in to take over. Hynes, who was fired from the Devils after 26 games this season, has coached Nashville to a 16-11-1 record.

Laviolette’s point-percentage was .549 while Hynes’s is slightly higher at .598. Nashville’s special teams play improved under Hynes. The power-play percentage raised by 1.3 percent and the penalty kill percentage raised by 5.2 percent.

The Predators sit at fifth in the division but are the second wild card team in the Western Conference with 78 points. Interestingly enough, the Predators goal differential went from +5 when Hynes was hired to -2 now. Luckily, Hynes has done just enough to get Nashville into a playoff position.

The Ugly

Minnesota Wild

For a team that looked like they were in a full rebuild before the season began, it’s been a solid season for the most part. The Minnesota Wild entered the season with low expectations, being led by coach Bruce Boudreau. He led them to a 27-23-7 record before being fired on Feb. 14.

Boudreau was replaced with Dean Evason, the coach with the shortest resume and tenure in the league. This is Evason’s first position as a head coach and he has led the Wild to an 8-4-0 record.

The Wild are currently sixth in the Central Division but only one point behind Nashville for the second playoff spot. Evason’s job is essentially in limbo at this point. He was hired as the interim and there’s probably more appealing options available if the Wild don’t get a shot at the playoffs. He’s at the mercy of the NHL play stoppage and the Wild’s front office plans right now.

New Jersey Devils

Much like Evason, New Jersey Devils coach, Alain Nasreddine is in a similar spot. Nasreddine took over as head coach after the Devils fired Hynes in December. At the time, the Devils were 9-13-4.

Between the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds and first-overall pick, Jack Hughes, the expectations rose in New Jersey. They came out flat to start the season and it was up to Nasreddine to right the ship.

He’s done his best, but New Jersey is last in the Metropolitan Division and has no chance at the playoffs. Nasreddine has led the Devils to a 19-16-8 record in his time.

It’s up to the Devils front office to decide if Naserddine has proven enough to stay in New Jersey.

San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks have been one of the most successful franchises over the past decade. With expectations high again this season, they were quickly shot down. Peter DeBoer had the Sharks at 15-16-2 by early December. A record that was unacceptable in San Jose.

DeBoer was fired and replaced with Rick Bowness who has led the Sharks to a 14-20-3 record. Between injuries, disfunction and underperforming, it’s clear that the Sharks weren’t going to win much this year regardless of who was coaching them.

The Sharks look to field a similar team next year and could easily mimic the team from a year ago. Bowness has some NHL coaching experience and it’s possible he gets rid of the interim tag this offseason. The Sharks have some tough decisions looming this offseason after a very disappointing year.

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