We have seen San Jose dump Todd McLellan & Philadelphia with Craig Berube -- neither team made the playoffs. Which coach is next on the chopping block? I see 3 prime candidates and my projected odds.
Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues
Hitchcock is the only guy on this list with a team in the playoffs so it might seem preposterous that the Blues would fire him. After all, St. Louis won the Central Division and tied for the most points in the Western Conference during the regular season. But that has only amped up expectations. Last season, the Blues had home-ice advantage in their first-round postseason series with Chicago. They won the first two games only to drop the final four (scoring six total goals). The year before that, St. Louis had home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the L.A. Kings and won the first two at home only to drop the final four (scoring six total goals). Sensing a pattern here?
The Blues enter Wednesday's Game 4 in Minnesota down 2-1 to the Wild, who only snuck in as a wild-card team. The two loses were dominant Minnesota performances, including 3-0 on Monday in which the Blues had just 17 shots on Devan Dubnyk. He has been playing well for months, but the Blues still have vastly more talent than the Wild. St. Louis has now dropped nine straight playoff games on the road. If the Blues go out meekly against the Wild, management probably has to make a change. There could be some quality guys on the market to replace Hitchcock, who won the Stanley Cup in 1999 while coaching the Dallas Stars. Certainly the Blues job would be a coveted one. Hitchcock also wouldn't struggle to find work.
Odds to be fired: even money if Blues lose series to Wild.
Claude Julien, Boston Bruins
Certainly the most disappointing team in hockey this season was Boston as it was expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup yet missed out on the playoffs. Last week, the changes began as the team fired general manger Peter Chiarelli as well as a few scouts. After being named team CEO in January, Charlie Jacobs called a non-playoff season for the Bruins "absolutely unacceptable." Clearly it was.
Bruins president Cam Neely said at the Chiarelli press conference that the fate of Julien and his staff would be decided by the new general manager. Just about always, a new GM wants his own hand-picked coach. Thus I don't think it much matters that the Bruins gave Julien, who led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, a three-year extension in 2014. Julien was hired by Chiarelli in the summer of 2007 and has led the club to a 351-192-79 regular-season record. Julien is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NHL behind Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings.
Odds to be fired: +200.
Todd Nelson, Edmonton Oilers
Back in mid-December, the scuffling Oilers fired coach Dallas Eakins and replaced him on an interim basis with Nelson. He was promoted from Edmonton's American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City. Nelson made the AHL playoffs in all four of his full seasons in Oklahoma City. He also spent two seasons (2008-10) as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Oilers went 17-25-9 in 51 games on NHL odds under Nelson. The players seemed to like him and the team's best players, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Oscar Klefbom, all played better two-way hockey under Nelson than they had under Eakins. The Oilers had a 45 points percentage under Nelson compared to 30 under Eakins.
However, the reason I list him on here is that things changed last weekend when the Oilers won the NHL draft lottery, moving up from the No. 3 spot. It marks the fourth time in the past six years that Edmonton will pick first. This time there's a potential Sidney Crosby-like talent atop the draft in Connor McDavid. That clearly raises expectations for this franchise and a fan base that has been subject to losing hockey for years. Maybe Nelson isn't enough of a high-profile guy to handle it. The Oilers job just got much more enticing around the league.
Odds to be fired: +350.