With all of the coaching vacancies from this past season gone, it’s time to look ahead to see what teams could have openings to fill after the 2015-16 season. Three of the below coaches have their names on the Stanley Cup, and all five have made the playoffs at least once in the prior two seasons. In most instances, it’s not that they’re a bad coach, but the locker room needs a new voice. It’s easy to say that guy’s like Carolina’s Bill Peters or Arizona’s Dave Tippett are on the brink of looking for new employment, but those coaches don’t exactly have much on their rosters to work with either. Here are five guys that could be looking for new jobs next Spring if they don’t turn things around this season:
Ken Hitchcock – The St. Louis Blues finished at the top of their division, but their season was over after the first round of the playoffs for the third year in a row. Hitch was brought in to turn things around after the organization got rid of Davis Payne midway through the 2011-12 season, and he did. But success in the playoffs has eluded him with the Blues, never faring better than a second round sweep at the hands of the Kings in the 2012 playoffs. The fact that Hitchock was left to twist in the wind after this season while St. Louis awaited Mike Babcock’s decision, and then given only a one year extension, that isn’t exactly a long-term vote of confidence for the current Blues Bench Boss. Hitchock likely needs a Conference Finals appearance to keep his job. Considering how competitive it is in the Central Division, St. Louis could be conducting coaching interviews next May.
Claude Julien – There were rumors after the Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 that both Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli would be let go. Chiarelli now calls Edmonton home, but the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Coach continues to reside in Beantown…for now. It was only the first time that Julien had missed the playoffs during his time with the Bruins, and he’s now the longest tenured coach with one team in the NHL. Any time a new GM comes on board, there’s always the thought that he wants one of “his guys” as the coach. Considering Don Sweeney was promoted from within, it’s not like Julien doesn’t have a relationship with the General Manager. That being said, he’s been there for eight seasons, and sometimes a change is needed for the sake of a change. Anything less than a hard-fought second round exit would probably mean the end of Julien’s time in Boston. The multi-year contract extension he signed early in the 2014 season is believed to run through 2017-18.
Darryl Sutter – Two Stanley Cups in the past four seasons isn’t always enough apparently. After being the first Stanley Cup Champion to miss the playoffs since 2007 (Carolina Hurricanes), and reports that Sutter was locked out of the locker room at one point during the season, the 56 year-old could be given his walking papers during the 2015-16 campaign if the Kings don’t get their swagger back. Sutter is a guy that a team can grow tired of quickly (his stops in Chicago and Calgary being examples of that), and the lack of consistency in the second half of the 2014-15 season didn’t help. If the Kings don’t regain top form and don’t make a deep playoff run, Sutter could be back on the prairies of Alberta quicker than he’d like. This is the last year of his contract.
Jack Capuano – Capuano is no stranger to being on the charred chair. After the Islanders missed the playoffs in 2013-14 after making it the previous season, there was reason to believe he’d be out. The Fred Flintstone doppelganger was retained for another season, and made the playoffs, but were shown the door in the first round by the Capitals after a tight seven game series. Capuano is not a bad coach, and he would most certainly get another chance elsewhere, but I just can’t see Jack Capuano leading John Tavares and company to the Stanley Cup. He helped restore the team to respectability after years of being a perennial playoff no-show, but I think he’s taken this group as far as he can. I can’t see him getting the Islanders to the next level, and an early playoff dismissal could make his first season coaching in Brooklyn his last.
Lindy Ruff – The former long-time Sabres coach is entering his third season with the Stars. After ending the longest playoff drought in the franchise’s history in 2014, (losing a tough series with Anaheim in the first round), Dallas fell short of the playoffs by seven points in 2015. Not having top forward Tyler Seguin for three weeks down the stretch certainly didn’t help, but the Stars were an inconsistent bunch throughout 2014-15. The 53 year old coach is probably safe considering he has two years left on his contract, but another playoff whiff could lead to an early termination.