When is it time to fire the coach: NHL 2013 edition

Michel Therrien shown on left as Penguins coach, Bruce Boudreau shown on right as Washington Capitals coach


As the shortened NHL season heads for the home stretch, and teams with playoff ambitions start to trend downward, many people will start to scream, "Fire the coach."

When a team starts to struggle why do people always want to fire the coach?

Two of the 2013 NHL season's more successful coaches were fired in their last job for not being able to motivate superstar players even though they had a track record of success.

Montreal Canadiens' Michel Therrien

Michel Therrien coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to one of the most successful single season improvements in NHL history. The 2005–06 Pittsburgh Penguins were last in the Atlantic Division with a miserable 58 points.  The 2006–07 season saw tha Pittsburgh Penguins nearly doubling their point total from the previous year with 105 points and finishing second in the Atlantic Division just two points behind the New Jersey Devils.

The following season (2007–08) the Penguins would finish first in their division and second in the conference. Therrien took the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals where the Penguins would lose to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.

Coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and loaded with superstar players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, expectations were high.

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The 2008-09 season was not living up to expectations. On February 15, 2009, with a record of 27–25–5, and five points out of a playoff spot, the Penguins organization fired head coach Michel Therrien.

On June 5, 2012, Michel Therrien was named coach of the Montreal Canadiens, a team he had coached for, and had been fired from, before he joined the Penguins.

At the midway point of the lockout shortened 2013 NHL season the Canadiens are having a pretty good run battling neck and neck with the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Northeast Division, and somewhat ironically, battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the conference.   A Pittsburgh - Montreal battle for the confernce title would sure be interesting.

Anaheim Ducks' Bruce Boudreau

The current success story of Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is very similar to Michel Therrien.

Boudreau was named head coach of the Washington Capitals in November 2007, first hired as an interim coach and later named permanent coach. Like Therrien, Boudreau turned around a struggling team taking the 2007–08 Capitals to their first Southeast Division title in seven years. Boudeau won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best coach in 2008.

In each of the three seasons that followed, Boudreau coached the Washington Capitals to first place in the Southeast Division.

Expectations were high for Boudreau in in his final season at Washington. The Capitals were coming off of a conference leading 107 points the previous year and with a team loaded with a pair of superstars in Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin anything less than success would not go over well.

Like Therrien, management with high expectations was quick to pull the trigger on the coach when the fear of missing the playoffs set in. The season started to fall apart and after a stretch of winning just 4 of 13 games during the 2011–12 season Boudreau was fired.

Unlike Therrien, Boudreau did not have to wait long to get back into coaching. Just two days after being fired the Anaheim Ducks hired Boudreau.

Much like the Montreal Canadiens, the midway point of the lockout shortened 2012 NHL season has the Anaheim Ducks battling for the top spot in their division, as well as solid contenders for their conference title.

Fired coaches quickly find success

As of this writing, the 2013 season is a bit more than half over and both Michel Therrien and Bruce Boudreau have their teams in the running to win their conference titles. Both men are also strong contenders for coach of the year honors.

Not bad accomplishments for two guys fired from their last jobs for underachieving.

Funny how at the first signs of a struggling team people are quick to scream fire the coach  Hockey is the ultimate team game, and the coach is just one member of the team.

Michel Therrien shown on left as Penguins coach,
Bruce Boudreau shown on right as Washington Capitals coach.

Wikimedia Commons photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
edited for ItsOnlySports.com by Tom Peracchio