Change and lack-there-of behind the bench in the NHL so far in 2017-18

It’s mid-December in 2017, just shy of the true middle of the 2017-18 season and there’s a noteworthy lacking going on. Oh, it is an on-ice failing but it’s not a singular player statistic or performance. It’s team unction and wins and losses. And inaction by the management and ownership of any NHL franchise.

There’s a lingering story around the league about poor play and it’s coming from a variety of clubs:

  • The abyss that is the Buffalo Sabres keeps treading in the murk of the NHL standings as it has for too long now. They have only 23 points in 33 games played as of this writing.
  • Discontent from fans and mediocrity from the teams stymies the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.
  • Rick Tocchet may get a pass by way of it being his first season as head coach of the Arizona Coyotes but the team is truly in the cellar with only 7 wins and 19 points total.

The Metro Division is a neck-and-neck race (with six points being the difference between first place (New Jersey Devils) and last (Carolina Hurricanes).

Suffice it to say, I’m shocked we haven’t seen the axe fall somewhere and a coach get dismissed for mediocrity or an abominable performance by his club.

It can’t continue like that forever, especially as we’re getting to the half-way point of the season. One organization or another will wave the proverbial white flag with a coaching shift. While an action like that early in the season wouldn’t be a we-give-up declaration.

What gets me is that, with some clubs truly fighting with mediocrity (the Calgary Flames for example); I would have expected a move earlier in the season in order to kindle hopes of contention. Instead, it looks like the club is confident long term. “We’re building and this is a step in the right direction, we just need to build on it.”

I’m a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and two struggles are noteworthy to me in the Atlantic Division. One comes by way of past experience and the other catches my attention because of how it could play into the Lightning’s own future:

  • The Ottawa Senators are in 6th in the division and are helmed by former Bolts head coach Guy Boucher. I liked Guy Boucher very much in his time with the Lightning, but his variation of the 1-3-1 on-ice system fell apart with time and league knowledge… That and the bravado of shots on net weren’t going to do any favor anyway. In the current state of things, it seems that shot-bravado on netminder Craig Anderson is what has a mighty malicious flavor for an otherwise formidable team (Anderson has a 2.92 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in 24 games and faces 27+ shots on goal per game on average).It might not be coaching first that’s an issue with the Senators but experience with Boucher makes me wonder if that will be an issue.
  • “Rebuilding” has been tied to the Detroit Red Wings organization in talk and speculation for a while now. Chatter is out there about player movement and generally focus on the organization’s future isn’t just with on-ice staff. General Manager Ken Holland has been in control of the Wings since July 1997 and has been part of the reason the Red Wings franchise remained competitive contenders (and bearers of Lord Stanley’s Cup three times) for the past 20 years. Yet, with that perpetual competitiveness at an end… Holland’s end has been mused about from at least the fans.What makes me uneasy is knowing a legend of the organization is helming operations at 401 Channelside Drive; Steve Yzerman retooled and changed the course of operations for the Lightning since the start of his tenure as Executive Vice President and General Manager. It’s notable that the late Mike Ilitch, former owner of the Red Wings, tried to keep Yzerman with the franchise in 2010 before his departure to Hockey Bay: “Whatever Stevie Y wants, Stevie Y gets.”

    Would the Red Wings can Ken Holland if they didn’t have a path forward? Would they look past trying to reincorporate #19 into the organization? The mind ponders while two fan bases would alight with a mix of emotions at the thought of regaining or losing Yzerman.

    Deadspin has a read that pours salt on the idea while it also builds the value of Yzmerna in Detroit.

I’m not an in-the-know of the hockey world. No, I’m just a has-been hockey blogging pioneer and a long time sports fan. Take that last ramble with a heavy dose of salt and perhaps a roll of the eyes.

Back to the main point of coaching: Which club acts first and will it truly be a white-flag waving or a last-ditch shot at contention? No one is truly out of it yet (sans Buffalo and Arizona), but it’s unclear If clubs can and will find their way out of mediocrity by keeping steady behind the bench.