NHL sees coaching musical chairs at end of regular season

With the first round of the NHL playoffs in full swing and all of the excitement surrounding them, some fans may have missed some important news at the conclusion of the regular season. We’ll recap the coaching musical chairs and front office changes that took place once the season ended just in case you may have missed something. There were a total of 11 coaching changes in 2016/17 with five changes being made during the campaign and six more announcements after it ended.

Florida Panthers
We’ll start with the Florida Panthers since they fired Gerard Gallant back in late November after 22 games when they had an 11-10-1 record. This came even though Gallant led the team to a record 103 points the year before and finished as runner up in coach-of-the-year voting. He was replaced by general manager Tom Rowe, who had earlier taken over the GM duties from the displaced Dale Tallon. Florida went 24-26-10 under Rowe and missed the playoffs by 14 points and finished 22 points lower than last season. Rowe was relieved of both his coaching and general manager’s duties when the season ended. Tallon was reinserted as the GM and the club is still in the hunt for a new head coach. Rowe is still under contract for three more years though and will be given a front office job.

Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings dismissed head coach Darryl Sutter at season’s end even though he led the club to a pair of Stanley Cups in his five years behind the team’s bench. These are the only two titles the franchise has won. However, he also failed to make the playoffs twice in the last three years, including this year. Sutter wasn’t the only one the Kings cut loose though as general manager Dean Lombardi also lost his job. Lombardi has been replaced by former Kings’ defenceman Rob Blake who will also serve as vice-president while Luc Robitaille is the team’s new president. Sutter leaves as the Kings’ most successful coach ever with a record of 225-147-53.

Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks were another west coast franchise which got in on the action as they weren’t satisfied with the job Willie Desjardins has done for the club over the past three seasons. They missed the playoffs the last two years under Desjardins and have reached the postseason just twice in the last five campaigns and believed a change was in order. General manager Jim Benning managed to keep his job for the time being though even though the club finished 29th out of 30 this season at 30-43-9. Desjardins went 109-110-27 while in Vancouver. Assistant coaches Perry Pearn and Doug Lidster were let go along with Desjardins. 

Dallas Stars
Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars was another head coach who was sacked at the end of the season after four years behind the bench. Ruff went 131-85-30 with the Stars, but still failed to make the playoffs this season at 34-37-11 after they looked like Stanley Cup contenders last year. With stars such as Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp in the lineup it’s easy to see why management was disappointed this season. The Stars have already filled Ruff’s spot as they hired Ken Hitchcock as his replacement. Ironically, Hitchcock himself was fired earlier in the season as the St. Louis Blues let him go while he was in the midst of his sixth season with the club. Hitchcock coached Dallas from 1996 to 2002 and won two President’s Trophies and a Stanley Cup with the team. He said before the 2016/17 that it was going to be his last year as a head coach, but apparently changed his mind to rejoin Dallas.


Las Vegas Golden Knights
We now come full circle as we get back to Gerard Gallant, who was the first coach fired this season when Florida let him go. Gallant was named as the inaugural head coach of the new Las Vegas franchise, the Vegas Golden Knight. General manager George McPhee made the announcement on April 13th. The Knights are the 31st NHL franchise and will begin play in the 2017/18 season. The 53-year-old Gallant, a former player with Detroit and Tampa Bay, has also been a head coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and an assistant coach with the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. His head-coaching record reads 152-141-31.