Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Firing squad: Who's in and who's out around the NHL

With the end of the second round of the NHL playoffs, we have reached an unofficial milestone on hockey’s calendar: the end of the annual coach and GM firing season.

It’s unlikely any of the four remaining teams will be making changes to their bench or front office, which means everyone (with one odd exception we’ll get to in a moment) who is going to get fired has been fired. And that makes this a good time to run through the current openings to see if we can figure out who could wind up with those jobs.

But first, here’s a recap of the teams that have already filled vacancies since the regular season ended:

  • The Predators fired Barry Trotz, the only coach in the team’s 15-season history, and moved quickly to replace him with former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
  • The Hurricanes replaced longtime GM Jim Rutherford with director of hockey ops (and former Hurricanes/Whalers franchise player) Ron Francis. For now, Rutherford remains in the role of team president.
  • The Flames ended their five-month search for a new GM by plucking former Coyotes assistant GM Brad Treliving out of Phoenix.
  • The Flyers “promoted” Paul Holmgren to president, making room for Ron Hextall to take over the GM’s job. Incidentally, the move came just days after team owner Ed Snider told the media that wouldn’t be making the change.

That’s a lot of movement, but it still leaves several openings around the league, with more than a few big-name candidates available to fill them.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Who they fired: General manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma. Wait, no, not Bylsma. Yet.

The Penguins were expected to make changes after another disappointing playoff run, with Bylsma’s firing considered all but a sure thing and Shero also a possible casualty. So when the team called a press conference just days after being eliminated by the Rangers, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was coming. And pretty soon, various media were reporting the news: Bylsma and Shero were both gone.

Then the press conference got started, and it turned out Bylsma hadn’t been fired after all. This was … strange. You get false reports circulating on Twitter all the time, but this wasn’t some random blogger looking for a lucky scoop; it was several of hockey’s most trusted insiders all getting the same bad info. It’s almost enough to make you wonder if something changed at the last minute.

In any case, Shero is out and Bylsma probably will be too. The Penguins say the new GM will make the call on the coaching staff, and the assumption is that Bylsma will still end up getting the pink slip. It will just come a few days (or weeks) later than everyone expected.

Intriguing candidate: One interesting name that surfaced in multiple reports was player agent Pat Brisson, whose clients include franchise player Sidney Crosby. That would have certainly made it clear who was running the team, and Brisson has been linked with GM openings in the past. But he’s apparently decided not to pursue the job, possibly because he couldn’t afford the pay cut. That leaves a wide-open field that includes former Shero assistant and current interim GM Jason Botterill.

As for that likely head coach opening … I’ll just leave this here.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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