Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Every midseason coaching change of the cap era, ranked

The NHL had its first coaching change of the season last week, and it was big news for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, it was Montreal, and anything that happens in that market will reverberate around the league. But it also broke the seal on a year that had many of us wondering if there would be any midseason changes at all. With a pandemic still raging and a condensed schedule leaving little room to adjust, would teams be tempted to ride out the year and make their coaching decisions in the offseason?

Apparently not. Instead, we got what we almost always get – at least one team deciding that it had to make a change during the season, with more potentially on the way. Since the expansion era began in 1967, the 2017-18 season remains the only one which hasn’t had at least one midseason coaching change. Sometimes, the change works out brilliantly. Other times, a struggling team keeps spinning their wheels. Occasionally, a poorly thought-out switch makes a bad situation even worse.

So today, let’s look back at every midseason coaching change of the cap era. That’s a total of 67, by my count, not including brief interim stints or temporary absences. We can divide them into some familiar categories. And of course, we’ll rank them from the worst midseason change of the era to the very best, with the benefit of hindsight.

We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. Anyone know the number for a cab?

The worst of the worst

I’m guessing there’s no big surprise with this pick…

#67. Nov. 27, 2016: Panthers replace Gerard Gallant with Tom Rowe

You at least can sort of see what the Panthers were going for. They’d recently transitioned the front office job from Dale Tallon to Rowe, and new GMs often want to bring in their own guy. Rowe was embracing a more analytics-based mindset – this was what would become derisively known in Florida as the era of the Computer Boys – and Gallant didn’t seem to be fully on board. So despite coming off a 103-point season in which Gallant was Jack Adams runner-up and a disappointing-but-not-awful 11-10-1 record through 22 games, Rowe pulled the trigger and named himself interim coach for the rest of the year.

Oh, and then they didn’t call Gallant a cab, which turned into a league-wide punch line and infuriated the old guard.

Presumably, the idea was for Rowe to make it through the season, see what his roster looked like up close, and then hire his own guy in the spring. Instead, the team missed the playoffs, Rowe lost a front office power struggle, and Tallon was put back in charge. Meanwhile, Gallant took the expansion Golden Knights job and won the Jack Adams in his first season in Vegas. Just a complete mess all around.

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