NHL coaching job-security tiers: Who could be on the move next?


Staff member

The turnover rate among NHL head coaches over the last year or so has been preposterous. You’re aware of this. You’ve seen the stats. Let’s recount a few before we start our little exercise, though:

• There have been 19 head-coaching changes since last season, including Rick Bowness’ retirement, and 12 this season alone.

• The last coach to lose his job, Sheldon Keefe, was the fifth-longest tenured in the league. He’d just finished his fifth season with the Leafs.

• Taking Keefe’s place in the top five: Martin St. Louis, who started with Montreal barely two calendar years ago.

On and on. Before someone else gets fired, though, it’s time to take stock of the stability of the 32 NHL head coaching jobs. Each of them fits into one of 12 categories.

Can’t clear out an empty office​

Five jobs, for the time being, remain open, from the worst team in the league to failed quasi-contenders.

New Jersey Devils

Whoever takes over for last season’s Lindy Ruff/Travis Green combo platter will have a leg up on those guys, if only because Jake Allen will be around to handle business in net. New Jersey’s goalies, up until Allen’s arrival at the deadline, had put up an .883 save percentage. That’s abysmal enough to make a guy like Allen look like Connor Hellebuyck. Better goaltending — and presumably, better defensive structure — will counterbalance rising expectations in Newark.

San Jose Sharks

Ironically, the Sharks’ roster seemed disastrous enough to buy David Quinn a third season. Alas, GM Mike Grier made a change. That NHL Draft Lottery win made this job a whole lot better, but it’s still on track to be Macklin Celebrini and not much else. Plus side for Quinn’s replacement: Expectations will still be nearly nonexistent, and churning through another head coach in short order would be a bad look for Grier.

Seattle Kraken

A year ago, Dave Hakstol was basking in the glow of a playoff appearance in Seattle’s second season. Now, he’s out of a job. Gotta love shooting percentage regression; the Kraken had the second-highest in 2022-23 and the fourth-lowest in 2023-24. That’s something worth remembering for every coach, including Hakstol’s replacement.


Sheldon Keefe was fired as Maple Leafs coach last Thursday. (Josh Lavallee / NHLI via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs

That’s right — they fired Keefe. You heard it here first.

Winnipeg Jets

Scott Arniel is the leader in the clubhouse to replace the retired Bowness, but as Murat Ates wrote, he’s not going to get the job by default. There’s plenty to like about it; Winnipeg’s ownership has a reputation for prioritizing stability, and the Jets just finished with the fourth-most points in the league. Still, whoever takes over had better like Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele a whole lot.

Have they even unpacked?​

The ink might not be dry on these contracts, so these guys should feel relatively secure in their positions.

Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff

The Sabres hired seven coaches in between Ruff’s stints with the franchise. That alone makes it an understandable remarriage. Still, Ruff was available in the first place because he’d failed to get a win-now team over the hump, which … doesn’t bode particularly well.

Ottawa Senators, Travis Green

At least Ruff and the Sabres got some kind of honeymoon period. The overall fan response to Green’s hiring was negative enough to necessitate a “give the guy a chance” column from Thomas Drance, who covered Green as head coach of the Canucks. If Green does enough to take the Sens to their first playoff since 2017, all will be forgiven — but his first few days on the job should be a reminder of just how hair-trigger the entire situation has become in the meantime.

St. Louis Blues, Drew Bannister

GM Doug Armstrong did plenty of due diligence before deciding to remove Bannister’s interim tag, and the Blues’ plan for the immediate future — Win now? Retool? Rebuild? — doesn’t seem particularly clear. Not an ideal situation for any coach, which is a shame, because Bannister did a solid enough job after taking over for Craig Berube.

Recent champs​

Colorado Avalanche, Jared Bednar

We knew Bednar was good at his job, and the work he’s done this season — given how thin the roster was in spots and how many midseason additions were necessary — is a testament to that. Yes, Colorado has high-end players, but so do plenty of other teams. It guarantees nothing.

Vegas Golden Knights, Bruce Cassidy

Their Cup defense might’ve ended a little early, but Cassidy is still at the top of the profession. You’ll never learn more from a postgame media session, either.

The “Jon Cooper” tier​

Tampa Bay Lightning, Jon Cooper

No coach has more juice within the organization or across the league. None.

No point in bringing it up​

New York Rangers, Peter Laviolette

Anyone who works for James Dolan gets some sort of asterisk next to their name, but Laviolette hasn’t done anything over the last year to actually deserve it. He doesn’t just have Cup bona fides and a whole bunch of wins on his resume — he’s made the Rangers deeper, better and scarier. Sometimes, experience is a good thing. Not every veteran coach deserves the “retread” tag.

Dallas Stars, Pete DeBoer

Plenty of the same can be said about DeBoer. He doesn’t have a Cup, but he took over the Stars and immediately made them better. It’s possible to learn from past experience! Who knew?

Florida Panthers, Paul Maurice

Skepticism over Maurice’s hiring in South Florida back in 2022 was understandable — the Jets didn’t win anything important in his 10-plus seasons on the job — but the fit has been perfect. He’s turned a firewagon team into one of the league’s most complete.

Vancouver Canucks, Rick Tocchet

Are there coaches with more stable ownership situations? Absolutely, but Tocchet (yet again) immediately showed that he was a “retread” with tons to offer. His rep for getting the most out of star players is deserved, and the Canucks look better than they have in a generation.

Philadelphia Flyers, John Tortorella

Coming into April, the Flyers seemed like a playoff team, and Tortorella seemed like a Jack Adams finalist. That’s, uh, not how things wound up, but he’s still the face of an organization that’s putting a premium on stability, culture and a whole bunch of other characteristics that are shorthand for job stability.

Some point in bringing it up​

Carolina Hurricanes, Rod Brind’Amour
No coach is more synonymous with his franchise than Brind’Amour — which is why this bit from Darren Dreger made some waves.

That wasn’t a coincidence. Brind’Amour’s deal is up, the Hurricanes haven’t broken past the Eastern Conference final despite major regular-season success, and owner Tom Dundon is known for playing hardball. Magically, a day later, the vibes shifted.

Will everything work out as intended if the Rangers close out the Hurricanes? It might be time to see.

Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Sullivan

A divorce here would be a shock, if only for three large reasons at the top of the Penguins’ roster, but it’s time to stop pretending that the thought hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind. That said, we’re probably another failed season away from this being a more legitimate discussion point.


Boston Bruins, Jim Montgomery

If Montgomery’s team blew a 3-1 series lead for the second straight season, tough questions would’ve come up — to echo Jeremy Rutherford, the timing on Bannister’s extension in St. Louis probably wasn’t a coincidence. Still, Montgomery is a high-end coach who’s done a great job with a relatively undermanned Bruins roster.


Washington Capitals, Spencer Carbery

The Caps made the postseason due to luck, timely goaltending and an impressive first season from Carbery, who should be a fixture in D.C. The tail end of the Alex Ovechkin era isn’t going to be simple for anyone, but he seems capable of bridging the gap.

Edmonton Oilers, Kris Knoblauch

From the day he took over (Nov. 12), the Oilers were first in points, first in overall expected goals percentage and third in actual goals percentage. It’s worth noting that the stakes are high for Edmonton and Knoblauch’s predecessor, Jay Woodcroft, was a short-timer, but expecting anything more would’ve been ridiculous.

Nashville Predators, Andrew Brunette

No coach in 2024 is better at fostering goals, but the Panthers’ postseason flame-out in 2022 was a legit pockmark on Brunette’s resume. The fact that the out-manned Preds managed to look playoff-ready in their Round 1 loss to Vancouver bodes well for Brunette, as does the fact that Barry Trotz is his boss.

New York Islanders, Patrick Roy

We’ve seen quick pivots from Lou Lamoriello plenty of times, and the Isles’ roster is problematic, but Roy did the job he was hired to do.

In the rebuild sweet spot​

Anaheim Ducks, Greg Cronin

Things could’ve gone better for Cronin in Year 1 — the Ducks were bottom-five in basically everything — but he wasn’t hired to coach a playoff team. Also, GM Pat Verbeek made his executive bones under Steve Yzerman; not bad for a coach’s job security. Anaheim’s young, high-end pieces probably need to take some steps next season, but there’s no real reason to believe that they won’t.

Chicago Blackhawks, Luke Richardson

At some point, you’d think Richardson will be judged on wins, losses and things of that nature. Doesn’t seem like we’re there yet.

Montreal Canadiens, Martin St. Louis

The next step in Montreal might be tricky, but St. Louis clearly has the full faith of the front office. He’s the face of the franchise, and a guy who just had his contract extended. Tons of security here.


Calgary Flames, Ryan Huska

In his first season as head coach, Huska led a mediocre roster to a mediocre record. Cool.

Minnesota Wild, John Hynes

He deserves credit for stepping into a messy situation and providing a spark, and he’s excited for what comes next, but Hynes’ job isn’t easy. Expectations are high, the Wild’s roster is flawed and he’s yet to win a playoff series in nine seasons as an NHL coach.

Start the clock​

Detroit Red Wings, Derek Lalonde

The Wings’ issues seem to be more roster-based than anything else, and Lalonde led them to an 11-point improvement over 2022-23, but it still feels like he (and they) are approaching a critical point.

Utah, Andre Tourigny

For a minute, the erstwhile Coyotes looked prepped to mount a shocking playoff run. That didn’t work out, and a whooooooole bunch of stuff hit the fan. Tourigny said all the right things during the franchise’s move, and he deserves a shot to coach a team that isn’t playing in a glorified community rink, but it’s impossible not to think he has less room for error.

Leading the race to No. 20​

Columbus Blue Jackets, Pascal Vincent

It’ll be up to whoever takes over as Blue Jackets general manager to decide what happens with Vincent. He doesn’t have a ton to lean on, other than the fact that hiring a fourth head coach in 13 months would be a brutal look.

Los Angeles Kings, Jim Hiller (interim)

On one hand, Hiller did his job — he got the Kings into the playoffs. On the other, all he needed to do was fend off St. Louis and Calgary, and the Kings might have two more appealing in-house candidates (D.J. Smith and Marco Sturm) alone.