Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Habs by the Numbers: Have This Year's NHL Coaching Changes Worked?

Hello again Habs Addicts!

As we get closer to the end of the season, I was wondering about all of the coaching changes that happened in the NHL this season, and whether they payed off?

So here's a look and some of the details...

Relatively "slow" year in terms of changes

I've taken the time to put together a couple of charts for your statistical enjoyment. I've broken this down into two groups: winners and losers.

In all, seven teams decided to make a coaching change this season, which is a relatively low number.

The first change came on November 30th, when coach Randy Carlyle was removed from Anaheim, after six full seasons at the helm (and .598 winning percentage in 492 games).

And, let's not forget a Stanley Cup Championship!

The last coaching change came on March 2nd, when Brian Burke fired long time accomplice Ron Wilson, replacing him with long time accomplice Randy Carlyle (him again!).

And the winners are ...

Looking at the chart below, four of seven teams that made a change have ended up "winners", and all of them in a big way!

We all know about Ken Hitchcock and the Blues, which were 24th in the league standings (6-7-0) at the time of the change. They've since gone 42-13-9 (.727), and are currently in 1st place in the NHL.

Another interesting note is that three of the four teams are from the Western conference (no Western team in the "losers" chart, if you notice). Also, the only Eastern team, Carolina, is now being coached by ex-Habs assistant, Kirk Muller. He's managed an impressive 23-18-11 (.548) after picking up the 26th ranked team last November 28th.

And the losers are ...

Of course, the first team that jumps to mind is Montreal.

Under coach Cunneyworth, Montreal has regressed by 16%. Also, when Jacques Martin was replaced, the Canadiens were 11th in the Eastern conference, and only two points out of sixth place. Montreal is now 15th and last in the East, as well as 14 points out of a playoff spot, after going 16-22-7 (.433) under their new coach.

Washington has been another disappointment, going .536 under new coach Dale Hunter, while under-performing as a team loaded with talented youths.

Finally, the most shocking of all changes has to be the Toronto Maple Leafs' decision to let go of Ron Wilson after 64 games. A month before being fired, Wilson had the Leafs in 7th place in the East, 4 points behind 5th place Pittsburgh, seriously eyeing a playoff spot for the first time since the lockout.

In February, the Leafs suddenly went 4-9-1 (.321), and slid into the 11th spot, five points out of playoff contention. It was at that point that Burke decided to "pull the plug" on Wilson, and brought in Carlyle.

Since that move, in 13 games, the Leafs have gone 4-7-2 (.385), and have not won once in their last 10 games at home. I think Mr. Burke will have some explaining to do this summer.

Is change really good, Donkey?

I, for one, think that, in general, NHL teams are very quick to replace head coaches.

Yes, it's easier to replace a coach than it is to trade underperforming players in this salary cap crazy era. Granted.

But I still think that, most of the time, teams end up with the same results, since the issue is more often than not "on the ice", and not behind the bench. Yet, they replace the guy behind the bench.

Do you think NHL teams should show more patience/stability with their coaching staff?

Frank Dumais is a freelance writer, currently contributing to “Habs By the numbers” regular column. He writes on current Habs and NHL topics, but with a “numbers twist”.

Follow Frank on Twitter

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images )


Great stuff, Francois!

It just goes to show you that, most of the time, a good team is a good team and a bad team is a bad one. By that I mean that the coach can only do so much, when the personnel on the ice are not good enough.

Hitchcock in St. Louis is an example of a great coach with a very strong lineup, putting it all together.

Carlyle in Toronto or Cunneyworth in Montreal, well, it's kinda hard to turn mud into gold do quickly!

Interesting stats and results are what counts in professional sports.
From a personal perspective I appreciate the job Cunneyworth has done in a very difficult situation.
I think he handles the young players much better than Martin and the games, win or lose are much more entertaining.
I think the on ice results under Cunneyworth had a lot more to do with the handling of the coaching situation by management and the language debate it created.
I think Spacek shed some light on how the players felt about it and it showed in the lack of motivation on the ice. I have heard through people who have friends inside the organization that the players were really pissed at how Cunney was treated and many would have welcomed a trade for a long period after that whole debacle. I guess we'll never know for sure but where there's smoke......

Frank! Maybe you can do a By The Numbers on GM changes? That would be a propos, eh? ;)

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