Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 12/9/11
Kirk Muller works the whiteboard his first day at work in Raleigh, NC
The month of November brought four coaching changes to the NHL and rumors abound that a few more teams may be considering a similar move. It started on November 6, with all of us anticipating news of the Blue Jackets Coach Scott Arniel’s imminent demise in Columbus. Instead, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong surprised the puckwebz when he released Davis Payne and hired NHL veteran coach Ken Hitchcock.

The effects were seen almost immediately as the Blues went undefeated in the ensuing two weeks, with a record of 4-0-2 over the span. Between the perception that 1) Armstrong had secured a top candidate by moving quickly and 2) a coaching change might be the quick fix they sought, other GMs (and fanbases) couldn’t help but notice. In the days following Thanksgiving weekend, three more teams brought in new coaches in hopes that they would fix what ailed their struggling rosters.

It’s still very early, but so far, the results for these others have not been so stellar.




Take a look at the win/loss records so far for Ken Hitchcock, Dale Hunter, Kirk Muller and finally, Bruce Boudreau side by side.

CoachTeam Date hired Games
 coachedGames
 till 1st win   W         L           OTL    Ken HitchcockBlues  11/61511023Dale HunterCapitals  11/28 53230Kirk MullerHurricanes   11/2855140Bruce Boudreau  Ducks  12/143121

Unfortunately, the instant success Hitchcock achieved has eluded these other three, two of whom are previously unproven as NHL Head Coaches. Which isn’t to say change wasn’t necessary, but that perhaps the problems in Washington, Raleigh and Anaheim were more significant than just ineffective coaching. It may also suggest that the latter three are pushing a more drastic change of systems and culture for their hockey clubs.

Acknowledging that 4 or 5 games isn’t exactly a huge data set, I put together a couple more charts to see the before and after. First, a comparison of Points Percentage for games played under the prior coach compared to that figure under the new regime.



[Click to enlarge]
Again, if the fans who were clamoring for a coaching change were pointing to St. Louis and expecting similar instant gratification in the win/loss column, they are surely disappointed. For the threesome who started last week, their work is still in progress.

Finally, as a snapshot of the most basic of statistics to measure how the team is responding to the new coach, here’s a look at the "Goals For" per game (in black) and the "Goals Against" (in red), for each team, before and after the moves were made. (Again, these are very small samples for the three latter teams.)

[Click to enlarge]
The improvement Hitchcock has made in St. Louis has been all about tightening up the defense. In Washington, Hunter has seen decreases for both categories, while Muller and Boudreau have seen an uptick in scoring from both sides in the early going.

Will the lack of instant results mean the GM’s in Calgary, Columbus, Long Island, and maybe Colorado and Montreal will be less prone to make a change till they are certain it will be meaningful? Will it quiet the fans who are looking for something, anything, to shake up their teams and are blaming the coaching staff for under-performing players? Maybe it's important to recognize sometimes the problems run deeper than pep-talks and  X’s and O’s and that patience is sometimes a more appropriate choice.

Whichever, these new coaches have their work cut out for them in the weeks and months ahead. It could be, and probably should be, a year from now before it’s fair for us to judge whether all four have proven to be a success. Or if maybe we'll decide that, in hindsight, those old coaches weren’t so bad after all.


Photo: Jamie Kellner
Follow Carolyn on Twitter: @HMof2

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