By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Ladies and Gentlemen welcoming to Firing Season Part One. It’s unfortunate it has to come at such a merry time of year — during the Winter holidays — but sometimes these things can’t be helped.
Part Two of Firing Season will commence as normal once the NHL Regular Season concludes in the Spring. But for now, let’s worry about the victims of Part One and hope they don’t find coal in their stockings (or in their gift bags).
The first firing took place on Sunday when the Canucks disposed of: Head Coach Travis Green; GM Jim Benning; Assistant GM John Weisbrod and Assistant Coach Nolan Baumgartner. Vancouver was expected to be a playoff caliber team in the weak Pacific Division, but instead, the Canucks find themselves 28th in the league — as of Monday evening.
Vancouver’s Chairman Francesco Aquilini released a statement saying: “These are difficult decisions, but we believed we would have a competitive group this year. As a result, I’m extremely disappointed in how the team has performed so far. I’m making these changes because we want to build a team that competes for championships and it’s time for new leadership to help take us there.”
The new leadership includes bringing in Bruce Boudreau as the Head Coach — he’s signed through the 2022-23 season. It also includes Stan Smyl being named Interim GM and Ryan Johnson being elevated to Assistant GM. Smyl has been with the Canucks as the team’s Senior Advisor to The GM since 2008, so he’s already well versed in the whole organization. Johnson is also familiar with the inner workings of the Canucks having been the GM for the franchise’s AHL team.
As for Boudreau, he is one of the most successful Regular Season Coaches in NHL history and is the polar opposite of Travis Green as a Coach. Where Green was meticulous and a big X’s and O’s type, Boudreau is known as a Player’s Coach and should have no problem getting his players to buy into his way of thinking.
Now it’s time to see if the Canucks players can do enough to save their season. Of course, the Wild Card in all this is the Sedin Twins. Henrik and Daniel have remained involved with the organization since they retired. Now they could see their responsibilities increase. That’s just speculation for the moment but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Getting to the next firing, news broke on Monday that the Flyers finally fired Head Coach Alain Vigneault, as well as Assistant Coach Michel Therrien. There had been rumors the past couple seasons that Vigneault was close to losing his gig with Philadelphia but at the end of the day they just ended up being rumors. Not anymore.
Replacing Vigneault, at least in the interim, is Mike Yeo. Unlike Boudreau in Vancouver, Yeo has no job security. But he does have a little while to make a case to be kept before a final decision is made.
Philly GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters: “No, I’m not starting any (interview) process right now other than trying to get this team back on track. I’ve spoken with Mike (Yeo) and he knows there’s no promises going forward but he has his hands on the wheel now and it’s his opportunity to help this team get going. The focus right now is not on interviewing people and rushing to hire a head coach. Right now it’s to support Mike and get this team playing the right way. Then we can make the decisions we have to make at the right time.”
My guess is Yeo gets the rest of the season to prove whether or not he’s the man for the job in The City of Brotherly Love.
With a Head Coaching vacancy in Florida and a GM vacancy in Montreal, could Vigneault, Benning, Weisbrod, Baumgartner or Therrien potentially be a fit with one of those teams?
Vigneault and Therrien certainly have history with Montreal, plus, Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens’ new Executive VP of Hockey Operations, worked with Vigneault during their time in New York. Of course, Montreal isn’t currently searching for a Head Coach, but who knows what Gorton wants to do once the season’s over.
In other non-firing news…
The Arizona Coyotes might not call Arizona home much longer.
The rumor mill began churning a few days ago when a new report surfaced that the Coyotes were looking at moving to Houston, Texas in the wake of last summer’s announcement by The City of Glendale in which the City chose to opt out of the joint lease it has with the Coyotes for Gila River Arena.
This latest rumor began because of speculation that the Coyotes were up for sale and that an interested party wanted to purchase the team and eventually move it to Houston. Coyotes spokespeople vehemently denied the report but with how persistent this rumor has become over the past couple years, it makes you pause and think if there’s something there after all.
I know there’s a ton of logitisical and legal implications to what I’m about to propose, but wouldn’t it be nice — if the Coyotes do indeed have to leave Arizona — to see the team go to Quebec and bring back the Nordiques?
Just some food for thought.
NO HOME COOKING FOR YOU
It seems like forever since the Islanders last recorded a win. 11-games in fact. That’s how long the team’s current winless streak is; during which it’s 0-8-3. And what’s more troubling during this stretch is the Isles six-game (0-4-2) winless streak at brand new UBS Arena.
Home games were supposed to be their saving grace. After a grueling 13-game road trip to start the season, everybody expected the Islanders to open UBS Arena with a flurry of wins to beef up their record. Instead, the opposite has happened and now we’re perhaps only a couple weeks away from the point of no return.
Yes, the Blues won The Stanley Cup in 2019 after being in last place in the NHL as late as January 1st. While the Isles’ situation isn’t quite as dire — yet — they’d rather not let it get to that point. First things first though, the team needs to get healthy after a COVID-19 outbreak and multiple injuries to key players.
Can the Boys from Long Island turn around their season? Anything’s possible but as the late Yogi Berra once said, “it’s getting late early.”