Negative Nany — Coaches on the go? Part Two

Excitement has stormed the NHL!

Free agents signings, new rule changes, a salary cap. So many diffrent and new ideas entering this league.

But why focus on the positive when one can just as easily focus on the negative.

That’s right, I’m talking about the annual predictions of which NHL coach will lose his job first.

Will it be Pat Quinn? Can he keep his new look leaf team afloat?

How about Eddie Olczyk? The Penguins are a revamped team, will their coach be up for the challenge?

Or maybe even Bryan Murray in Ottawa. As much as Jacques Martin failed he still succeeded during the regular season… mighty big shoes to fill.

Allow me to analyze and comment on all thirty NHL coaches this season, finishing with the final 15 NHL teams in alphabetical order.

Montreal Canadiens: Claude Julien

After being hired in 2003, Claude Julien led Montreal to the playoffs in his first full year as an NHL head coach. I think Julien did a great job in Montreal so far, getting Ribeiro to start putting up strong offensive numbers, helping Jose Theodore get his game back together after a weak year and making Ryder’s transition into the NHL much smoother. Julien succeeded incredibly with the Hamilton Bulldogs and he will succeed with the big club. Julien should be considered one of the better young NHL coaches and unless a meltdown occurs, should be in Montreal for quite sometime.

Nashville Predators: Barry Trotz

Barry Trotz has been with the Nashville Predators since the beginning and the team is finally showing some signs of victory. They made their first playoff appearance pre-lockout, under the leadership of Trotz (not to much great goaltending by Vokoun). Trotz, in my opinion, is an underrated coach guiding a now underrated team. I could be wrong though. This will be Trotz first year to work with some real talent consistantly (Kariya, Legwand, Vokoun, Markov, Sullivan) and I am predicting a playoffs team and even a series win. Nashville will be a darkhorse this year and maybe the Calgary, Anaheim or Minnesota of 2005/2006.

New Jersey Devils: Larry Robinson

The loss of Neidermayer and possibly Stevens will really hurt this Devils team and may actually make Broduer work for his credit. But Robinson has an even bigger task at hand. Like Lemaire in Minnesota, Larry and the Devils will be caught in a new style of NHL play where the trap will be flawed and the hopeful grasp on clutching and grabbing will have to make the club more conscious of their defensive play. I’m not saying the Devils are completely out of the mix. I’m not saying that at all, nor am I saying that Robinson is screwed. I think the Devils are going to look like a completely different team and I seriously cannot wait to see Broduer take 30 shots a night, then we can see if he really deserves the credit he gets.

New York Islanders: Steve Stirling

The Islanders do look like a improved team with the aquisitions of York, Sopel, Zhitnik, Satan and Lukewich but still have a question mark in net. Stirling should continue minor successes in New York, making the playoffs this year and winning a couple games. I don’t see the Islanders as strong series contenders and major success really depends on Dipietro’s play between the pipes.

New York Rangers: Tom Renney

Tom Renney. New York Rangers. What to expect from this team is unknown. When stacked with power players they fail. When plugging young, talented players they… who knows, I guess we will wait and see. I don’t know what to expect from this enagmatic team. Kevin Weekes will be the best thing for this failing franchise as he is one of the most underrated goalies in the NHL. If Jagr decides that their is more to the NHL than the moolah and takes his game to the level he can play at I would say the Rangers will have a far better year then past 5 but Renney probably won’t last. I’ve always felt he was a filler coach until Sather finds a guy he really wants to guide this team. Renney is a coach that will potentially hit the road this season.

Ottawa Senators: Bryan Murray

Senators’ fans breathed a sigh of relief when Martin was fired and Lalime was traded so this year will be exciting for the city of Ottawa. Is Bryan Murray a better coach then Martin? In my opinion no, but in this situation, yes. Murray will watch this team into the playoffs because with this talent I don’t see how they don’t make it anyways. Hasek is a huge question mark in my book. He isn’t the age he used to be, and unlike Belfour (many comparisons made between the two because of age) Hasek still plays his floppy style, whereas Belfour has a more conservative style. If Hasek regains his past preformances then watch out for the Senators, but that is a big IF.

Philadelphia Flyers: Ken Hitch****

Aren’t Philly fans excited this year. Forsberg, Hatcher, Rathje and Esche. Wait? Esche? Yes, he will be their downfall. I’m sorry, I don’t see this kid keeping up the play of last season. At first glance the Flyers look like they should be guaranteed to win the East, but upon further review they have just been overhyped. Forsberg is an injury concern every year, Hatcher will be a pylon. He is an average skater at best, he relies on clutching and grabbing and his isn’t exactly a superb transition player. I fully believe Philly will make the playoffs, don’t get me wrong, but if they face a team like Tampa their almighty defense will crumble. And yes I remember Hanzus, Gangne and Desjardins, but I stick by my prediction. And please, don’t mention that they have Carter and Richards therefore so much depth. Their rookies, not superstars. To keep on topic, Hitch***** is a great coach and he should stay the year. But if the Flyers crap out the first half of the year expect Bobby Clarke to go insane.

Phoenix Coyotes: Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky is as good as gone…… got ya. The Great One will be the head coach of the Coyotes for as long as he pleases. I don’t think anyone would dare to ask Gretzky to step down. Luckily for him Phoenix is looking a lot stronger than the team of two years ago. And do not forget that Gretzky isn’t on his own here. He has good, experienced assistants like Bowness. Tocchet and Smith to help him and guide him along the way. I do expect a Phoenix playoff appearance and praise for Wayne but a first-round exit seems appropriate for the improving club.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Ed Olczyk

People on this board nailed this one right on the head before I could even say it. Olczyk is Mario’s puppet and why not. Lemiuex owns and captains this team, he is going to want a guy who will bend over at will. Olczyk should be fine in this position but a playoff appearance feels incredibly far-fetched even for a more free-spending Penguins team. Yes, I hear non-stop that this is Pittsburgh year to shine to the playoffs, and up front they do look alright. But after Super Mario, Recchi, Palffy and then pressured Crosby what else is there. But offense shouldn’t dog them. It’s all about their lack of defense and goaltending. Gonacher and Jackman are the only two signed as of now and there is no way Fluery is ready for a fully NHL season. Good luck Penguins, and congratulations on your sellouts.

St. Louis Blues: Mike Kitchen

St. Louis is a team where it could go either way if they make the playoffs. They lost Pronger but gained Brewer. They still have offensive threats like Tkachuk and Weight not to mention Sillinger, McAmmond and MacInnis. They will have a solid three of Al, Jackman and Brewer on D and Lalime is always good during the regular season in net. I’m really looking forward to Lalime’s play this season, will he make a point to prove to Ottawa that he can play under all pressure. Kitchen has been with the Blues for the last seven years so I don’t know what Larry Pleu really expects from him. Quenvelle and he are much alike when coaching so Kitchen can’t really be expected to change the way of St. Louis. Interesting to see what happens here.

San Jose Sharks: Ron Wilson

San Jose has proved to be one of the best young teams in the league and they have one of the better coaches in the league guiding them. Wilson brought the free-falling Sharks back into action right away the next season where they record one of the best records in the west. Wilson is here to stay and the team seems to excel under him. Great young players equals great success for now and for later. San Jose is my pick to win the west.

Tampa Bay Lightning: John Tortorella

Tortorella and his Lightning deserved the Cup two years ago but without Khabby it will come by much harder. Torts is a good coach, especially the way he handled the arrogance of Lecavalier and he should succeed just as well this year. I’d like to say Tampa is my pick to win the east but a Sean Burke/John Grahame isn’t selling me. I guess I just have to wait and see.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn has been very successful as coach as the Maple Leafs but still hasn’t delivered the long-awaited Cup. I don’t think Quinn is going to be fired anytime soon because Fergie has said on oh-so many occasions that Quinn is the man. Toronto as a team, is a coinciding question mark. They could have a great offense if Allison, Lindros and O’Neil do what they do best. They could have a decent defense if McCabe and Kaberle strike and show what they should be able to do and they could have one of the best goalies if Belfour stays healthy. In actuality the Leafs can succeed if Belfour stays healthy but that is very wishful thinking. In my opinion the Leafs will make the playoffs, but don’t expect anything more than a possible series win. Sorry Leaf fans, this year isn’t looking promising. But then again, if all is healthy…. But isn’t that always the case?

Vancouver Canucks: Marc Crawford

Marc Crawford is safe in Vancouver for now. With the return of Naslund and Bertuzzi along with Morrison the Canucks still have their solid top line in place. Once again I have to question the goaltending. Cloutier has proved he is a decent goalie at best. Why Nonis is giving him a chance is beyond me. Nonetheless, Vancouver looks like a playoffs team and a high scoring team. But one must not forget the loss of Sopel, Malik and Chubarov. Look for Vancouver to fight for top spot with the also weakened Colorado and improved Edmonton in the Northwest.

Washington Capitals: Glen Hanlon

The only way the Caps would fire Hanlon is if Jesus himself decided to take over the job. I think everyone knows this isn’t the Caps year to shine, but now with Witt demanding a trade they really have just lost it. I feel sorry for Kolzig and Ovechkin. Kolzig is a great goalie stuck in hell and Ovechkin is a great young player with nobody to work with. Godspeed Washington.

Even with these possible firings, always remember, the NHL is finally back. So enjoy the game, love the game because this is the best game there is and it will be a fun year no matter which team you root for. Thanks for reading. I’ll be sure to post more articles for the future.