If you’re a hardcore empath, congratulations — the 2022-23 NHL season has been fruitful. You haven’t yet had to watch a head coach lose his job.
There’s some reason to believe that’ll stick for the first time since 2017-18, the last regular season that came and went without a midseason firing. In 2021-22, we saw seven midseason and five by this date. In the 56-game 2021 season, three overall. In 2019-20, eight midseason and six by this date. In 2018-19, seven and five.
So no, this isn’t without precedence — but it’s still weird. Chalk it up to a few different things; first of all, new coaches get longer runways, and we’ve got plenty of those. Some franchises are less apt, even as revenues continue to bounce back, to cut checks for multiple coaches. Some are underachieving but have the right guy in place. Others, working from the growing shadow of Connor Bedard, are juuuust fine with stacking Ls. A handful of teams are actually good.
Whatever the reason for the lack of action may be, it’s been interesting to watch. Will it hold up, though? If it doesn’t — if we see another pair of February changes, as we did last year — the names will come from this list.
Don’t bother bringing it up
Mike Sullivan, Penguins. That’s not to say things are going perfectly in Pittsburgh, either. Before a win in Arizona, the Penguins had earned two of their last 12 possible points. The bottom six is bad, the defense has a Brian Dumoulin problem, the roster is old and cap space is basically non-existant. Sullivan, though, isn’t going anywhere — and he shouldn’t be. Fenway Sports Group, the team’s new-ish ownership group, views him as an asset, and he’s signed through 2027. In other words, the more reactionary factions of the Penguins’ fan base should find better ways to spend their time.
Craig Berube, Blues. His situation — with a Stanley Cup on his resume and a playoff push/flawed roster/streaky season at hand — isn’t dissimilar to Sullivan’s. At points this season (during either of the Blues’ major lulls, say) it’d be fair to look from the outside and wonder. At the moment, though, the players are responding to Berube and staying afloat without Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Torey Krug, getting recent road wins over Toronto, New Jersey and Minnesota.
Back from the brink
Dave Hakstol, Kraken. It’s amazing what some added pop at the top of the lineup (Andrei Burakovsky, Matty Beniers) and intermittently competent goaltending (Martin Jones going 4-0-0 and .921 save percentage in January) can do. Hakstol was at the top of every preseason “first coach fired” board, including The Athletic’s. Year 2 in Seattle has been an undeniable step forward, though, with the Kraken holding down third place in the Pacific Division with games in hand on both Edmonton and Calgary. Now, if their actual goals percentage of 59.4 (second in the NHL) dips a little closer to their expected (51.47), the standings could get interesting — but Hakstol is safe.