Checking the temperature of the NHL coaches' hot seat

The holiday goodwill has faded. The standings are starting to separate the champions from the train-wrecks. Isn't it about time we had ourselves another good 'ole fashioned coaching change in the NHL?

There are a more than a few bench bosses whose jobs are on the line right now. Let's once again survey the chopping block.

Bangin Panger offered some handicapping today on the next coach to get canned, and let's narrow that field: Guy Carbonneau, Ron Wilson (whose inclusion was merely a platform for a Brian Burke quip) and probably Andy Murray aren't going anywhere.

One would imagine that if John Anderson is fired from the Atlanta Thrashers after his rookie season, the decision would come during the summer (and, god willing, would follow Don Waddell's removal from the front office).

Two coaches on the list that one would assume belong there:

Craig MacTavish - Edmonton Oilers

The last vestige of the helmetless era, one of the heroes of the Rangers Cup win, role player of the Oilers Dynasty, and he was Dany Heatley before there was Dany Heatley (too soon? Yeah, probably.) But he we have a coach that's been with the Oilers since 2000, only led them to the playoffs 3 times, and has finished 4th or worse in the division every other year. How many passes will he get? He can't keep living off Fernando Pisani's epic run to the finals in 2006, can he? This has got to be his last chance, currently sitting 10th in the west, MacTavish's chances? Well, I'd say about the same as San Jose winning the West.

Craig Hartsburgh - Ottawa Senators

He just signed a 3 year contract this off-season, but I don't think that means shit since Paddock was canned after just one season as well. Can Ottawa afford to buy out and eat another coaching contract? Probably, it is Canada. But this isn't Hartburgh's fault, this is just a total team meltdown. What the hell happened Senator nation? Oh wait, you decided Marty Gerber and Alex Auld were the answer to your Ray Emery situation. That spitter Bryan Murray should be fired for that idiocy. Chances Murray blows up this team? Is Israel rocking Gaza?

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In MacT's case, the Oilers may be in the midst of saving his job.

Edmonton isn't exactly playing good hockey -- hopefully the Islanders bring out the worst in teams, because the Oil looked like 18 guys playing at completely different speeds last night -- but they're tied for the eight seed in the West with Minnesota and they've won the first two games of a five-game homestand. Depending how they fare against Vancouver, San Jose and St. Louis in the next three, MacTavish could be safe.

The fact that he's a favorite of owner Darryl Katz also doesn't hurt.

Hartsburg, on the other hand, has scapegoat written all over him for the pitiful 13-18-6 start for the Senators. The good news is that captain Daniel Alfredsson vouched for him, claiming it's up to the players to turn the ship around; that carries some weight. Also, one assumes a roster shakeup via trade is more likely than a coaching change at this stage. Bangin Panger has him at the top of the chopping block, however.

Two other names to consider: Dave Tippett of the Dallas Stars and, yes, Michel Therrien of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If Tippett was going to be fired, it would have happened already. The Stars have bottomed out and now they're bouncing back up, going 6-3-1 in the last 10. Now that Marty Turco's GAA is finally lower than the price of a movie ticket, that trend could continue.

Therrien's a tough one, only because things are so dire for the Penguins at the moment. He's scrambling lines and scratching players, but thus far isn't getting results as Pittsburgh's offense has produced more than two goals since Dec. 22. 

If a coaching change was to be made, where do you turn? Bruce "Malkin to the Kings" Garrioch reported that "league sources" indicate Therrien's in trouble, and floats a candidate for his replacement: Pat Quinn, the former Toronto Maple Leafs Imperial emperor who led the Canadian juniors to their fifth straight championship this week. 

Is Pat Quinn a winger for Sidney Crosby? Of course not. Is Pat Quinn a veteran role playing forward that can bring some semblance of leadership to the Penguins on the ice, so Crosby doesn't feel the need to drop the gloves to make a statement? Nope.

So is Pat Quinn or any other coach the answer? Therrien isn't exactly blameless for their struggles, but perhaps the issue is as much with the construction of this current Penguins team as it is with its execution.

Even if GM Ray Shero may have helped create this messy situation, he's certainly not going to watch a Stanley Cup finalist implode without taking action. The question is whether that action can include removing a coach whom he extended through 2011 last summer -- and whether that change even makes a difference.

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