The Other Six: Conference III’s Coaches
We all know about Joel Quenneville and his various qualities. However there are six more guys out there in Conference III, coaching their teams for better or worse (much, much worse in some cases). Here’s a quick guide, at this halfway point of the Season, to how they’re doing and whether or not they should have U-Haul on speed-dial.
Mike Yeo: Minnesota Wild
Appearance: Like a High School Social Sciences teacher who has just been hit on the back of the head with a condom.
How Is He Doing?: Not so good. The Wild are now firmly on the Playoff bubble and have hit a serious skid of late, exacerbated by goaltending problems that absolutely no-one could have foreseen except people who know about “Serious Illness” “AHL-Level Goalies” and “Nik Backstrom is Old & Bad”. Likely to be made the scapegoat for some pretty bad Front-Office decisions.
Who’s His Boss?: Chuck Fletcher, who spent 196m of owner Craig Leipold’s last remaining dollars on two players, thus necessitating the Lockout so that the poor man could afford to feed his family (of gold-plated lemurs that he keeps in the spare bathroom on his 2nd-best yacht). So not to blame for the mire that they find themselves in, at all.
Job Security: May have been fired by the time you read this.
Claude Noel: Winnipeg Jets
Appearance: Lord Smugley Smug of Smuggington Manor, Little-Smugworth, Smugshire. Except, you know, French.
How Is He Doing?: Well, the Jets are terrible but no-one outside of Winnipeg expected them to be anything else. And in Winnipeg they’re still in the dewy-eyed “You hang up.. no, you hang up” stage of the relationship.
Who’s His Boss?: Former Blackhawks Asst GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff, who got a contract extension in September which has to be seen as a right and fitting reward for someone who not only locked up the Atlanta Thrashers core for the foreseeable but also brought Devin Setoguchi to Winnipeg.
Job Security: Safe enough for now, but at some point the Winnipeg Media are going to stop blaming the Jets woes on the “Attitude”, “Uppitiness” and “Damn Hip Hop Music” of Evander “Brash” Kane and Dustin “Sassy” Byfuglien and start asking why they are missing the Playoffs again. This may not be for a few years yet, though.
Barry Trotz: Nashville Predators
Appearance: The Hired Muscle, sent to tell Little Joey Fingers that the Big Boss wants a word, like, so he better come along quietly. And/or a Sontaran.
How Is He Doing?: Oh dear. The Preds are looking likely to miss the Postseason again this year, which will be the first time in a decade that they’ve missed the Playoffs two seasons in a row. Bottom of Conference III and only ahead of the Wretched Albertans in the West. Which is like only being ahead of Barret Jackman and Roman Polak in a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Who’s His Boss?: GM David Poile either has a wicked sense of humour or doesn’t know Trotz as well as he should after working with him for 16 years because last offseason he went out and got him Viktor Stalberg.
Job Security: Popular with players & fans alike, he’s the only Coach the Preds have ever had, and in all that time has stuck to a rigid system that has been effective if wildly unpretty. Now that the system is clearly no longer working there have been gentle murmurings from Nashville that it may be time for a change. Knowing how downright nice Preds fans are, this is akin to breaking down the door with a guillotine in tow.
Patrick Roy: Colorado Avalanche
Appearance: Used car salesman who’s just made his monthly quota and won the case of Canadian Club.
How Is He Doing?: Open to debate. The Avs have cooled after a red-hot start but are still well-placed to make the Post-season, which no-one anticipated. Has weathered some serious controversy in his Rookie year with all the grace, dignity and good judgement we’d expect from a man who once did this.
Who’s His Boss?: Officially Greg Sherman but actually fellow Avalanche legend Joe Sakic, who showed that he clearly shares a similar sense of chutzpah by passing over Seth Jones, with Colorado’s #1 Pick at the Draft, to secure Nathan McKinnon, despite the Avs being in serious need of Defensemen. However, it would be wrong to say that Sakic has done nothing to improve the Colorado blueline: he bought out Greg Zanon, after all.
Job Security: Safe as houses. Roy could toss live kittens under the skates of his players and Colorado fans would give him a pass. Which, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure he actually does during practice. While laughing. And eating Poutine.
Ken Hitchcock: St Louis Blues
Appearance: Kindly Uncle Ken,who always has a quarter for you but also brings his own spork to restaurants.
How Is He Doing?: Pretty darn well, as it happens. The Blues got off to the best start in franchise History and are still battling it out with the Hawks for Conference III supremacy. They’ve somehow managed to shrug off the injury to Future Hall Of Famer* Ryan Reaves and the inevitable Clown College in Goal and have been scoring for fun, which is very unlike them.
Who’s His Boss?: Nominally GM Doug Armstrong, however, in St Louis’ recent history, it has been the players who have effected coaching changes by tuning out and quitting on a succession of them when things weren’t going well. Hitchcock seems resistant to that thus far, possibly because most Blues players are too dumb to understand that “Tossing The Coach Under The Bus” doesn’t mean you literally have to do it.
Job Security: Hard to say. Under Hitchcock’s reign the Blues have been Regular Season Studs and Postseason Duds. Every year the media falls over itself to endorse them as Cup Winners (no honestly, this year for sure..) and it doesn’t happen. Expectations in St Louis are rising faster than vomit after a mouthful of Imo’s and if he doesn’t get it done this year then maybe Ken’s goose will be cooked (no, not the roast one he carries around for a morning snack)
* That’s the “Vegetables Shaped Like People” Hall Of Fame, of course..
Lindy Ruff: Dallas Stars
Appearance: LAPD Detective on his last year with the Force, with two failed marriages, an ulcer and a bottle of rye in his desk. There are bodies falling everywhere downtown and he’s about to meet his new partner who is brash and unortho
How Is He Doing?: Just fine. Dallas are also on the Playoff Bubble but, unlike Minnesota, they didn’t spend the GDP of a small country to get there. He’s already turning the Tyler Seguin trade into a steal (letting him out of his room helps) and has a motivated team of guys who work hard for each other, simply by threatening to trade them to the Cowboys if they don’t. He’s also not in Buffalo anymore, which is a win in anyone’s books.
Who’s His Boss?: New Dallas GM Jim Nill was, as part of the Detroit management structure, involved in four Stanley Cup Wins. So you’d think he’d know what an elite, veteran European Defenseman looks like when he sees one, right Sergei?
Job Security: Uncertain. Nill came from Detroit so I’m sure he won’t be expecting a Cup win until, oh, next season? But getting rid of Ruff would be cruel: the poor guy has already had to change cities once in Chris Phillips NHL career. He’s not used to this sort of thing.
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