The NHL season is now 10 games old, and more than a few teams have stumbled out of the gates to start the year.
Usually, organizations tend to give their employees a month or two to figure things out before cleaning house. But coaching leashes have never been tighter than they are these days, meaning that a few prominent bench bosses may already find themselves on the hot seat this early on.
Let's take a look at the five coaches most likely to get canned thus far.
5. John Hynes, Nashville Predators
2021-22 Record: 45-30-7, 97 points (Swept in First Round)
2022-23 Record: 3-5-1, 7 points
The Predators just signed Hynes to a two-year contract extension back in May – shortly after his club got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, I might add – so ownership is unlikely to simply oust him due to a dismal 10-game stretch.
That stretch hasn't exactly done Hynes any favors either, though.
The Predators spent the off-season preparing for a potential Cup run this year. The club clearly views itself as a contender, and GM David Poile acted like it by bolstering the blueline with Ryan McDonagh, cementing Filip Forsberg as the franchise face with a shiny eight-year extension and shoring up the forward depth by bringing in Nino Niederreiter for good measure.
Couple all that with another Vezina-worthy performance from Juuse Saros, Matt Duchene's re-emergence as a point-per-game forward and Roman Josi continuing to out-score most high-end forwards from the back end, and this was shaping up to be quite the year.
So far, it hasn't unfolded that way. At all.
The Predators sit just two points up on the lowly Coyotes in the Central Division standings, having lost six of their last seven games – five of which they've dropped in regulation. The supposedly improved offense has instead sputtered out to the third-lowest scoring pace among all NHL teams thus far, while the club's goal differential ranks 27th in the league at negative-seven.
This hasn't been the product of bad luck, either. The Predators sit just 21st in expected-goals for at the moment, while their special teams are clicking along at a dismal 8.33 percent power play, which stands ahead of only the Ducks and Blue Jackets, both of whom also feature on this list.
That, of course, is pretty bad. But there are some bright spots amid the gloom, too.
The Predators are roughly middle-of-the-pack when it comes to total goals allowed as a team and have actually produced a top-10 penalty kill to this point. The offense just isn't clicking, with the team's inability to score goals at even strength and on the man-advantage killing any chance they have of building momentum for an extended period. And when taking into account the money ownership and management spent on the roster this summer which, in turn, heightened the expectations for this season, Hynes' leash to right this ship is getting shorter by the day.
It's not a real conversation yet, but it could be leaning that way very soon.
4. Brad Larsen, Columbus Blue Jackets
2021-22 Record:37-38-7, 81 points (Missed Playoffs)
2022-23 Record: 3-7-0, 6 points
Speaking of heightened expectations...
The Blue Jackets signed Johnny Gaudreau back in July, shocking the entire hockey world and instantly catapulting the club from the NHL's basement into contention for a playoff spot.
Few people realistically expected Columbus to be a legitimate powerhouse this season given their litany of still-developing youngsters. But nabbing arguably the best free agent of the salary cap era definitely raised the bar both internally and externally, and by following Gaudreau's mega-deal up with a hefty extension for Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets only added fuel to the fire.
That fire has barely burned at all through the first 10 games of the schedule.
The Blue Jackets sit one point up on the Ducks for last place in the entire NHL with a negative-18 goal differential also one up on last-place Anaheim's. The team continues to absolutely bleed chances on the back end night in and night out, as the Blue Jackets' league-worst 44 goals allowed are reflected in their equally dismal 24.3 expected goals allowed that ranks behind only the San Jose Sharks for 31st.
Gaudreau has done his part with five goals and eight points in 10 games thus far with his new club. The rest of the roster, though? Not so much.
The Blue Jackets' young core and Laine's season-opening injury will likely shield Larsen from true criticism for a little while. But this is an unacceptable start for a club that made the moves it did over the summer. And if it doesn't turn around, and the roster's overall development continues to take a step back under his watch, Larsen could be feeling the heat very soon.
3. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs
2021-22 Record: 54-21-7, 115 points (Lost in First Round)
2022-23 Record: 4-4-2, 10 points
I truly did not think this was going to be a possibility until the Maple Leafs' first-round playoff series wrapped up. Everyone knew the stakes at play in Toronto heading into the year: Make the second round at minimum and everyone keeps their jobs, including Keefe – bow out early again and heads will roll.
It was that simple.
Well, here we are, 10 games in, and it's time to at the very least broach this conversation.
The Maple Leafs are a mess right now. Their stars aren't producing, their blueline is hemorrhaging chances, one of their two reclamation project goaltenders has been hurt since the second game of the season and the forward depth has failed to generate adequate secondary scoring.
Things were already dicey in Leaf Land before they went on their Death Valley road trip this past week. And now, after picking up just two points in the ensuing four games, the club is returning home to a fanbase ready to revolt.
How much of this lands on Keefe's shoulders? It's hard to say, really.
Can you blame the coach for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner combining for just five goals through 10 games? Or Morgan Rielly being on the ice for more even-strength goals against than any other Leaf defender? Or Justin Holl suddenly losing the ability to handle the puck whenever it comes within 10 feet of his person?
Probably not. But what you can blame him for is continuing to trot out the struggling Matthews-Marner duo while curiously opting to shake up the actually clicking Tavares-Nylander pairing instead, trotting out Rielly as the blueline's defensive pillar when he clearly isn't, and failing to recognize that Holl no longer warrants a role in the top four.
Keefe has been no stranger to shaking up the lines early this season. But his efforts to find something new have so far ignored a few of the roster's obvious problems. And given how he felt the need to walk back a very factual and, quite frankly, tame quote about how his elite players did not play like elite players following an embarrassing home-ice loss to the actively-tanking Coyotes, the locker room might be in the process of tuning him out, too.
Whether it's valid for them to do so is a whole other conversation – it is absolutely not valid, just to be clear – but taking into account all that is riding on the Maple Leafs this season, a coaching change is beginning to look less far-fetched every day.
2. Dallas Eakins - Anaheim Ducks
2021-22 Record: 31-37-14, 76 points (Missed Playoffs)
2022-23 Record: 2-6-1, 5 points
This team was not supposed to be bad this season. A playoff contender? Maybe not. But neck-in-neck with Arizona for the first overall pick? That's a disaster.
The Ducks have a very promising young core on their hands that should, in theory, get better each game with Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale, Mason McTavish, Max Jones, etc. The front office also made a concerted effort this summer to supplement that core with proven veterans brought in as support valves, signing Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome up front and adding John Klingberg on the back end.
What you have there, at least on paper, is a perfectly adequate hockey team with some versatile pieces that should land roughly in the middle of the pack of the league or higher, depending on luck.
The basement-dwelling debacle that has unfolded thus far is simply unacceptable. And changes could be coming.
Keep in mind, the guy who hired Dallas Eakins is no longer in the building. New GM Pat Verbeek is at the helm, bringing with him no emotional ties to the coach he inherited as well as a long-term blueprint for team success that likely includes hiring his own hand-picked steward behind the bench.
Eakins could have countered that uncertainty by leading the Ducks to a rip-roaring start to the year and snatching his job back from the cliff's edge it was already dangling from. Instead, the Ducks rank either last or near-last in every meaningful statistical category a hockey team possibly can.
At this point, what's stopping Verbeek from pulling the trigger?
1. Bruce Boudreau - Vancouver Canucks
2021-22 Record: 32-15-10 in 57 games (Missed Playoffs)
2022-23 Record: 2-5-2, 6 points
The Canucks are the laughingstock of the NHL these days, blowing four straight multi-goal leads to start the year and following that up with a home opener that resulted in fans throwing jerseys over the glass when they weren't mercilessly booing their team off the ice.
Every player seems miserable, a few have even been caught openly arguing with each other during the broadcast, and every speck of the "Bruce, there it is!" joy that came from Boudreau's debut behind the bench last season has been stomped out with an iron boot.
Heck, the Canucks' president of hockey operations didn't even know how long his coach's contract was. Who could possibly feel good about Boudreau's job security when his boss wasn't even sure if they were still employing him for this year?
The only argument in Boudreau's favor at this point is that canning him wouldn't really change anything. The guy has been around for a whopping 67 games across two partial seasons thus far and happened to lead the Canucks to the second-highest points percentage in their division after taking over for Travis Green midway through last year.
Is that really how short Boudreau's leash is in the organization? I doubt it. And if it indeed is, that's a damning indictment on a Canucks management team that already looks as shaky as the last one.
The players need to figure this out for themselves. But rationally has never been the driving force when it comes to Vancouver hockey. So, Bruce takes the top stop on the Hot Butt Power Rankings.