NHL coach makes for poor career choice

Think back to your innocent days as a young child. What sort of career path did you dream about taking?
For me, it was the usual tall expectations of becoming a professional hockey player or settling for a prosperous career as an astronaut if the hockey thing didn’t work out.
However, if I was a real dreamer, I would have wished to become an NHL coach because in today’s hockey business world, the prospect of acquiring and maintaining a coaching job is about as likely as landing on the moon.
If NHL clubs posted their job openings publicly, the prerequisites might read something like this:
“Be able to take the fall for your team’s failures on a nightly basis, get lambasted in the media for every move or non-move you make, and keep your suitcase packed because you aren’t likely to stick around for more than a year or two.”
The other week, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs saying adios to Paul Maurice—despite the fact management failed to put a serviceable team on the ice in front of him.
Then Colorado sacked Joel Quenneville, who managed to bring an injury-riddled Avalanche team into the second round of the playoffs—despite on and off-again injuries to six of his top forwards (Ryan Smyth, Paul Statsny, Wojtek Wolski, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Marek Svatos).
And after San Jose’s “early” second-round exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars, Ron Wilson was told to take his act elsewhere.
That’s just the life of an NHL coach, where the Sharks’ 108-point season and 49 regular-season wins weren’t enough to save Wilson.
Also, let’s not forget early coaching casualties in Ottawa (John Paddock), Atlanta (Bob Hartley), and Florida (Jacques Martin). Paddock lost his job to stop the bleeding in Ottawa back in February, but it mattered little as the Senators failed to win a playoff game.
Hartley and Martin may have been deserving casualties with their teams out of the playoff race, but certainly loyalty and continuity don’t mean anything in the topsy-turvy life of an NHL bench boss.
There currently are six head coaching vacancies in the NHL (Toronto, Ottawa, San Jose, Colorado, Florida, and Atlanta) and at least another two soon could become available in Vancouver and Tampa Bay, where Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella are all but awaiting the axe from management.
Vigneault was the NHL’s coach of the year last season while Tortorella won a Stanley Cup just prior to the lockout year of 2004-05.
So, kids, doesn’t coaching sound like a great career path to pursue? It seems a bit like volunteering to be a human crash test dummy.
However, there seems to be a good chunk of current and former coaches who like the cruel and unusual punishment as an endless list of names are floating around in contention for these vacancies.
Cancer survivor and former Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach, Pat Burns, who was an associate coach for Team Canada at the recent world hockey championship, soon could find himself back behind the bench of an NHL team if he so desires.
Another former Leafs’ head man, Pat Quinn, has had his name mentioned, too.
Make no mistake, there certainly are plenty of spots up for grabs for next season before a Stanley Cup champion has even been crowned this year.

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