The Columbus Blue Jackets made news this morning by firing their coach Todd Richards. They had started 0-7-0 after having high early season expectations (despite not having a very good defense). So the easiest guy to replace gets replaced in an effort to salvage the season before it gets too far out of control, if it isn't already.
There are a lot of similarities between Columbus and Pittsburgh in terms of roster construction. Maybe more than we as Pens fans would like to admit.
- Team primarily built around highly paid forwards with a list of F's making more than $3.5 million being quite lengthy (Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist Kunitz, Perron vs. Saad, Dubinsky, Foligno, Clarkson, Hartnell, Johansen, Atkinson)
- A young and/or untested NHL defense (5 of 8 defensmen in Pittsburgh are under 25 years old, 5 of 7 in Columbus are 25 y/o or younger)
- A streaky but talented franchise goalie
Talent-wise, the Pens have better top-end forwards (even if some/most haven't been playing like it) and defensively early in the season the two teams are very similar in shots allowed per game (29.2 for Pens, 29.6 for CBJ).
So the big difference in the start of the 2015-16 season for the Pens and Blue Jackets, unfortunately for Todd Richards, has been the play of the goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky (0-5-0, 5.07 GAA, .833 save %) probably cost Richards his job. Bobrovsky, the Vezina winner in 2013 has totally melted down behind that weak defense, even admitted last week that, "I have zero confidence right now". Of course, that is a chicken/egg situation that Richards' system and coaching led to a bunch of chances/goals against, which only death spiraled the confidence further.
The Penguins (or maybe just Mike Johnston and staff) are very fortunate that Marc-Andre Fleury (3-3, 1.85 GAA, .937 save%) has been very, very steady, and as always very reliable playing every minute of the season so far.
I also saw some interesting thoughts re-tweeted in my timeline. These were done before the firing was announced
Columbus is 9th in the NHL in CorsiFor%, 12th in ScoringChance%. They are last in PDO by a fair margin. (all from https://t.co/5tjxyRsDaY).— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) October 21, 2015
That's how losing streaks are made to look worse than they are. Though that's probably little consolation to Jackets fans.— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) October 21, 2015
From January 18, 2014 to February 3, 2014, the Kings lost 9 of 10, and had the worst PDO in the NHL in that span. They won the Cup in June.— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) October 21, 2015
Now, I'm not suggesting the Jackets have been simply unlucky this season, obviously there are many factors at play. And, as far as the Kings go, they were a team that won the Cup in the recent past and had more reason to be patient and trust their players could turn things around - since most of them were of a championship caliber core.
Columbus needed a jolt to get out of their funk. About the only and easiest way to do it is replace the coach, get a new voice and see if that jump-starts something (shades of Bylsma replacing Therrien comes to mind in 2009).
Considering the Penguins also started 0-3 this season and the natives were getting restless, the heat would have been nuclear on Johnston if Pittsburgh started 0-7. Luckily for Johnston, Fleury has been stopping 93.7% of pucks, and not 83.3%.
Hockey coaches have a short shelf-life and since it is very difficult to navigate trades in this salary cap world (especially when other teams can tell a team is struggling), the easiest thing to do is can the coach, get a new voice and try to start again. But that's also how good coaches can lose their jobs.