The NHL is a results-driven league that is hyper-competitive. And while everyone is under a lot of pressure to deliver, it applies doubly to some coaches. Several of them have repeatedly fallen short over the past seasons. Whether they are scrutinized on the NHL news or not, finishing with similar or worse results for 2023-24 could lead to their dismissal.
NHL Coaches Under Most Pressure
Sheldon Keefe, Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe already opened with the shortest NHL odds to be the first coach fired last season. That could be the case again this season as Toronto is under a new regime. Even if the Leafs finally got out of Round 1, the team quickly fell against Florida in the next.
Now, the standards are much higher for Toronto. Star center Auston Matthews is on an expiring deal, and another disappointing playoff exit could push him to try his chances at a cup elsewhere. Thus, all the pressure is on Keefe to lead this team to – at least – a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
April 29th: Maple Leafs fans chant “We want Florida”
May 12th: Maple Leafs eliminated by Panthers in 5 games 😬pic.twitter.com/DEnMUQykv0
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 13, 2023
Rod Brind’amour, Hurricanes
It seems ludicrous to suggest that Brind’amour could be replaced if his Hurricanes falter again. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2021 and is the favorite to win it again this coming season. Under Brind’amour, Carolina has the fourth-best point percentage since 2018-19.
But he could become a victim of his own success. Carolina has consistently stumbled in the playoffs, albeit to teams that make the Stanley Cup Final. At the least, Carolina needs to snap its 12-game losing skid in the Conference Finals. But given this team’s track record and offseason moves, a return to the Stanley Cup Final is the expectation.
Jay Woodcroft, Oilers
Like Keefe in Toronto, Jay Woodcroft’s days in Edmonton are numbered. As Connor McDavid continues to put up ridiculous scoring totals, the pressure to win the Stanley Cup grows. Edmonton once again fell flat in the playoffs, and the fact it came against the eventual champions did not help Woodcroft’s case.
The Oilers’ brass will likely turn to someone else if Edmonton can’t get past the second round. Even a Conference Finals appearance might not be enough now as this team remains a favorite to win it all per the sportsbook.
D.J. Smith, Senators
While the three coaches above need to reach the Stanley Cup Final, Smith needs to guide his Senators to the playoffs. He’s coached the Senators since 2019-20, and the team has made incremental gains. Considering all the star free agents Ottawa acquired, falling short of the playoffs again would lead to the end of his tenure.
Most NHL predictions are split on Ottawa’s odds to make the playoffs. It plays in a difficult division. But snagging one of the two wild card spots should be a realistic expectation. Otherwise, Ottawa’s powers-at-be might look to someone else to expedite its results.
Dean Evason, Wild
With the Maple Leafs getting out of Round 1, all eyes now turn to Minnesota as the customary first-round fodder. Under Evason, Minnesota has made the postseason four times. It has also lost in that round all four times. Despite a 142-67-23 record in the regular season, Evason’s playoff record stands at just 8-15.
Minnesota does not have the high-profile talent that Toronto or Edmonton do outside of Kirill Kaprizov. But another first-round exit in 2023-24 may just get him the pink slip.
Don Granato, Sabres
Like Smith, Don Granato is in a position where he needs to lead Buffalo to the playoffs. They came so close in 2021-22 as the team posted its first winning season in over a decade. But simply “coming close” again won’t cut it. The Sabres have young talent who are starting to mature, and this is no longer a rebuilding team.
Many NHL picks have Buffalo as a playoff contender. And should Buffalo start slow this season, Granato may just be replaced by a hot new candidate like Ryan Warsofsky or Andrew Brunette.