5 NHL teams ready for dramatic off-season changes
San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan during the Stadium Series hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings at Levis Stadium on Feb. 21, 2015. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
It’s not happy time in every NHL city as the playoffs get going.
In fact, in some locales, nobody is pleased at all.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got lucky. They were able to dodge missing the playoffs and will face the New York Rangers in Round 1. The Boston Bruins, a cap spender, weren’t so fortunate. They’ll be on the outside looking in along with the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers and, of course, Canada’s team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There is no question the heat is going to be on in some places. There will be changes. The defending Cup champion Kings would probably be best to stay the course because they’ve got the pieces in place.
Patience is wearing thin in some places and this is where the hotspots are:
1. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
So, tell me, is this what Brendan Shanahan really signed up for? Seriously. Did he think the Leafs were this bad?
Some around the league wonder if he’s even bitten off more than he can chew.
But, it should be noted, Shanahan wasn’t the most popular guy in his role as VP of discipline so the fact he’s not having any success with the Leafs is being enjoyed by some of those in front offices around the league.
The Leafs didn’t waste any time making changes. The biggest decision will be a replacement for Dave Nonis, who was sent packing Sunday morning. The guy who takes his place has a massive job ahead of him because there are high expectations and a lot of bad contracts to deal with.
“It’s not even a GM’s job, it’s kind of like an associate GM to Shanahan,” said a league executive.
Interim coach Peter Horachek was also thanked and will be replaced. All he did was make Randy Carlyle look like a coach-of-the-year candidate.
Big changes to be made and a big job ahead for Shanahan. Is he up for the challenge?
2. SAN JOSE SHARKS
You have to think thunderous changes are coming.
San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson has been able to work his magic through all those early playoff exits, keeping his job.
He promised big changes last summer then stood by as neither Joe Thornton nor Patrick Marleau showed any interest in going anywhere after being stripped of their letters.
Really, how much longer can this go on with Wilson at the helm? He’s been working ownership hard to try to get them to buy into his plan and many wonder if it’s not time for Wilson to move on.
Coach Todd McLellan is just waiting to get fired so he can take his act elsewhere and there will be plenty of suitors lined up to get him.
If the players have their way, there will be massive changes. What’s happening here wasn’t expected and the Sharks cannot stay with the same old, same old.
You’d have to think it’d be a miracle if Wilson is back, especially if the Sharks see another GM candidate become available.
3. BOSTON BRUINS
Keep it all in perspective here folks, the Bruins missed by two points on the final night of the season.
Really, that’s it. Owner Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely have both stated publicly there will be a full review of GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins would be crazy to fire one or both, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Chiarelli has had more success than Wilson has ever had in his long tenure in San Jose and Julien is one of the NHL’s best coaches but does have a fault that he can be stubborn to make changes at times.
Of course, the faithful in Boston want Chiarelli and Julien gone. The issue is, you’re not going to win every year and it’s not your right to make the playoffs either, no matter how much money is spent. Neely is a bit of a wildcard, though.
Does he want to be the GM or does Don Sweeney, another former Bruin, want to be the GM?
Will be interesting to watch because there’s a lot of dynamics at work. If he’s let go, Chiarelli will be able to write his own ticket.
4. EDMONTON OILERS
Surely, something’s got to give here, right?
Not sure GM Craig MacTavish can exact much change and they do have plenty of kids coming along, but you can’t keep finishing in the basement and out of the playoffs.
Isn’t it time to stop being a lottery team?
The Oilers need to address their goaltending. By next September, you have to think they’ll make a pitch for Ottawa’s Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. Either could solidfiy what they need in net and it sure looks like Andrew Hammond is the real deal.
MacTavish hasn’t given interim coach Todd Nelson the full-time job because the Oilers want to see what comes available. If McLellan is on the market, and that certainly looks like it will be the case, the Oilers would be one of the teams that would certainly try to go out and get him.
Seriously, it’s time for the Oilers to get out of the basement.
5. BUFFALO SABRES
They will get what they want with a shot at the No. 1 pick but GM Tim Murray won’t sit still this summer.
The Sabres will get either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the draft. That’s the good news.
They’ll most certainly have a new look behind the bench after coach Ted Nolan was fired less than 24 hours after the season ended. That had been on the table for a long, long time.
The Sabres have been listed as a team that will make a push for coach Mike Babcock, if he goes to the free agent market.
They likely will because owner Terry Pegula isn’t afraid to spend money. Once a coach is in place, though, he needs some players. Binghamton’s Luke Richardson is another candidate.
Murray’s plan has always been simple: Get a top selection in the draft and then build around him. There are going to be teams -- Boston and Chicago to name a couple -- who are going to have cap issues and may want to move some top end players. If that’s the case, expect the Sabres to be a player.
The plan isn’t to finish last forever. Pegula and Murray want a winner in fairly short which means they’ll do what it takes to compete for a playoff spot.