The last anniversary of the start of St. Cinderella Last season’s Louis Blues, led by then-head coach Craig Berube, compiled our ranking of who has the best chance of repeating what Blues did last season: Cup under a mid-season replacement head coach.
To date, five NHL coaches have lost their jobs this season: Mike Babcock, Bill Peters, John Hynes, Jim Montgomery and Peter Deboer. While these five men are no longer employed, they all parted ways for a variety of reasons, namely the men who went up to the bench for these five teams went into very different situations.
MORE: Jim Montgomery seeks treatment for alcohol abuse, says firing was “appropriate call”
Before we get into the rankings, here’s a breakdown of each replacement in the middle of the season (Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the only non-interim), and how they have failed to take over.
Registration since then
Ranking (January 3)
Wild Card 3
Wild Card 9
Wild Card 7
* Geoff Ward coached the Flames 3-2 OT in a win over Buffalo on November 27 before Peters resigned. This game is reflected in the diagram above.
Here are our rankings for which the replacement coach has the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup 2019-20:
5. Alain Nasreddine, New Jersey
This is not necessarily Nasreddine’s mistake. The Devils intermediate took the worst of the five records with a win rate of just 0.423 and while having a .500 record as a leader, the Devils are more than a long shot for the Stanley Cup.
Silver lining? The Blues were last in the league this time last year and the Devils have two more points now than the Blues. “Nas” has his team playing better than Hynes did, even more after Taylor Hall left for the Ayurvedic Coyotes, but this team is still one or two away from the war.
MORE: Devils find new identity under interim coach Alain Nasreddine
4. Bob Boughner, San Jose
The only reason Boughner’s sharks aren’t last on the list is that he took on a slightly better team than Nasreddine. Boughner is the only midfielder with a lost record of 3-5-1 and the only one with a worse win rate than before.
Also, the Fruits are closer to a playoff spot (eight points) than the Devils (13) halfway through the season. So, despite the team’s poor performance since making the switch, the chances of the San Jose Stanley Cup are even higher than those of Nasreddine and Co.
3. Geoff Ward, Calgary
We now have legal candidates.
When Peters resigned, he was a by-product of the bigger issues not only with the coach but also with the league as a whole. However, some would argue that his seat was heated below him prior to allegations of verbal abuse to the players.
Geoff Ward took a depleted Calgary Flames team back to a playoff spot. The team that finished first at the Western Conference last season was almost incomprehensible in 2019-20, but now Ward has his team climbing back to the top. He began his tenure in a seven-game winning streak, solidifying the tide change in Calgary.
2. Rick Bowness, Dallas
Recent news about the Montgomery fire made it clear that his departure was alcohol-related, but for much of the last almost month, the team has been playing under a cloud of uncertainty over what happened to their coach. While the Stars play well, fresh from a dramatic win at the Winter Classic, Rick Bowness is still not the top replacement coach on the roster.
He inherited the unique team of five coaches who replaced and succeeded in improving their record even with the distractions around the former coach. But the history of Bowness as head coach in the NHL shows that he might not be the man to get the stars all the way.
Only once in the seven seasons that he completed a regular season as head coach of the NHL club did this team make the playoffs (1993 Bruins), so while Dallas looks like a shoo-in for the postseason, his experience Bowness in this arena is a little too far as a coach. Fortunately for this team, players have experience and they need to know what to expect. When Bowness was a partner, his teams made the playoffs 7 times, mostly losing to the Canucks in the 2010-11 finals.
MORE: What does the Winter Classic mean in the NHL, Dallas and Southern Hockey Fan?
1. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto
The only coach not under the “intermediate” title resides in Toronto. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe is the most likely replacement in the middle of the season to win the Stanley Cup.
Of the five coaches on this list, he has (at most) the best win percentage this season (.763) and has his team playing hot just in the new year, leading to a 9-game point series (8-0). -1). Maybe the Leafs knew it was coming and that’s why the transition was so smooth, or maybe Keefe is just that good of a coach.
But Toronto’s chances go beyond the bench boss. The Maple Leafs roster is full of talent and, if the observation remains intact, fire protection can turn on the scoreboard every night. Babcock’s coaching methods have been judged, especially with the list Mitch Marner asked about the work ethic of his compatriots.
Also, as the rankings are right now, Toronto is the only team on the roster that will have the advantage of ice in the first round, possibly making the difference whether or not the Leafs have another first round exit.