The big news out of Montreal this morning is that Pierre Gauthier has made his second game-day firing of the season. Head coach Jacques Martin was shown the door prior to today's morning skate. Randy Cunneyworth was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
This comes as no surprise to puckheads around the league as Martin's head seemed to be on the chopping block since October as the Habs stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first five games at home.
It also comes nearly two months after Gauthier showed assistant coach and power play specialist Perry Pearn the gate on October 30, a move which confused just about everyone.
Martin's firing got us thinking. He's the sixth head coach to be fired so far this season, following Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Randy Carlyle (Anaheim), Paul Maurice (Carolina) and Terry Murray (Los Angeles). But with the Christmas season approaching, who else might be feeling some warm coal burning up beneath their seat?
1. Pierre Gauthier, General Manager, Montreal Canadiens: The only prominent figure in the Canadiens front office still standing. Gauthier's bold unwillingness to fire himself is infuriating more and more locals in Montreal by the day. Though Gauthier is not to blame for the acquisition of Scott Gomez, nor he is at fault for Mike Cammalleri's struggles, he hasn't exactly gone out on a limb with any big splashes to make this team better, either.
Signing Chris Campoli, fresh off a boneheaded turnover that eliminated the Blackhawks last spring, and Erik Cole isn't going to satisfy that hockey-crazy market, especially when the team is sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference (despite only being two points out of a playoff spot). He hasn't even had the job for a full year yet, but if things continue they way they have, don't be surprised to see a change at season's end.
2. Scott Arniel/Scott Howson, Head Coach/GM, Columbus Blue Jackets: Can someone please explain to me how these men still have jobs? Expectations were higher than ever for Columbus heading into this season, which is to say moderately average for league standards, after the acquisition of Jeff Carter to finally give Rick Nash a bonafide no. 1 center to play with. Steve Mason was looked upon to be the guy to bring this team back to the playoffs, and maybe even win a game this time.
Well, it never happened. Mason imploded, Carter spent more time "in the tub" than Wojtek Wolski nursing various injuries, Derick Brassard failed to live up to his potential again and the Blue Jackets limped out of the gate. Vinny Prospal, signed to flank Nash and Carter, was their only bright spot a month into the season. Ouch.
Both Arniel and Howson have been feeling the heat for some time now, but they still remain amidst other firings around the league. One, if not both of them, has to be the next domino to fall, right?
3. Jack Capuano, Head Coach, New York Islanders: No article speculating about job security would be complete without mentioning someone from the Islanders. Capuano, in his first full year with the Isles, has also felt pressure thanks to lofty preseason expectations that were about as real as their August 1 referendum ever having a chance of passing through Nassau County legislature.
Outside of Edmonton, there may not be a team in the NHL that has as much high-end talent in their system as the Islanders. It just hasn't materialized yet. That's what happens when you flank your franchise player with P.A. Parenteau.
As the team gears up for another run at the NHL Draft Lottery (currently sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference despite having four games in hand on Carolina) expect to see more of the same on Long Island, which means very few, if any, personnel moves.
General Manager Garth Snow and team owner Charles Wang are two of the most loyal guys in the business, and will give their head coach more than the sufficient amount of rope to eventually hang himself. He probably won't be going anywhere for the forseeable future, but sometimes it's fun to pretend.