You’d have to think there are a number of nervous NHL hockey operations people out there who will be cheering vociferously for the San Jose Sharks to win Game 7 against the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night.
Because if it comes to pass that the Sharks blow their 3-0 series lead and allow the Kings to become only the fourth team in NHL history to come back from such a daunting deficit, it could very well set into motion a game of management musical chairs the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
If the Sharks lose, it’s almost certain that coach Todd McLellan will be looking for work in the very near future. Actually, we should rephrase that. If the Sharks lose, it’s likely McLellan will be fired and, thus, become the hottest coaching commodity in the league at a time when there promises to be a number of high profile coaches on the market.
Who knows? Perhaps Sharks GM Doug Wilson would be forced walk the plank along with McLellan, which would make for some interesting machinations on the GM front. But more on that later. Let’s deal with the coaching carousel first.
Peter Laviolette and Barry Trotz, two of the most respected bench bosses in hockey, are already on the market. You can almost certainly add McLellan to that mix if the Sharks lose Game 7. Dan Bylsma is hanging by his fingernails in Pittsburgh, saved by the fact his team got past the first round against Columbus. But what if the Penguins fall flat against the winner of the New York-Philadelphia series? You’d have to think Randy Carlyle in Toronto would be one of the dominos to fall and once the Vancouver Canucks get a GM, it’s likely John Tortorella will be on the market as well.
(Ken Hitchcock, whose St. Louis Blues lost in Round 1 of the playoffs, appears a lock to stay in St. Louis. But stranger things have happened and if Hitchcock were ever available, the Edmonton Oilers would be nuts not to offer him a big-money, long-term deal to turn their program around.)
The wildcard is McLellan, who would immediately rocket to the top of many teams’ lists. In fact, that’s likely what’s keeping some teams from acting immediately on a guy such as Trotz. Let’s say you hire Trotz and McLellan suddenly becomes available on Thursday morning? That, as they say, changes everything.
With the firing of interim coach Peter Horachek in Florida, we know there are already three coaching vacancies available right now – the Panthers, Nashville and Washington. But would anyone be surprised if coaching vacancies came open in Carolina, Edmonton, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Toronto and Vancouver over the next little while?
On the GM front, there are a few moving parts in play as well. It was interesting that Calgary Flames GM Brian Burke said Tuesday that Brad Treliving was the only candidate he interviewed for the GM job there. (Although it’s believed Burke approached other teams for permission to interview candidates and was turned down.) And it appears new Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden has his sites set on Boston Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning, to the point where it’s believed the two teams are already discussing an exit strategy and whether or not Benning will be able to participate with the Canucks in the entry draft.
In Washington, things have always been done safely, but it appears the Capitals are keeping their options very wide open on their new GM. And you can see why they might want to expand their horizons after having only two GMs in the past 32 years. The Capitals have a list of candidates, one to which Wilson would zoom to the top if he were made available. But do not discount TSN analyst and former Calgary Flames GM Craig Button as a serious contender for the job.
Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton’s name has also been bandied about, either as a potential GM elsewhere or a fit if David Poile leaves the post in Nashville to take a more senior position in the organization.
As you can see, there is a ton of potential for front office fireworks. And they could all begin going off very soon if the Sharks fail to finish the job against the Kings Wednesday night.