It’s coach-canning season, folks! Time to throw your curmudgeonly bench boss overboard and blame your team’s failures on the easiest guy to get rid of.
John Tortorella, Adam Oates, Peter Horacek and Barry Trotz have already been fired, and they won’t be the last ones to be shown the door. In some cases (read: Tortorella), it just wasn’t a fit. In others, the guy wasn’t quite ready for full-time coaching yet (Oates). And we all knew the Barry Trotz era would end eventually, right?
But none of the guys who lost their job this year – or who are going to lose it soon – deserve to be slapped with the ‘disaster’ label.
No, that label is best reserved for this dubious list of coaches from NHL history (minimum 30 games played).
5. Larry Wilson, 1976-77 Detroit Red Wings
You could argue whether or not the semi-retired Ron Wilson was a good coach, but there’s no debate about his father’s brief career behind the bench. Larry Wilson coached less than one season in the NHL – 36 games, to be precise – during which he posted a god-awful 3-29-4 record with the Red Wings. The interim coach earned only 10 points that year before the Wings let him go.
4. Harry Neale and Brad Park, 1985-86 Detroit Red Wings
This is a two-for-one deal, because the 1985-86 Red Wings were a black hole no coach could escape. The Wings’ first victim was Harry Neale, an experienced coach who decided to leave the profession for good and become a broadcaster after the team put up an 8-23-4 record under his watch. Neale was fired mid-season and Brad Park became his unlucky replacement. But Park fared even worse in the role, going 9-34-2 for the rest of the season before he decided coaching wasn’t for him, either.
3. Tom McVie, 1975-76 Washington Capitals
If you could only flips his numbers, Tom McVie would be a legend. Instead, he’s infamous. He makes this list based on his 8-31-5 debut with the Washington Capitals in 1975-76, but in his eight total seasons in the NHL, he managed to have a winning record only once. McVie was behind the bench for some terrible Capitals teams, some terrible Winnipeg Jets teams and some mediocre New Jersey Devils teams. His worst season was in 1980-81 with the Jets, when he managed just one win in 28 games to go 1-20-7 overall.
2. George Kingston, 1992-93 San Jose Sharks
It’s tough to blame a guy for coaching an expansion team, but as the afore-mentioned Trotz proves, there are still ways to make it work. But not for George Kingston, the man behind the bench for the San Jose Sharks during their inaugural 1991-92 season. He went 17-58-5 that year. But that’s not why he’s on this list. Kingston’s expansion squad actually regressed in its second NHL season, going 11-71-2. Kingston was fired after the season and spent the next decade-and-a-half as an assistant coach at various times before winding up in Norway.
1. Rick Bowness, 1992-93 Ottawa Senators
Poor Rick Bowness. After a strong regular season with the Boston Bruins and a run to the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1991-92, Bowness was riding pretty high by the end of his first year with the team. Then he was replaced with Brian Sutter. That left Bowness looking for a job, and the expansion Ottawa Senators franchise came calling. As we’ve seen from the earlier entries on the list, coaching a first-year team is like standing in front of a firing squad, but the Sens’ first season went beyond that. Bowness learned the real meaning of the term ‘growing pains’ when his squad went 10-70-4 to earn 24 points. Ouch.