Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Cashiered Coaches

A rather unstable twenty four hours for the coaching profession in the NHL. Three coaches are now no longer behind the bench, after struggling teams decided it was time for a change. The purging of the ranks began in St. Louis where the Blues bid Joel Quennville adieu, after six and a half years the popular Quennville is now a free agent. Injuries, less than stellar goaltending and a certain lack of work ethic at times spelled the end for Quennville as the Blues try to get back into the playoff race. Mike Kitchen has been tapped on the shoulder to fill in behind the bench on the interim basis, it's his task now to turn the Blues around. A team that is showing a degree of burn out of late. As the old saying goes you can't fire the whole team, so fire the coach. Don't expect him to be unemployed for long, if there is hockey in September, expect to find Quennville behind a bench someplace.

Phoenix also processed the unemployment forms, deciding that the slide of the Coyotes lay at the feet of coach Bob Francis, who had coached the team for four years. A month ago many folks were expressing delight at the pace of the dogs as they looked to be in a serious bid for a playoff spot, now with only two wins in fourteen games, they may not even make the playoffs. And with the slide, Francis finds himself on the skids out the door. Rick Bowness, takes over on an interim basis, the Coyote assistant has had head coaching experience in Winnipeg, an expansion Ottawa club, Boston and Long Island under Mad Mike Milbury. It's up to him to get a seemingly dis-interested team back into the playoff hunt, many feel the team turned on Francis and had tuned him out. Which again would mean that the players cost their coach a job, an apparent recurring theme in the NHL these days. But Francis was a holdover hire by the Gretzky ownership group, pre dating Wayne and friends in Phoenix, many thought that this day would eventually come to pass. It's expected that at the end of the season, Gretzky will find someone that is closer in line with his thinking to hold down the coaching position.

The third coaching statistic wasn't all that un-expected, as a matter of fact it had been chanted by the faithful for over a month now. Glen Sather, listening to the crowd chant "fire Sather" took their advice this morning, moving himself back up to the executive offices and away from the bench. The Sather experiment has not bee a successful time, with the vastly overpaid and underperforming Rangers dropping out of the playoff race at a rapid pace. Sather had originally planned to ignore the Ranger fan base and stay the course until the end of the season, but after a meeting with team ownership decided to step aside. Tom Renney will take control on an interim basis, as he tries to get the Rangers to make the last twenty games of the season a worthwhile endeavor. It's been seven years since a Ranger team managed to make it into the playoffs, not many folks are giving Mr. Renney any hope of breaking that losing skid. Not sure what Sather will do with his free time now, but finding new homes for his non performing stable might make management happy if nothing else.

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