NHL Firings Continue

The NHL’s early season coaching firing train continues, with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks becoming the latest to enter the list as two programs looking to overcome past mistakes and capitalize on a potential win-now opportunity.

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The Flyers have quickly moved on from Vigneault in hopes of sparking a midseason turnaround. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

This week saw two major changes come from opposite sides of the continent in the National Hockey League. First, late Sunday night in Vancouver, head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning were mercifully let go of by the Canucks. Then, Monday morning saw Alain Vigneault fired from his perch behind the Philadelphia Flyers bench. Both teams have struggled mightily with playoff expectations looming overhead this season. 

Vancouver has gotten off to one of the worst starts in the league, sitting second-to-last in the Western Conference at the time of the firings. There were rumors swirling for weeks about change, specifically with Benning, and Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh was the final straw. 

The Canucks have made the playoffs just twice since he was awarded the GM position in 2014, only winning one playoff round in the bubble. The lack of success on the ice is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Benning will forever be remembered for handing out some of the worst contracts in NHL free agency. Tyler Myers, Jay Beagle, Tucker Poolman and Loui Eriksson all represent big money contracts that hamstrung the Canucks cap space the past eight years.  

He tried to correct that this offseason, trading Beagle and Eriksson to Arizona as they near the end of their deals. The Canucks had to send their first round pick the other way to entice the Coyotes to take the contracts but received two players in return. One is Connor Garland, who signed a reasonable $4.95 million contract for the next five years. 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson was the other player and the reason Benning got crushed for the decision. Arizona signed Ekman-Larsson through his age 36 season at a cringeworthy $7.26 million before the trade to the Canucks. Stan Smyl, the interim GM, has a tall task ahead of him with only three million dollars left in cap space and Brock Boeser needing a contract this summer. Green never had a chance with this team after Tyler Toffoli walked away for free and will undoubtedly get another shot. 

There have already been rumors about Marc Bergevin joining the Canucks, which is a terrible idea. Bergevin just got out of a high-pressure environment in Montreal and the Vancouver media and fans are ready to pounce if their team does not succeed with Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes in tow. Bruce Boudreau has taken over the head coaching position there as a veteran coach who is used to the high expectations from his days in Washington. 

Alain Vigneault is a name Ranger fans are certainly familiar with, as the former Blueshirts boss went to the rival Flyers and took them to the playoffs in 2020. After a disappointing 56 game season saw them miss the playoffs and an eight game losing skid this year, Philadelphia has let go of Vigneault. 

They won 41 games in the pandemic shortened 2019 season and Vigneault was runner-up to Bruce Cassidy for the Jack Adams Award. This feels a bit too early, as a successful coach has attempted to trudge through COVID-19 cases and injuries over the past two seasons. Philadelphia is looking to invigorate a mid-season climb, ala the 2018-19 Blues, by hiring former Blues and Wild coach Mike Yeo to be the interim coach. The Blues fired Yeo in 2019, leading to Craig Berube’s hiring and the historic run that followed. He was on the Flyers bench alongside AV and Michel Therrien and is the last man standing after Monday’s firings. 

The Flyers and Canucks join the Blackhawks and Panthers as the four teams who have fired their coaches this season. Vancouver, Chicago, and Montreal have all fired their general managers just 20 games into this crazy season.