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A change of coach has helped several teams to make strong starts
  1. NHL

NHL: Coaches under pressure

A number of NHL teams may be considering coaching changes already, despite the season being still in its relatively early stages.

D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators made a splash in the off-season in attempt to make themselves significantly more competitive and end their five-year playoff hiatus.

Alex DeBrincat was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on the back of a 40-goal season, veteran Claude Giroux added on a three-year ¢19.5-million contract via free agency, Tyler Motte signed to add strong depth and Cam Talbot traded for from Minnesota Wild to stabilise the goalie position.

The moves are yet to prove dividends with the Senators sitting bottom of the Atlantic Division with a 5-8-1 record which included a seven-game losing streak.

Forty-five-year-old Smith was hired as coach of the Senators in 2019 after spending four years as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He hasn't yet led the Senators to the playoffs but there has been no expectation for him to do so, until this year.

Not helped by the loss of Talbot and top-scorer last season Josh Norris to injury in the early going, confidence appears to be waning in Smith's ability to take the much-improved line-up of the Senators on to the next level.

But General Manager Pierre Dorion has continued to back his man in a recent press conference saying he believes the answers to the Senators predicament are within.

John Hynes, Nashville Predators

Hynes has been widely praised for leading the Predators to three straight playoff appearances and improving their points percentage season after season following his hiring in January 2020.

However, they have failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs under his guidance and with expectations set high following the additions of Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonagh, the good-will towards Hynes may be beginning to wear thin after a 6-8-1 start to the new season.

General Manager David Poile has been running the Predators franchise since it was founded in 1998 and with the core of the roster aging him with him, the window for the current group to deliver a Stanley Cup to the city of Nashville is quickly closing.

Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Mattias Ekholm, Niederreiter, and McDonagh are all at least 30 years old, while top point-scorer Filip Forsberg (28) and superstar goalie Jusse Saros (27) aren't far behind, either.

A quick turnaround is severely needed or like Peter Laviolette before him, time may run out for Hynes before it's too late for Poile to realise his lifetime dream.

Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks improved in almost every measurable category following Boudreau's appointment in December last season.

However, despite going 32-15-10, he wasn't able to recover the Canucks from a disastrous 8-15-2 start.

With the Canucks repeating the same mistakes again this season by making a 4-8-3 sluggish start, Boudreau has come under fire, not only from the Canucks fans, but also President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford.

Rutherford was said to be unsure of the 67-year-old over the off-season, suggesting that Vancouver's resurgence under Boudreau was too heavily reliant on the heroics of goalie Thatcher Demko and that trend has continued into the new campaign.

With the strategy proving unsustainable, Rutherford has been public in his criticism saying he feels the Canucks are "hard to watch", which is a damaging report on Boudreau and begs the question how long the tetchy relationship can last.

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Dallas Eakins, Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are in the process of a long re-build, and despite there being no pressure to reach the playoffs, signs of significant progress are expected but little has been shown in their 4-10-1 run to start the season which is the worse points percentage in the NHL (.300).

It means questions are beginning to be asked about coach Eakins and whether in his fourth season with the franchise whether he is the right man to take a team with the young talents of Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Mason McTavish et al. forward.

The Ducks got off to a great start last season, going 17-9-5 through their first 32 games, but they fell away badly going 14-28-9 in their final 51 fixtures, form which has followed into this season and can only go on so long.

Brad Larsen, Columbus Blue Jackets

Even with the blockbuster addition of Johnny Gaudreau in the off-season, the Blue Jackets weren't predicted to be a Stanley Cup contender. However, a second league-worst 4-9-1 record wasn't anticipated either.

Many were sceptical about the promotion of Larsen from assistant to head coach prior to last season, but the 45-year-old over exceeded expectations with a 37-38-7 record which was sixth in the Metropolitan Division.

Results and the Blue Jackets' performances have gone badly in the wrong direction this season, though, and with the Blue Jackets third last in the NHL for goals scored (38) and second last for goals conceded (61) a rapid improvement is clearly necessary for Larsen to remain in the Columbus hot seat.

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