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Breakdown of an NHL Front Office Shake-Up: Atlantic, Part 1

Recently I published a piece on the Hockey-Graphs.com that looked at the impact of hiring a new coach or GM in the NHL. In it, I determine that the average coach or GM will always see an immediate swing in Scoring Chances For % (SCF%) in their first year, and that whether that impact is good or bad will generally set the tone for the rest of their tenure.

However there are enough questions raised by looking at the coaches and GMs as a group that I wanted to break them out team by team, so we can actually understand what happened and the unique situations that cropped up. Because there are going to be so many graphs, I’m going to split this series up by division, with two parts for each.

Atlantic Division, Part 1 (Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida)

 

Boston Bruins

 

Biggest Impact: Hiring GM Peter Chiarelli and then a year later, pairing him up with head coach Claude Julien.

In his first two years, Chiarelli turned over his roster 75% to make the Bruins the contenders they were from 2011 to 2013. However, in that timeframe, he made several decisions to trade away picks and young talent (Kessel, Seguin) that ultimately meant he was out of a job this past April. (Well, ‘out of a job’ for the two seconds it took for the Oilers to hire him).

The real problem? The Bruins had dropped in SCF% for two years running, including a whopping 3% from 2013/14 to 2014/15. Typically we see both coaches and GMs drop pretty significantly in SCF% after their eighth year in role, so it was probably time for Chiarelli to go, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Julien is looking for a job next summer.

With only eight games under his belt, it remains to be seen of Sweeney is an adequate replacement for Chiarelli, though his moves this summer were the combination of genius (flipping Milan Lucic for what turned out to be a first-round pick) and mystifying (then using his three first round picks in a row to grab second- and third-round projected players).

 

Buffalo Sabres

 

Biggest Impact: Firing Lindy Ruff.

Ruff coached for the Sabres for 16 years before being let go midseason in 2013. While I literally just said that most GMs and Coaches see a sharp decline after year eight, Ruff was an exception to that rule.

The majority of his tenure (since 2006, as I only captured Salary Cap years) was very positive, with a minor decline the year prior to firing and a major decline (5.6%) the year of. With a similarly tenured GM in Darcy Regier, who barely made any roster changes from 2011-12 to 2012-13, I’m less inclined to pin that decline on Ruff’s coaching abilities. When you consider that his replacement, Ron Rolston, had the worst decline of any coach in my sample, it becomes even a more eyebrow raising move.

In fact, the situation had become so untenable that when GM Tim Murray took over in January of 2014, he saw nowhere to go but down. While we’re just a few games post Eichel draft, it looks like Murray’s tank job was one of the most impressive management moves of recent years.

 

Detroit Red Wings

 

Biggest Impact: Not changing anything ever?

I’m kidding. Sort of.

GM Ken Holland is in his 19th season with the club and before Babcock left for the Maple Leafs this offseason, he spent 10 years behind the bench. This means that new coach Jeff Blashill has a lot of entrenched club politics to navigate in his first year as Head Coach for the Red Wings.

And with such low roster turnover from year to year, not only will Blashill be dealing with a GM also getting used to a new relationship with his HC, but he has to earn the respect of a core group of players that also haven’t experienced much (if any) executive change up until this point. If I had to guess, Blashill will have a mediocre first year, but will definitely bounce back once these relationships start to gel.

The real question is whether or not Holland will see that 20 year mark, as the Red Wings have been criticized for poor drafting in recent years. As the hallmark “Draft and Develop” team, this could be part of the major slump in offense they’ve been showing.

 

Florida Panthers

 

Biggest Impact: Hiring Dale Tallon before the 2010 draft.

The Florida Panthers are one of the youngest teams in the league right now (though having Jagr on the roster is raising that average), and their current upward trajectory wouldn’t be possible without the talent that Tallon acquired his first few years on the job. Just look at the evidence:

2010:
Gudbranson
Bjustad
Petrovic
Brickley

2011:
Huberdeau
Trocheck

2013:
Barkov

2014:
Ekblad

35% of the current Panther’s roster has been drafted by Dale Tallon, which is impressive. And when you consider that Kyle Rau and Lawson Crouse are likely to have an impact in coming years too, you have to admit that they’re a surprisingly good “Draft and Develop” team.

On the other hand, Tallon hasn’t done a great job finding a good coach to work with this young talent. Gallant is in his second year with the team, and has unfortunately slipped back under the 50% SCF% line, even though the Panthers are making a name for themselves as a difficult competitor this season. Add on top of that Tallon’s over-inflated contracts for vets like Dave Bolland and he loses some of his shine.

 

Up Next: Atlantic Division part 2 (Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto)

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