Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 02/17/17 at 08:27 AM ET
from Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star,
It’s probably not a coincidence that when Julien was fired by the Boston Bruins last week, ending the longest tenure in the league, his exit overlapped with a rare moment in recent Bruins history. For the first eight of Julien’s 10 seasons with the Bruins, the team’s save percentage was never worse than seventh-best in the league. Four times it ranked No. 1. Three times Boston boasted the Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top netminder in Tim Thomas (twice) and Tuukka Rask. And yet Julien was only fired this year, with Boston’s goaltenders combining for one of the league’s bottom-10 save percentages.
There’s little doubt Ken Hitchcock, dismissed by the St. Louis Blues a couple of weeks back, was also a victim of a puck-stopping stoppage. It’s not like Hitchcock, known for grinding his skaters into dust, was any easier on his lineup in previous seasons. But last season the Blues happened to have the NHL’s best save percentage, and he had a job. This year the Blues ranked third-worst in the category, and on Feb. 1 Hitchcock was fired.
“A lot of times you are as good as your goaltending,” is how Dave Cameron, then the coach of the Ottawa Senators, once explained it.
It’s an NHL truism that head coaches don’t often say out loud. And perhaps in part on account of such vocation-exposing statements, Cameron, who spoke it in 2014, is no longer a member of the NHL coaching fraternity. (Cameron was fired by the Senators in April, when team owner Eugene Melnyk pointed to the way Cameron deployed his goaltenders while explaining the reasoning for the axing.)
It’s not the first nor last time a coach’s fate has been tied to the impossible-to-predict ups and downs of NHL goaltending.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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