MONTREAL — The NHL coaching waters are about to reach a perilous boil for a number of bench bosses.
While all eyes are on Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, who has been behind the Sabres’ bench for a lifetime, he’s not the only coach in the final year of his contract and under the microscope early this season.
Among coaches who are in the last year of their contracts (often referred to as lame ducks) and whose teams got off to shaky starts are the Islanders’ Scott Gordon, Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle and Ottawa’s Cory Clouston. San Jose’s Todd McLellan could also be in this group, but the Sharks never reveal the length of contracts beyond their players.
While Gordon, Carlyle and Clouston are expected to get their teams to the playoffs, it’s probably Stanley Cup or bust for McLellan.
But the Ruff situation is the most interesting. He is in his 13th season with the Sabres and has likely been offered a short-term contract extension.
It’s hard to believe at this juncture of his career he’d be fired, but how much longer can the Sabres continue to struggle before a change is made?
For now, the Sabres will allow Ruff to try to fix this mess.
“There are a lot of teams that would snap Lindy Ruff up if he got fired,” a Western Conference executive said. “He’s one of the best coaches in the league. He gets a lot out of those Buffalo players.”
With Ken Hitchcock lurking, Ruff and some of his brethren had better start producing some more victories.
AROUND THE BOARDS
The Flyers are close to signing F Claude Giroux to a contract extension ... Keep an eye on Cowtown because there’s unrest with the Flames. November could be pivotal for Calgary GM Darryl Sutter and coach Brent Sutter if the Flames (6-7-0) don’t turn things around. NHL observers are mystified by the way star captain Jarome Iginla is being used by Brent Sutter. “Just the wrong guy to go to war with,” said a league executive. “(Iginla is) the heart and soul of the franchise. You have to find a way to get him going, not give him less ice time.” While the possibility of dealing Iginla has been raised, it just doesn’t seem plausible. If the Calgary catastrophe continues, it won’t be long before Flames assistant GM Jay Feaster takes control.
OFF THE GLASS
If coach John MacLean’s job is really safe with the Devils, then GM Lou Lamoriello has to make changes. He’d like to bring in a blueliner, but the salary-cap strapped Devils have no money to spend ... Rangers C Todd White, who played well Friday in New York, cleared waivers Saturday. He hasn’t been sent to the AHL, but could join former Senators teammate Wade Redden in Hartford. If that happens, the Rangers will have buried $8.1 million US in the AHL ... With injuries mounting in Nashville, sources say GM David Poile is anxious to make a move to bring in some help.
RUMOURS DU JOUR
It will be interesting to see what happens to Phoenix D Ed Jovanovski between now and the NHL trade deadline. While Coyotes GM Don Maloney would love to sign the potential UFA to a contract extension, his hands are tied because the team is in bankruptcy and waiting for new ownership. Any extension would have to be approved by Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer (if he ever actually buys the team) or the True North Sports and Entertainment group if the Coyotes are indeed moved to Winnipeg following the Dec. 31 deadline to get a deal done. Jovanovski has had a solid start to the season and there haven’t been any formal contract discussions between the Coyotes and his agent, Pat Morris. If Jovanovski is available, there will be plenty of suitors ... San Jose GM Doug Wilson is looking for a defenceman. The Sharks are trying to find somebody to fill the minutes left vacant by the retirement of Rob Blake. Since Wilson is a notorious tire kicker, he’ll likely wait until the deadline to make a deal ... While he hasn’t looked great lately, Islanders G Dwayne Roloson will draw some attention at the deadline. Teams will be looking for a capable backup and he fits the bill. The Isles are hoping G Rick DiPietro can return to form ... Boston GM Peter Chiarelli, who will be hamstrung by cap issues once C Marc Savard and LW Marco Sturm return from injuries, is going to be a popular figure at this week’s GMs meetings in Toronto. “The sharks will be circling to help him out,” said one league executive. There’s a chance RW Michael Ryder could be dealt. Have a nice Sunday.