SUN Hockey Pool

Hot seat coaches may lead to NHL call-ups

MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

TORONTO -- The quarter mark of the season not only provides a signpost for teams to assess their progress, it also is the time of year coaches go on the hot seat.

After a 5-0 implosion against the Edmonton Oilers last week, frustrated Toronto Maple Leaf fans serenaded their head coach with a chorus of "Fire Ron Wilson" chants.

But the Toronto bench boss is not the only one feeling the heat.

In New Jersey, first-year coach John MacLean has failed to turn around the Devils - although the injury to Zach Parise and the disappearing act of Ilya Kovalchuk has been a bigger source of malaise than MacLean.

Then there are the woeful New York Islanders who, under the guidance of general manager Garth Snow, opted to fire Scott Gordon in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, ending his reign after two disappointing years on Long Island.

Although Maples Leafs GM Brian Burke and the Devils' Lou Lamoriello publicly backed their respective coaches, nobody is bulletproof, especially if the losing continues.

All speculation aside, tough times for one breeds opportunism for others, and the following up-and-comers could get serious attention should a vacancy arise:

DOUG GILMOUR

The Kingston Frontenacs have been a pleasant surprise in the Ontario Hockey League this season.

With a 15-8-2-2 record, the Frontenacs have been able to keep pace in the competitive East Division under Gilmour's guidance.

Despite owning a losing record (61-65-14) in his two-year coaching career, Kingston has improved dramatically with "Killer" behind the bench and is on pace for 85 points this season, the highest total since 1994-95 - a major improvement from the 46-point team Gilmour manned in 2008-09.

While he is not the most experienced guy available, his playing-day experience combined with an improving Frontenacs' squad would likely land Dougie on the radar of a team in need of change.

BOB BOUGHNER

In four years at the helm with Windsor, Boughner compiled 166 wins, two Canadian Hockey League coach of the year awards and back-to-back Memorial Cup titles.

With a track record like that, it would seem ludicrous for the Columbus Blue Jackets to let their assistant coach walk after just one year.

The former NHL tough guy, along with freshman head coach Scott Arniel, have done a tremendous job of turning around the team in Ohio's capital.

Through 24 games, the Jackets sit fifth in the Western Conference and are on pace for their best season in franchise history.

Having retired in 2006 and getting his feet wet in juniors, Boughner has a good understanding of today's game and is able to relate to the players - especially the younger ones - as somebody who knows what it takes to succeed in the NHL.

Testing his mettle alongside Arniel, a former Lindy Ruff understudy and American Hockey League coach of the year, will certainly help "The Boogey Man" make the move from assistant to head honcho sooner than later.

And with Arniel successfully leading the charge, it likely won't happen in Columbus.

JOHN HYNES

The AHL is a breeding ground for emerging coaching talent.

Given the achievements of the aforementioned Arniel, Tampa's Guy Boucher, Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma and Colorado's Joe Sacco, the best of the AHL won't have to wait long to have their name called for NHL duty.

Based on the success of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season, John Hynes is likely one of the first in line.

Aside from leading the Penguins to the AHL's best record (19-4-0) in his inaugural campaign, Hynes spent six seasons coaching the U.S. National Team Development Program and parlayed that experience into success on the international stage.

He led the United States to three medals - a gold in 2006, a silver in 2004 and a bronze in 2008 - at the Under-18 World Championship and was the head coach of the U.S. national team at the 2008 World Junior Championship after serving as an assistant for the gold medal-winning team in 2004.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins unlikely to switch coaches in the near future, Hynes is a perfect candidate to be scooped up by an outside team.


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