SUN Hockey Pool

Coaching moves not equalling success

Capitals head coach Dale Hunter talks with captain Alex Ovechkin (left) and Jason Chimera on the...

Capitals head coach Dale Hunter talks with captain Alex Ovechkin (left) and Jason Chimera on the bench during a game against the Blues in Washington, D.C., Nov. 29, 2011. (MOLLY RILEY/Reuters)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:16 PM ET

CALGARY - It’s not even Christmas yet and the NHL has already completed a six-pack.

Six coaches gassed, five replacements — and one to come. It’s incredible to think 20% of the coaches who started the season are no longer in their posts.

What’s harder to imagine is how all those teams think that will make a difference.

Certainly, the Los Angeles Kings believe former Calgary Flames GM and head coach Darryl Sutter can change the fortunes of their middling team, having taken the reins from the now-departed Terry Murray, but it hasn’t worked out too well for almost all the other teams who have tried it this season.

The St. Louis Blues have caught fire since gassing Davis Payne and replacing him with Ken Hitchcock, having posted a 13-3-4 mark since the move, but the Blues are in lone-wolf territory in that manner.

When the Washington Capitals fired Bruce Boudreau and put Dale Hunter in the post, they had lost eight of 11 to fall to 12-9-1. They have a 5-5-0 mark since.

The Anaheim Ducks were floundering when Randy Carlyle was boss (7-13-4) and haven’t taken flight under Boudreau (2-6-1 prior to Thursday night’s clash).

The Carolina Hurricanes axed Paul Maurice when their record was 8-13-4. Since then, they’ve posted a 2-6-2 mark with Kirk Muller at the helm.

The Montreal Canadiens went into Thursday’s game at Winnipeg having lost all three games in the post-Jacques Martin era with Randy Cunneyworth at the helm until they can find a bilingual bench boss to fill the post.

As for the Kings, they went 2-2-0 with John Stevens as the interim coach.

Struggling teams all too often remain struggling teams.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule — the Pittsburgh Penguins when Dan Bylsma took over and the Capitals when Boudreau joined them — but it’s not an exact science.

That said, as somebody who watched how Sutter works, don’t be shocked to see the Kings become the second-best team in the Pacific Division by the end of the season.

It won’t hurt him that Mike Richards is healthy again, but Sutter — for all his follies as GM, especially the inability to separate himself as the coach — knows how to push buttons.

Lord knows, he’ll have plenty of buttons to push with a Kings team too talented to flounder this way.

By the way, when Kings GM Dean Lombardi said in the aftermath of firing Murray the players were going to wish it hadn’t come to this point, he sure meant it.

FLAMING C-NOTES

All NHL teams have tough schedules at some point in the season, but it’s hard to believe what the Flames are going through. After completing their crazy stretch of seven games in 10 nights and four time zones with Friday’s tilt in Vancouver, the Flames will return home in the middle of the night of the 23rd, have two days to recover and celebrate Christmas and then leave the 26th for Columbus to start another stretch of three games in four nights which runs to Long Island and then Ottawa. Can anybody imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs or New York Rangers having to go through something like that? ... Flames fans will have three prospects to watch closely at the world juniors: Sven Baertschi of Switzerland, Markus Granlund of Finland and American forward Bill Arnold, who was named to his country’s team Thursday ... After the Flames finish their six-game post-Christmas road trip, they’ll have 40 games left — 26 of them at home. Half of those 40 games will be against the five Pacific Division squads.

HOCKEY TALKY

Hats off to the Carolina Hurricanes alumni, who replaced Christmas presents for a military family from their area that had its home broken into and all its gifts stolen ... Anybody else thinking the Phoenix Coyotes are going to leave Arizona with barely a whimper? Isn’t there yet another hard and fast deadline on

the horizon? ... All the best of the season to everyone out there.

YOU DON’T SAY

Beware! If Sutter does finally end up in LA, Kipper will not be far behind. Let’s wait & see! #34alwayssaidLAwouldbenice

— Former Flames goalie coach David Marcoux, via Twitter


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