by Ron Spence

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” Winston Churchill wrote.

Seven of the thirty coaches – who started the 2008-09 season – were ousted from their NHL teams – and are enthusiastically looking for another failure to start.

They were:


courtesy of sports.espn.go.com

Two others were dismissed at the end of the season:


This might seem to be a record number of flashing axes, but during the 1981-82 campaign ten coaches were fired by – or retired from – just 21 teams  (The NBA fired 9 coaches over the past season, which equalled their 2004-05 record.).


The Colorado Rockies fired Bert Marshall (3-17-4), and replaced him with his assistant, Marshall Johnston (15-32-9). The following – 1982-83 – season, Johnston was replaced by Billy MacMillan (17-49-14) when the Rockies became the New Jersey Devils.

Detroit’s Wayne Maxner (18-39-12), was replaced by Billy Dea (3-8-0). Dea, in turn was replaced by Nick Polano (21-44-15) at the following summer.

Hartford’s Larry Kish (12-32-5) was replaced by Larry Pleau (21-41-18).

L.A.’s Parker MacDonald  (13-24-5) retired, and was replaced by Don Perry (11-17-10), who coached the Kings again following campaign (27-41-12).

The Washington Capitals replaced Gary Green  (1-12-0), with Roger Crozier (0-1-0) for one game, and then with Bryan Murray who went (25-28-13). Murray turned the Caps around during the 1982-83 season (39-25-16).

The Blackhawks fired Keith Magnuson (18-24-10), and G.M. Bob Pulford (12-14-2) replaced him. The following season Orval Tessier became the Chicago coach (47-23-10).

St. Louis fired Red Berenson (28-34-6), and hired Emile Francis (4-6-2).  The Cat went  (10-19-3), and was replaced by Barclay Plager (15-21-12) in 1982-83.

Harry Neale (26-33-16), was suspended and replaced by Roger Neilson (4-0-1). Neale continued as Vancouver’s GM in 82-83 and Neilson stayed on as the nucks’ coach (30-35-15).


The teams noted above were playing below .500 when their coaches were terminated.

Two teams were playing above .500 when they fired their coaches – because of their higher expectations.

Philadelphia dumped Pat Quinn (34-29-9), and Bob McCammon took over (4-2-2). McCammon remained during 1982-83 (49-23-8), and turned the Flyers around.

Jimmy Roberts (21-16-8), was given the Sabre by Scotty Bowman (18-10-7), who continued to coach Buffalo the following season (38-29-13). Bowman relinquished his coaching position on four occasions and later took it back. Then, during the 1986-87 season, he was relieved of all responsibilities by the Buffalo owners.

One coach was released at the end of the season. Calgary’s Al MacNeil (29-34-17) was replaced by “Badger Bob” Johnson (32-34-14).

Toronto’s Mike Nykoluk had a brutal season (20-44-16) in 1981-82, but wasn’t fired – by Harold Ballard – and continued to coach in 1982-83 (28-40-12).

Pittsburgh’s Eddie Johnston (31-36-13) stayed on and the Pens went  (18-53-9) in 1982-83. He was replaced by Lou Angotti whose Pens fell further (16-58-6).


The Islanders’ Al Arbour, of course, kept his job and went (42-26-12) in 82-83. Glen Sather was just starting to build the Oilers and went (47-21-12) and Montreal’s Bob Berry went (42-24-14) in 1982-83.

Gerry Cheevers kept his job in Boston, Glen Sonmor his position in Minnesota, and Herb Brooks his job in New York. Michel Bergeron stayed in Quebec and Tom Watt in Winnipeg.

Watt was axed part way through the 1983-84 season (6-13-2) and came to the Canucks a year and a half later. He would last two seasons and be instrumental in the trading away of Cam Neely.


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