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All-Star Game

All-Star coaches discuss job security in NHL

Cassidy, Tocchet among those who believe 'you can't worry about that sort of stuff'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Bruce Cassidy laughed and cracked a joke at his own expense, because when the topic is job security in his line of work with the number of NHL coaches who have been fired this season, what else can the guy who leads the Boston Bruins really do except find some levity.

"Peter Laviolette, Peter DeBoer, Gerard [Gallant], all Stanley Cup finalists that didn't win in the last few years," Cassidy said. "So, I started thinking, well who lost in the Stanley Cup Final last year? That guy's next."

Cassidy lost in the Stanley Cup Final last season with the Bruins against the St. Louis Blues. Gallant lost with the Vegas Golden Knights against the Washington Capitals in 2018, Laviolette with the Nashville Predators against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 and DeBoer with the San Jose Sharks against the Penguins in 2016.

Gallant was fired by Vegas on Jan. 15 and replaced by DeBoer, who was fired by the Sharks on Dec. 11. Laviolette was fired by the Predators on Jan. 6 and replaced by John Hynes, who was fired by the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 3. 

All of them not too long ago thought they had some job security.

Now?

"The game has proven no one's truly safe," Cassidy said.

There have been seven coaching changes in the League this season, five for performance-related reasons, including the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock on Nov. 20, and two (Jim Montgomery, Dallas Stars and Bill Peters, Calgary Flames) for behavioral-related concerns. 

Video: Berube, Reirden discuss coaching in the All-Star Game

The seven in-season changes are still four off the League record of 11 from the 2002-03 season, but it sends ripples through the coaching community when it includes three of the last four coaches who lost in the Stanley Cup Final.

"I don't think about that sort of stuff, but when a guy like the Gallant goes down it makes you think sometimes," Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. "I think the partnership with the general manager and the owner is huge. But as a coach you can't worry about that sort of stuff. I can't think that way of ever getting fired."

That's the common thread through all four coaches in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center (Tocchet, Cassidy, Capitals coach Todd Reirden and Blues coach Craig Berube) -- focus on now and try your very best to not worry about what could be.

Cassidy, though, said what has happened in the coaching community this season has, at least in his mind, re-defined what job stability and security means.

"You used to have guys that probably could go 10 years," Cassidy said. "Now you go way back to the Al Arbours. He won, OK, but maybe even some other guys that maybe didn't win as much could stay six, seven, eight years. Nowadays, even the best, you might make it through two contracts, so that's six years."

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, having been hired on March 25, 2013. He's in his sixth full season in the same job.

Cassidy, hired by the Bruins on Feb. 7, 2016, is in his fourth full season, making him the sixth most tenured coach in the League to date and one of nine who have been with their current team for at least three full seasons.

There are 14 coaches who have been in their current job for less than a year.

"But I guess for guys like myself, as long as they keep re-hiring you, you're OK with it," Cassidy said. "When they stop re-hiring you, when you've aged out, that's when I won't be a big fan of it."

Video: Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet joins NHL Tonight

Reirden, who is in his second season with the Capitals, believes the salary cap has played a role in the waning job security in the coaching business. 

Moving players in and out to change rosters quickly has become difficult for general managers, so the easiest solution, even if it's not always the best one or warranted, is to fire the coach.

"There's no salary cap for coaches," Reirden said. "That's a situation where you can have some more movement in that line of work."

Reirden said it's another reason why buy in and belief in the coaches from players has become even more important in the NHL.

"The players right now, they're so smart in terms of reading off the coach, and they understand that the coaches either have a pulse of the team or they don't," Reirden said. "If you show any worries, I think that you give off the wrong vibe to your team. Today's players can see right through that."

That doesn't mean it's easy for the coaches under the surface, especially in today's climate with rising expectations and sudden, and sometimes shocking, changes happening all around them.

"Do I sleep at night? Is that what you're asking?" Cassidy said. "Part of the business we sign up for." 

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