NEW YORK (AP) - The St. Louis Blues pulled the trigger first, firing coach Davis Payne just 13 games into a season they felt the sudden urge to save.
Panic? Perhaps. Surprising? Not nearly as much as outsiders might believe.
If any other evidence was needed, it came quickly as the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and Anaheim Ducks followed suit - all sending their coaches packing before December. The calendar changed, but that didn't provide protection as the Los Angeles Kings dismissed Terry Murray this week.
That left five coaches kicked to the curb within the first third of a long season. Poor starts signal itchy general managers that if a move isn't made early, it might soon be too late.
The Blues were 6-7 when Payne was fired on Nov. 6, but turned it around right away under Ken Hitchcock, who was 11-2-3 with St. Louis entering Thursday's game against the New York Rangers.