Are Teams Waiting Until January To Change Coaches?

I was thinking about the situation that the Calgary Flames – and several other clubs – are in earlier this week, and a thought occurred to be after reading Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts. I think teams are waiting to make potential coaching changes until they know what the league’s compensation policy will end up being.

Before we proceed, let’s establish two quick things. First, that trading is really tough in the salary cap era. The cap is not going to go up next season by all accounts, and most teams have a lot of their future cap space already tied up. So that makes it quite tough for teams to make significant, franchise-altering trades. So if you’re a team looking to change course, with a big trade very tough to pull off, your best bet may be to make a coaching change.

But even that has its downsides, given that you have to hire somebody to replace your outgoing coach, and that there are currently rules in place that require compensation for hiring away a coach from another organization (fired or not) during the playing season. That’s why the hiring of John Tortorella by the Columbus Blue Jackets raised some eyebrows – the Jackets basically traded a second round pick to Vancouver for the right to hire Torts. 28 general managers around the league looked up and went “Wait, what?” when they heard that a pick changed hands. Nobody likes the current set-up in terms of compensation for the hiring of fired coaches or executives.

Here’s Friedman:

2. Compensation for hiring fired executives and coaches
is now on the agenda for both the General Manager’s meeting (Toronto in
November) and Board of Governors (Pebble Beach in December). The hope
is there will no longer be a draft pick awarded for hiring a fired
coach, general manager or president of hockey operations as of Jan. 1,
unless the league is so angry at how this was butchered that it decides
to entirely scrap compensation.

There’s no guarantee that this change is actually made, but given the general disapproval of the current system by general managers league-wide, it’s safe to say that some revisions will be made to the compensation rules. And given that there are rumblings about changes to the compensation policy being decided in December that would come into effect in January, why would any team make a coaching change before then?

So unless the wheels completely fall off in any one NHL city and it’s a virtual guarantee that they need to make a massive course correction, I strongly doubt any teams make big personnel changes until we find out precisely what’s happening in regards to compensation for teams hiring coaches that had previously been fired by their prior team (or compensation for hiring personnel overall).