Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Short Term Boost From A Firing

So far this season, three teams have fired a coach or GM. The Atlanta Thrashers fired coach Bob Hartley, the Washington Capitals have fired coach Glen Hanlon and the Dallas Stars have fired GM Doug Armstrong. Each team experienced a short term lift from the move.

Teams tend to have this short term boost because they only fire coaches or GMs when things are not going well and more than likely if they wait things will get better. They also have a short term boost because of the upheaval on the system. Players must impress the new coach or GM to maintain their roster spot and ice time (this effect and hence this boost is larger when it is a coach firing because the coach has more day to day interaction with the team). This pushes players to perform beyond normal levels for a short but unsustainable period of time. Fans often view this short term boost as evidence that the firing was a good move, but after it is over, the team is usually right back where they were before the firing.

In Atlanta, the sporting news was so impressed by their short term boost that they wrote this irresponsible article about how well Don Waddell was doing as coach. Only a few weeks later, Atlanta finds themselves in 13th place in the East Conference once again struggling. The Thrashers 3.42 goals against per game is the worst in the NHL. Their few bright spots are Ilya Kovalchuk, whose 27 goals lead the NHL and Marian Hossa who is also scoring at point per game rate. Their weaknesses of a porous defence led by Tobias Enstrom, Niclas Havelid and Garnet Exelby and poor goaltending from Johan Hedberg, Kari Lehtonen and Ondrej Pavelec keep them from being a contender of any sort.

Dallas merely fired their GM, so their boost was smaller and they were a good team before the firing. Their position atop the Pacific Division is not a sign of a good change at GM, but rather a sign they always had a solid team and that other contenders San Jose and Anaheim have not played consistently solid hockey.

Washington is currently experiencing their boost from their coaching change. They still sit in last place in the East Conference, but they have done better lately. This short term boost has made a believer out of Washington blogger Japer's Rink, but it won't last. Washington still has the fundamental problem that only Alexander Ovechkin is capable of scoring at point per game pace. Their defence is still weak. It is built around Tom Poti, Mike Green and Shaonne Morrisonn and that does not scare opposing teams. Neither of Olaf Kolzig nor Brent Johnson has played particularly well in goal. Washington is a weak team and no coaching change can fix that.

Coach and GM firings can get short term boosts in the NHL, but these boosts rarely last. It isn't long before the team fails again for the same reasons that led to the firing in the first place. Atlanta has fallen into that rut again and Washington will soon. That doesn't mean that the firings were not deserved (in some cases they are), it means that the problems are far deeper than just replacing a coach.

Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the amazing work.

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Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.

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