Assessing NHL coaching tenures and the tendencies for teams to hire new coaches

There has been a ton of talk in the Calgary Flames fan base about the head coach and whether he will be with the team beyond this year. As we know, Darryl Sutter reupped with the club before the start of the 2022–23 season, and I doubt Flames management thought this year was going to go how it went.

Colorado just recently extended head coach Jared Bednar to a three-year deal, roughly nine months after winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche. You would have thought that they would immediately extend him after the Cup win, but they took their time and made sure there was no drama this year.

Based on the conversations surrounding the Flames potentially firing Sutter, I wanted to dig into how long coaches last with clubs in the modern day. We saw a ton of coach swaps before the season, and some have worked out extremely well, like Jim Montgomery in Boston. Others, like Paul Maurice in Florida, haven’t gone as smoothly. So, I dug into the number of coaches each team has used since 2000, and the tenure these coaches had.

NHL coaching tenures since 2000

Note: I have removed interim coaches from the equation, like Ryan Huska’s two games as head coach between the transition from Geoff Ward to Darryl Sutter. The Winnipeg Jets will also include the Atlanta Thrashers.

All data is courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com

TeamNumber of Head Coaches since 2000Average Number of Games Coached
Anaheim Ducks8217.50 (2.65 seasons)
Arizona Coyotes6263.33 (3.21 seasons)
Boston Bruins9209.78 (2.56 seasons)
Buffalo Sabres7257.71 (3.14 seasons)
Calgary Flames11178.45 (2.18 seasons)
Carolina Hurricanes5374.60 (4.57 seasons)
Chicago Blackhawks8215.50 (2.63 seasons)
Colorado Avalanche6300.83 (3.69 seasons)
Columbus Blue Jackets9168.22 (2.05 seasons)
Dallas Stars9191.44 (2.33 seasons)
Detroit Red Wings5345.80 (4.22 seasons)
Edmonton Oilers11164.36 (2.01 seasons)
Florida Panthers15120.33 (1.47 seasons)
Los Angeles Kings8225.75 (2.75 seasons)
Minnesota Wild6287.17 (3.50 seasons)
Montreal Canadiens9200.89 (2.45 seasons)
Nashville Predators3601.33 (7.33 seasons)
New Jersey Devils13133.15 (1.62 seasons)
New York Islanders11164.00 (2.00 seasons)
New York Rangers8216.00 (2.63 seasons)
Ottawa Senators10176.10 (2.15 seasons)
Philadelphia Flyers12150.33 (1.83 seasons)
Pittsburgh Penguins8222.50 (2.71 seasons)
San Jose Sharks6300.83 (3.67 seasons)
Seattle Kraken1155.00 (1.89 seasons)
St. Louis Blues7246.43 (3.01 seasons)
Tampa Bay Lightning6300.83 (3.67 seasons)
Toronto Maple Leafs7257.86 (3.14 seasons)
Vancouver Canucks7246.14 (3.00 seasons)
Vegas Golden Knights3149.00 (1.82 seasons)
Washington Capitals9191.44 (2.33 seasons)
Winnipeg Jets9200.89 (2.45 seasons)
NHL Average7.875232.30 (2.83 seasons)

A closer look at coaching tenures

I was not expecting such a massive variability in these findings. Nashville is definitely the outlier here, with only three coaches in their entire franchise history. Carolina and Detroit have only had five head coaches since 2000, which is well below the NHL average. Seattle and Vegas are included, but will have skewed results given both are recent expansion teams.

The Florida Panthers lead the way by a significant margin, with an astounding 15 coaches behind the bench since 2000. In looking at findings, that means the Panthers flip coaches every 1.47 seasons. The Devils, Islanders, Flames, Oilers, and Senators have also fired upwards of 10 coaches in the last 23 seasons.

A Flames perspective on coaching tenures

Flames CoachAverage Number of Games Coached
Flames Average since 2000178.45 (2.18 seasons)
Darryl Sutter’s recent tenure as Flames head coach220.00 (2.68 seasons)
NHL Average since 2000232.30 (2.83 seasons)

The talk about firing Sutter does follow the pattern for the Flames in the recent millennium. The Flames average lies at 178.45 games, or 2.18 seasons. Assuming Sutter coaches out the season, he will have coached 220 games for the Flames. That equates to 2.68 seasons. That is closing in on the NHL average over the past twenty-three seasons of 2.83 seasons coached.

The Flames are in the upper echelon of coaching firings since 2000, so they have a history of letting coaches go. The extension plays a factor, but Darryl Sutter leaving the team lines up with Flames averages we’ve seen in recent times.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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