The Replacements

Here’s a surprising recent key to success in the NHL: Ditching your head coach in the middle of the season.

You wouldn’t expect a hastily appointed interim coach to take a team deep into the playoffs any more than you’d expect a backup goalie to deliver a win after your starter gets chased. A mid-season replacement coach is a last resort. He’s like a life raft. If you need one, it’s a strong indication your cruise has been ruined.

But the Blues won it all last year under Craig Berube. It seemed like a thrilling fluke until last night, when the never-count-’em-out Stars became the Western Conference champs under Rick Bowness. Now it’s a trend.

Both coaches were named midseason to teams in crisis. Berube took over from Mike Yeo on November 19th, 2018, after the Blues had gone 7-9-3 to start their season. And the Stars handed the reins to Bowness on December 10th of last year, after firing Jim Montgomery for unspecified alcohol-related “unprofessional conduct.”

And yet, improbably, both coaches delivered their teams to the Stanley Cup finals. In future seasons, maybe we can look for championship contenders to invigorate their squads not only by signing big-name free agents at the trade deadline, but also abruptly axing their head coaches.

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