Navigating the Choppy Waters of NHL Coaching: The Paradox of Multi-Year Contracts

what should NHL coaches do?

The NHL is an ever-evolving landscape where victories and defeats often determine the fate of its coaches. When the New Jersey Devils recently granted Lindy Ruff a multi-year contract extension, it prompted deeper introspection into the true significance of such agreements in the world of hockey.

The Enigma of NHL Coaching Contracts

One could argue that NHL coaching is as much about strategy on the ice as it is about surviving the boardroom. A multi-year contract might seem like the ultimate symbol of trust and stability. However, the frequent turnover of NHL coaches reveals a starkly different narrative.

The Devil’s Advocate

The New Jersey Devils’ decision to withhold the specifics of Ruff’s contract extension is more common than it seems. This air of mystery underscores the transient nature of NHL coaching roles, where contracts, irrespective of their tenure, offer little solace against an unexpected exit.

Notable Cases: The Ephemeral Nature of Extended Contracts

Darryl Sutter and the Flames’ Flicker:

  • Initial Euphoria: The 2021-22 season witnessed Sutter at his pinnacle, driving the Flames to a Pacific Division title and earning the revered Jack Adams Award.
  • The Unraveling: Come 2022, the honeymoon phase was over. Frictions with players and dwindling performances led to Sutter’s unceremonious exit, painting a vivid picture of the fragility of coaching tenures.

Gallant’s New York Odyssey:

  • Glory Days: Gerard Gallant’s tenure with the Rangers seemed like a match made in heaven. Two years yielded a staggering 99-46-19 record and marked him as the first coach in Rangers’ history to net back-to-back 100-point seasons.
  • The Abrupt Finale: However, the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan cast long shadows of expectations. A premature exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs was all it took for the Rangers and Gallant to part ways, emphasizing the razor-thin margin for error in NHL coaching.
what will happen to the contracts

The Dollars and Sense Behind Coaching Changes

While the tactical implications of changing a coach are evident, the financial considerations remain shrouded in secrecy. A closer look reveals intriguing patterns:

  • Non-disclosure Norms: Coaches’ salaries remain confidential, much like their GM and managerial counterparts.
  • Budgetary Insight: Speculations suggest that teams might earmark funds anticipating potential coaching changes. Such allocations highlight the perceived inevitability of coaching turnovers.
  • Salary Cap Exemptions: Coaches’ salaries aren’t restrained by salary caps. This freedom potentially emboldens teams to make swift coaching changes, irrespective of contractual obligations.

Dynamics Beyond The Ice: The Locker Room Conundrum

Coaching isn’t just about strategy, it’s about managing relationships. Over time, the locker room can become a theater of evolving dynamics, where several factors come into play:

  • Injury Impact: One pivotal player’s injury can cascade into team performance, putting undue pressure on the coach.
  • Performance Plateaus: Players might hit rough patches, which, if prolonged, often culminates in fingers pointing towards the coach.
  • Off-the-rink Incidents: Personal incidents, media interactions, or locker room politics can strain relationships, sometimes irreparably.

Lindy Ruff’s Rollercoaster Ride

Few coaches encapsulate the highs and lows of NHL coaching as Lindy Ruff. Here’s a closer look at his tumultuous journey:

  • Turbulent Times: There was a period when whispers of Ruff’s potential ouster echoed throughout New Jersey. Critics and fans alike questioned his strategies and decisions.
  • Turning the Tide: However, Ruff, with his indomitable spirit, weathered the storm. The Devils started to showcase better synergy and results on the ice, leading to Ruff’s well-deserved contract extension.
  • The Road Ahead: While Ruff can bask in the glory of his new contract, he, of all people, knows that it’s a short-lived celebration. The unpredictable nature of NHL ensures that a coach’s position is always on a precarious footing.


In the grand amphitheater of NHL, multi-year coaching contracts might seem like marquee events, signaling faith and trust. However, the constant churn of coaching changes tells a different tale. Such extensions, while offering financial assurance, provide scant job security. Coaches are perennially walking a tightrope, where a few missteps can lead to an abrupt fall. In this high-stakes world, the mantra seems simple yet profound: “Perform or Perish.”

Hockey Expert
reviewed by: Jeremy Karamen (Hockey Expert)

Share this article

More News
More links
Follow us