On the Fly: Predicting deadline, playoff futures of 5 teams to make in-season coaching change

theScore Staff 2d ago
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This week, theScore's NHL editors are looking into the office's crystal ball and predicting the March 1 trade deadline and playoff futures of the five teams that have made in-season head coaching changes.

Boston Bruins

Deadline prediction: Cam Neely and Don Sweeney played a big card in firing Claude Julien based on the belief the Bruins roster was underachieving under the longtime and highly successful head coach. To some extent, they're not wrong, especially when you look at the team's Corsi numbers in relation to shooting percentages.

But while the team has gone 3-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy, the ante was upped when the rival Montreal Canadiens scooped Julien, putting even more pressure on management to clinch a playoff spot this season after missing out the past two years.

As such, Sweeney will pull off a trade with the Colorado Avalanche involving Gabriel Landeskog, sending a package built around Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick in return.

Playoff prediction: The thing about trading Carlo is they've come to rely on the 20-year-old as a top-pair defenseman. Subtracting him from the roster will leave a hole at a position that's already a weakness.

The prospect pool is deep on the blue line and help is coming as early as next season, but Landeskog won't be able to offset the loss of Carlo in the meantime. Boston will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

- Ian McLaren

Florida Panthers

Deadline prediction: Picking up speed but also dealing with a tough schedule in the weeks between now and March 1, the Panthers should be in a similar position in the standings on deadline day.

For that reason - and because there are no expiring contracts that would fetch a return on the payroll - we shouldn't expect them to do too much. That said, this team is still reworking itself, and management will swap assets if it can acquire a player who fits the ideal.

Playoff prediction: Jonathan Huberdeau's return will have a more profound impact than any in-season acquisition a team can make. With the boost he brings to the first line and the trickle-down effect it has through the lineup, Florida slides into the eighth seed in the East, unseating either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Bruins.

From there, the Panthers won't give the Washington Capitals too much trouble, crashing out in the first round for a second consecutive season.

- Justin Cuthbert

Montreal Canadiens

Deadline prediction: It's been a tale of two seasons for the Canadiens. After beginning the year 13-1-1, the Habs went 18-18-7 leading into the team's bye week before saying bye bye to coach Michel Therrien.

But all hope isn't lost. Despite their slide, the Canadiens still sit atop the Atlantic with 70 points. Montreal has shown enough through 58 games to suggest it's a season worth saving.

In announcing new bench boss Claude Julien, general manager Marc Bergevin also touched on recent trade speculation surrounding the club, pouring cold water on talk that the Canadiens could move a top prospect like Mikhail Sergachev to bulk up the club prior to the trade deadline.

What's interesting is that Bergevin didn't mention Michael McCarron, the young forward and rumored return needed to acquire hulking pivot Martin Hanzal from the Arizona Coyotes. The Canadiens are weak up the middle, and while time is dwindling for the two sides to make a trade, there's enough smoke to this fire that the deal will get done.

Playoff prediction: As it stands, the Canadiens would face the New York Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs. The addition of Hanzal could be enough to power the team through, but the Canadiens won't have enough gas to take down more than one Metropolitan opponent. Montreal's road to the Cup stops in Round 2.

- Cory Wilkins

New York Islanders

Deadline prediction: The Islanders could use a left winger and a right-shot defenseman, and they'll have about $7 million in cap space to address those needs.

Jumping into the Landeskog sweepstakes wouldn't make much sense for New York given the likely price, but Snow would be wise to call Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray about Evander Kane.

Snow has plenty of young assets to facilitate a deal, but we'd still be shocked if Murray caved, considering how glowingly he's spoken of his troubled star of late. Still, both sides would be foolish not to do their due diligence.

On defense, Dennis Seidenberg is a pending UFA, and he has a team-friendly $1-million cap hit despite not having much value. He'll likely be dealt for whatever Snow can get, which will be a late-round pick. Ryan Pulock can immediately take Seidenberg's spot on the third pairing.

New York also needs to upgrade their top four, though, so Michael Stone is a sensible target. Snow should be able to pry him from the Arizona Coyotes by offering a third-round pick, and if that doesn't get it done, he'll open up the treasure chest of forward prospects and look to increase what he gets in return.

Playoff prediction: The Islanders looked like a lottery team for the first half of the season, but they've vaulted into the postseason mix since Doug Weight took over from Jack Capuano. So which team is the real one?

It'll come right down to the wire, but the Islanders will miss the playoffs by just a few points. They'll leapfrog the Philadelphia Flyers, but won't surpass the Leafs, who'll secure the second wild-card spot in the East.

- Josh Gold-Smith

St. Louis Blues

Deadline prediction: Kevin Shattenkirk will be traded - the team won't let what happened with Troy Brouwer and David Backes occur again.

In return, the Blues could use a defenseman to fill the void that unquestionably will be left by Shattenkirk's departure. St. Louis could also use an upgrade up front, especially with injuries to Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri.

New head coach Mike Yeo has praised the play of his AHL call-ups, but experience is always preferred when games become that much more meaningful. Maybe a Shane Doan or Thomas Vanek could fit the bill.

Playoff prediction: The Blues appear reborn under Yeo and could be as dangerous as anyone in the West. Formerly an assistant who was originally supposed to take over in 2017-18 after Ken Hitchcock's final season behind the bench, Yeo has his club firing on all cylinders after taking the coaching reins prematurely.

More specifically, he has it stopping all cylinders. Goaltenders Jake Allen and Carter Hutton have been nearly perfect over the last two weeks. If the offense - starting with Vladimir Tarasenko - can chip in a bit more, St. Louis will make another deep run.

- Craig Hagerman

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)