blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: Curse of the NHL Overseas Opener

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Curse of the NHL Overseas Opener

For the past two years, the NHL has launched their regular season on the other side of the Atlantic. And for the past two years, the head coach of each participating team (save Randy Carlyle coaching his defending champion Ducks) has been fired within the year.

After opening the 2007-2008 season in London against Carlyle's Ducks, Marc Crawford led his Kings to a league worst 71 points, clinching the number two overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with a 31-43-7 record. Sadly, Crawford would never meet the offspring of his efforts as he was junked on June 10, 2008, two weeks before Drew Doughty was crowned.

The following year, Tom Renney's Rangers played Barry Melrose's Lightning in Prague and Craig Hartsburg's Senators met Michel Therrien's Penguins in Stockholm. None lasted past February 23, 2009.

Melrose was the first to go. His November 14, 2008 departure followed a 4-3 loss to the Red Wings. The mulleted one lasted only 16 games behind the bench, posting a 5-7-4 record, before being booted back to the booth and replaced by his assistant Rick Tocchet.

Hartsburg led the February firings, collecting his walking papers on February 2, 2009 after OV unleashed a Sunday afternoon hat trick yielding a 7-4 loss for the Senators. His record to date was 17-24-7.

For Therrien, a 6-2 loss to the lowly Maple Leafs sealed his fate on February 15, 2009. Despite a 94-51-19 record in his first two seasons, an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals eight months earlier, and a respectable 27-25-5 thus far this year, the ill-tempered Therrien was tossed.

Coach Renney made it all the way to February 23, 2009. He started the season 10-3 and finished it 3-10, leaving a record of 31-23-7. For the second week in a row, the Leafs hammered the final nail into a coach's coffin, dealing the Rangers a 3-2 loss in Renney's last game.

Next season, the Red Wings are scheduled to play the Blues in Stockholm, with the Blackhawks and Panthers meeting in Helsinki. Mike Babcock, Andy Murray, Joel Quennville, and Peter DeBoer, you're on notice. If history holds, the ax will fall unless you arrive in Europe wearing a 2009 championship ring.

Bon voyage! Or rather, trevlig resa and hyvää matka!