The hockey world is filled with various meetings of all kinds of people during the course of the season. I’m sure you’ve heard of the General Managers’ meetings that occur a few times throughout the year. The owners will meet up to review women cocktails the state of the league. But there’s a specific meeting that doesn’t get nearly as much attention.
“The Super Secret Convention of Formerly Employed NHL Coaches” was founded by a disgruntled Barry Melrose at the request of John Buccigross. This year, they’ll be focusing on the 12 Steps of an NHL Coach. It’s like that other 12 step program, but without all the drinking and alcoholism (although, now that I think about it—it could certainly lead to both). Here’s a rundown of what the League of Formerly Extraordinary Gentlemen will be learning.
This year’s keynote speakers are:
Day 1: John Stevens
Day 2: Andy Murray
Day 3: Ken Hitchcock (tentative)
1. The Press Conference: The new coach will say that he has to get used to the players. He’ll say things like, “there’s a lot of talent in this room,” and “this organization does things the right way.” The players talk about how it wasn’t the former coach’s fault and that they needed to play better for him.
2. Honeymoon Period: The team initially has success; mostly because the players are putting their best foot forward. The media will talk about how the players “get his message” and other bullshit analysis—but the success is really just because the players are trying harder than they did for their former coach. A lot of times we’ll even see the team skyrocket up the standings and even make the playoffs. Everyone will sing the praises of the new coach and management for making such a great move.
3. Plateau Period: Team will level off for a couple of years. The players remember how badly it ended with the last coach so they continue to put SOME effort into the preparation and games. But they no longer have that “immediacy” like they did right after the new coach was brought in.
4. The Death Rattle: After a few years, the team will make a strong run. Sometimes it’s a strong half of the season, sometimes it will result in a deep playoff run and can even result in a Stanley Cup. Oftentimes, the coach is recognized by being named as one of the 3 finalists for the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year (see: Nolan, Ted; Murray, Andy). Take this moment and enjoy it—because as the Grateful Dead said, “When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.”
5. Going Down Like A $2 Hooker: In the season immediately following their Death Rattle, the team will start to dip. The coach hasn’t changed, but the players playing for him have a different effort level. They forgot what they did that made them good the year before and the stop doing the little things that require effort. For a young team, this is the point that the young players will suffer a bit of a dip in their development. With all of the promise that they showed in the Death Rattle phase, they noticeably regress. As a whole, they’re not trying to impress the coach as much, so the effort level dips and the wins don’t come as easily.
6. Desperation: Coach will start doing anything they can do to get the team back on track. This is the time that the announcers will talk about how Coach X is “thinking outside the box.” You’ll hear about how the coach skipped practice so the team could do a scavenger hunt or all-you-can-eat buffet to help team building.
7. Mutiny: Start to hear rumblings from players that they don’t like the coach. It might be a slip up in an interview, it might be the tone of articles from the beat reports or might be the overall demeanor of the team. Whatever it is—even fans can tell that the team isn’t having as much fun and their success (or lack thereof) on the ice reflects.
8. Confusion With a Hint of Acceptance: Team will continue to underperform—multiple cameras at multiple games will catch the coach just staring off into space in the general direction of the ice as if to say, “What the hell is going on? I have no more answers.” As a fan, you look and try to figure out what he’s thinking—but it’s total nothingness.
9. The Kiss of Death: The owner and/or General Manager will publicly give the coach a “vote of confidence.” He’ll usually say something like, “I see signs that we’re turning things around. I’m confident we’re moving forward here.” Seriously. The coach might as well start lining up his list of references, update his resume and pack the lucky bamboo plant and bobble heads that are on his desk.
10. Dead Man Walking: Team will go on an extended losing streak. Team will lose something like 8 out of 9 games and everyone knows that the coach is a lame duck. The players don’t listen because they don’t have to—and the coaches don’t even try anymore because they know the players aren’t listening. At this point, it’s only a matter of time.
11. The Deed Is Done: About a week after the public “vote of confidence,” the coach gets fired. But he is thanked for his loyal service—so it’s OK. Management will say something like, “Coach X is a great coach and I’m sure he’ll find a new job in NO time—but we just felt like it was time to go in a different direction.”
12. New coach comes in and we start the process over at Step #1