Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

Take Town: Feeling hot hot hot

Here's the stat of the year: In the last 15 games, the Penguins' power play has the same number of goals as the Penguins' goalie.

Now, I'm not saying he's totally at fault here, even if the most direct impact coaching has on the game is via special teams, but Mike Sullivan's seat has to be feeling hot, hot, hot these days. They're 3-5-3 in the last 11 games, scoring just 23 goals, including none on the power play. They've been outscored on their own man advantage 2-0 during these last three weeks.

Fortunately for the embattled coach, whose team held a closed-door meeting after last night's loss to Tampa, he is very much a Sidney Crosby Guy and you can have no doubt Crosby has as much say over personnel matters as anyone not named Kyle Dubas, at the very least. But something's gotta give here.

You don't trade for Reilly Smith and Erik Karlsson in one summer and then accept that you're gonna be 21st in the league a week into December. There are no excuses. Among the best players on the roster, the only one who's missed a game is Bryan Rust, and he only missed three. The goaltending has been downright great (as a team, they're getting a .922 save percentage and plus-18.25 goals saved above expected). The 5-on-5 play isn't exactly elite but it's comfortably better than average. But the power play, with four slam-dunk Hall of Famers, sucks. And not just in a "the puck's not going in" way — even if they do have the second-lowest power-play shooting percentage in the league, ahead of only the Washington Capitals.

How much longer can they afford to be a .500 team? They have the same record as the Montréal Canadiens. Woof.

Let’s go:

Other heated seats

Obviously, Sullivan isn't alone in facing a grim future if things don't turn around ASAP.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, D.J. Smith must be continuing to feel the heat. The Senators are also only .500 and just hired an NHL old hand, Jacques Martin, to be… ahem, a senior advisor to the coaching staff. One more loss, maybe two, and you gotta think Smith is gonna be out the door. And that was always going to happen, because this Senators team isn't built to be any good — they're ahead of just two teams in the East standings by points percentage right now — and if it hadn't been for the GM getting justifiably fired for reasons divorced from the team's current level of play, Smith would likely have been turfed already.

It always felt like Pierre Dorion's plan was to hope the team didn't stumble out of the gate and, when/if it did, to can the coach as a means of buying himself another few months' worth of paychecks. But now, because of the perception of "chaos" around the club, Smith gets to stay on, watch his team play just-okay hockey, and win exactly as much as it loses, which is hard to do in an NHL where they sometimes give a standings point for losing. The Sens have plenty of games in hand on just about everyone ahead of them in the standings, but when you're working on a seventh straight season without a postseason appearance, it's hard to take those points as a given, especially when the Senators have the fourth-worst regulation points percentage (.450) in the conference.

But the team directly below them in regulation points percentage (.404) is the Buffalo Sabres, where injuries can only explain away so much about Don Granato's fate. This was supposed to be the year the Sabres took a step forward. Instead, this.

It's not just that they're losing a lot, which of course they are, but it's also that they're playing really badly, and for the most part, they're not getting goaltending. It's easy to look back now and say a lot of their success last season was because they had the fifth-highest shooting percentage in the league, and that number dropping more than a full percentage point is certainly part of their struggles. But they're also playing much worse in terms of all-situations expected goals, and that's not all because Tage Thompson was hurt for a few weeks there, y'know?

The other team here is the Seattle Kraken. Not that I would have expected them to have the kind of season they did last season, or anything close to it, really. But you gotta think their success, such as it was, set an impossibly high bar for the coach, resetting expectations from management for what the club should do this year. They're 20th in xGF% right now, and when you don't have one of the highest shooting percentages in the last 15 years (understandable given the general lack of high-end skill on the roster), suddenly, the ground drops out from beneath you. They're a solid defensive team, but they don't have the goaltending to keep the puck out of their net at a reasonable rate, and they can't outscore their problems. So it's not that I blame Dave Hakstol, but making the playoffs and winning a round last year, completely by accident, might set him up for the firing squad.

I know the New York Islanders are also putting Lane Lambert on the hot seat a little bit, but they're at least well above .500 and currently fourth in their division by points percentage, so that's more wait-and-see even with some rough results.

It's kind of amazing that there are only a few coaches out there whose seats feel definitively hot, but I guess two have already been fired, too. Always an interesting time of year.

A troubling thought

I mentioned above how Washington's power play is really bad, and my mind keeps circling back to this one troubling thought: Alexander Ovechkin is either playing hurt or just plain cooked.

You hate to dismiss a guy whose shot is good enough that he could score eight goals in the next four games and no one would be surprised, but through 22 games, he has five goals. That's a pace for just 18.6 goals if he plays all 82 games this year. Last season, he had 42 in 73. He hasn't scored since Nov. 18.

Again, he's shooting 6.2 percent right now, a career low. If things even get to his second-lowest single-season shooting percentage starting tomorrow and keeps up the same number of shots per game (3.7, still 15th in the league), he'll be closer to a 25-goal guy at the end of the season, which is at least respectable.

But the thing is, he's 38 now, and we have to accept the reality that sometimes guys that age just come back from a summer break and they're fried. Just watching him out there is a bit of a bummer at this point. It's happened plenty over the years, and it can happen to all-world-talent, future-first-ballot Hall of Famers just as easily as anyone else.

I think most people, including Wayne Gretzky, want to see Ovechkin run down the all-time record, but right now, today, the 68 goals separating him from a record previously thought unassailable suddenly feel difficult to reach.

Going into the season, I honestly thought we'd be talking about Gretzky following the Capitals around like a Grateful Dead fan in '72 by Christmas 2025. Now I'm not sure it's gonna happen at all.

Stinks, man.

You may also be interested in:
Power Feelings: Another milestone approaches
Power Feelings: Another milestone approaches
This article is about:
NHL Ottawa Senators Pittsburgh Penguins Seattle Kraken NHL Sidney Crosby Alexander Ovechkin Don Granato Mike Sullivan
Scoring Leaders