Dan Di Sciullo - NHL Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There is always speculation about coaching changes at this point of the NHL season.
With the deadline to qualify for the playoffs approaching, a head coach keeping his job could hinge on whether his team makes it into the postseason.
There are other coaches who may need to do more than simply punching a ticket to the playoffs to stay employed and others who may leave their posts willingly to pursue new opportunities.
Depending on how the chips fall over the next few weeks and months, there could be a a host of high-profile coaches looking for work. As always, there will be no shortage of teams looking to fill vacancies behind the bench.
Here's a closer look at the array of coaches who soon may be available for hire.
MIKE BABCOCK - DETROIT RED WINGS
If Babcock leaves Detroit, it won't be due to a lack of success. Considered by many to be the best hockey coach in the world, he is the first man to join the Triple Gold Club from behind the bench, winning a Stanley Cup title (2008 - Detroit), an Olympic gold medal (2010, 2014 - Team Canada) and a IIHF World Championship (2004 - Canada).
But rumors of Babcock's departure from Detroit began before the season and are due to his contract status. He entered 2014-15 -- his 10th campaign with the Red Wings -- with just one year left on his contract and Babcock has said little about his intentions beyond this season. In fact, one of the few times Babcock broke his silence on the subject this season was back in December when he shot down reports that a contract extension with the Red Wings was imminent. Babcock called those reports "fantasy" and said he was not actively working on negotiations with general manager Ken Holland.
If Babcock leaves Detroit, there will be a long line of suitors looking to get him under contract, but it's likely only a few clubs will be able to afford his services. Numerous reports have suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs would be among them, as would the Philadelphia Flyers, presuming Philly lets go of current coach Craig Berube.
CLAUDE JULIEN - BOSTON BRUINS
Like Babcock, Julien has a Stanley Cup title on his resume, but the 2011 championship may not be enough to save his job. Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said as much back in February when he revealed both Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli could both be on the unemployment line if Boston fails to make the playoffs.
A lot can change over the last two weeks of the season, but Boston's postseason quest is not going so good at the moment. The Bruins recently lost their sixth straight game and enter Friday tied in points with Ottawa for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston not making the playoffs would count as one of the biggest disappointments of the season, but considering Julien has led the team to the Promised Land before and helped Boston win the Presidents' Trophy with the best regular season record in 2013-14, his firing would be utterly shocking.
If Babcock stays in Detroit and Julien is fired, the Boston coach would shoot to the top of the list of potential coaching candidates.
TODD MCLELLAN - SAN JOSE SHARKS
While we very well may see Babcock and Julien with the same teams come next season, there is little hope of the same thing happening with McLellan and the Sharks.
San Jose has disappointed in the playoffs for years and rock bottom came last spring when it coughed up a 3-0 series lead while losing in the opening round against the Los Angeles Kings. Just about everyone in the hockey pundit world believed McLellan would fall on his sword for that debacle, but shockingly he was allowed to return for 2014-15. However, with the Sharks 10 points out of a playoff berth and only eight games left on their schedule it's impossible to think McLellan could get another stay of execution.
Although his Sharks never met the high expectations placed upon them, McLellan is still young (47) and is a former protege of Babcock in Detroit. Things didn't work out in San Jose like they were supposed to, but McLellan could have plenty to offer in a new environment.
BRUCE BOUDREAU/KEN HITCHCOCK - ANAHEIM DUCKS/ST. LOUIS BLUES
Both Boudreau's Ducks and Hitchcock's are very close to officially clinching playoff berths, but merely getting an invitation to the dance may not be enough to keep them in their current jobs. A deeper run in the postseason may be required to allow them to carry on into next season.
The Ducks are closing in on a third straight division title, but although Boudreau's regular-season winning record is magnificent, his playoff resume is decidedly less so. Whether in Anaheim and Washington, he has never coached a team past the second round of the playoffs and another early exit this spring could have "Gabby" looking for work.
Hitchcock led Dallas to a Stanley Cup title back in 1999, and the Blues have been hoping he can pull the same trick in the Gateway City. After a second- round exit in 2012, St. Louis has been bounced in the first round in each of the last two seasons. The Blues are too talented for management to allow that to happen again without someone in authority paying the price, so it could be strikes and Hitch is out.
DAVE TIPPETT - ARIZONA COYOTES
Tippett is the winningest coach in franchise history, but he may not want to stick around to add to his record.
The Jack Adams Award winner after the 2009-10 season, Tippett's high point with the Coyotes came in the spring of 2012, when he led the club to the Western Conference finals. Since then, it's been three straight seasons without a playoff appearance, and that counts 2014-15 since Arizona already has been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
Despite the decline, it seems like it will be Tippett's choice if he wants to stay in Arizona or not. According to reports, his contract does allow him to opt out after this season and he may choose to exercise that right if he's interested in switching sides to coach a contender. It's evident the Coyotes are headed for a rebuild and Tippett may not be interested in guiding a team through what could be a difficult and lengthy path back to relevancy.