Coaches are hired to be fired. If you don't believe that ask any of the NHL's current bench bosses about job security.
Ron Wilson is heading into his third season as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and he has this season and next left on a four-year, $5.6-million deal he signed in June 2008.
His job is safe for now but that could change in a heartbeat.
As is usually the case for September in Toronto, expectations are sky-high for the new season. If the Maple Leafs stumble out of the gate for a second straight year, the vultures will surely be circling on the beleaguered head coach.
The Buds have mustered only 64 victories in two seasons under Wilson's guidance. Granted, he wasn't given much to work with, but the team took a step backward last season when they finished 29th overall.
What could be used as a further indictment of the Leafs' futility with Wilson calling the shots is the state of Toronto's power-play and penalty-killing units, which were worst in the league last year.
Like it or not, that's a couple of strikes against Wilson, who was also a head coach in Anaheim, Washington and San Jose.
His resume includes taking Washington to the Stanley Cup final in 1998, coaching the United States to the 1996 World Cup of Hockey title, and mining silver as head coach of the USA Olympic team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
He begins his 17th season as an NHL head coach just 16 victories shy of 600 and would become the seventh coach ever to reach that milestone.
It is worth mentioning here that Toronto has the longest Stanley Cup drought (43 years), and they are the only Canadian team not to have made the Stanley Cup final in the past 17 years (Montreal did it in 1993; Vancouver, 1994; Calgary 2004; Edmonton, 2006; Ottawa, 2007).
So the heat is on. This could be the season that makes or breaks Wilson's tenure in Toronto.
From the outset, though, he hasn't made life easier on himself or his team. Wilson has gone on record to say he thinks his current squad is good enough to make the playoffs. Indeed, the Leafs could be in the mix with a half-dozen teams vying for the last two playoff berths, but the noose will tighten if Wilson and company let the post-season slip away yet again.
The bottom line is Wilson's time could be up -- sooner rather than later -- and that decision will be up to his old buddy, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.
Out of interest of speculation, here are some scenarios that could lead to Wilson being axed this season:
A Horrible Start
The Maple Leafs have a tough first month of the schedule, and there is every chance they could emerge with a .500 record at best when November rolls around. It may be a good thing they play the New York Rangers three times in October, along with the Florida Panthers. But a sub-.500 record will put Wilson in the crosshairs.
Relations With His Ace Defenceman Ice Over
All hell breaks loose in his relationship with Tomas Kaberle. Wilson and Kaberle say they get along fine but many people are not buying the sudden love-in between the two. The media will be watching to see how Wilson will use Kaberle and before you know it, a coach-killing controversy could be created.
His Sardonic Wit Backfires
The players start to tune him out. Wilson can be sarcastic and aloof at times and that will only last so long, especially the sarcasm. Having hand-picked Dion Phaneuf as captain gives Wilson an ally in the dressing room. It's a good thing the Leafs are fairly young and impressionable because it would be easy for players to get a jaded view of the coach.
Burke Pulls the Trigger
Halfway through the season, the Leafs still haven't responded and a coaching change is the only thing left in Burke's bag of tricks. Kaberle continues to not accept a trade and the GM decides he likes his team more than he likes his coach. Wilson has shown he can't make the difference.
The Leafs Miss the Playoffs - Again
It's April and the Maple Leafs failed yet again to make the Stanley Cup playoffs for a third straight year with Wilson as coach. One point out of a playoff berth might as well be 100. The Leafs HAVE to make the playoffs for Wilson to keep his job.