In sports, the old saying goes that you can fire a coach but you can't fire the whole team. This doesn't mean the coach has all the blame but you still do what you can do. Sometimes a coach with the wrong style for the players is clearly a wrong fit but most of the time the coach is a scapegoat, according to a new study.

Bringing in a new coach rarely solves the problems, regardless of when it is done, according to a study from Mid Sweden University about hiring and firing coaches in the Swedish Elite Series ice-hockey league during the period 1975/76-2005/06. Despite this fact, coaches are nevertheless very publicly fired. The study shows that it is often a mistake to just replace the coach.

The aim of the study was to identify the relationship between coach replacement and team performance and to investigate the effect of factors such as coaching ability, coaching experience, and time of replacement. The findings are generally applicable, they say, and the situation is roughly the same in all major team sports.

So take heart, Ned Yost, it's the same all over the world. In Sweden, where this study was conducted, the Swedish elite hockey season is getting underway and people are already speculating about which coaches will be fired. Five were let go last season alone.

"The results of our study indicate rather clearly that it was a mistake to replace the coach in all of these cases," says Leif Arnesson at Mid Sweden University, one of the three researchers who carried out the study.

The researchers reviewed all game results and all coach replacements in the Elite Series during the period 1975/76-2005/06 using data retrieved from the Swedish Ice-Hockey Association database.

"The Study shows that replacing the coach seldom solves the problem, no matter when it is done," says Leif Arnesson. "If you're thinking about getting a new coach, you should at least avoid making your move while the season is underway. A word of advice to those who are in charge of recruiting coaches is therefore: 'Don't replace the coach, at any rate if you have a good coach, if you're in the middle of the season, or if the team is in trouble.'"