Is it just easier to quickly recap which NHL coaches haven’t been replaced? I feel like that might be faster.
We’ve had more in a season before, to be sure. There were seven midseason coaching changes just last year. Although there were zero the year before, so obviously this ebbs and flows.
This week, the focus is on the Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks, who have traded in Jim Montgomery for Rick Bowness and Peter DeBoer for Bob Boughner, respectively. We have one game of the Stars under Bowness and one of the Sharks under Boughner to check on the depth charts.
The way things unfolded in Dallas, it’s not as if Bowness had any time, nor will to try to tinker with the lineups. He was also serving as the assistant under Montgomery and the other assistants all remain, so it’s not as if this is a new regime that will bring in sweeping changes. Perhaps we can get some consistency though?
The Stars have swapped out their lines so frequently, it’s difficult to keep track of who is getting a chance to play with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn from game to game, let alone week to week. Alexander Radulov is the most-frequent choice, but by no means has played there with any consistency.
While Seguin and Benn have played 281 minutes at even strength together, that total dips to 113 minutes when you include Radulov into the equation. For quick frame of reference, the Florida Panthers top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov has played together for 316 minutes at even strength this season.
I have no evidence that Bowness is more likely to pick a line and stick with it, other than to suggest that the constant-tinker approach is the exception more than it is the rule. So a new coach is more likely to be a little more traditional with the lines — especially when he coached his first NHL game 30 years ago.
Would I run out to trade for Seguin, Benn or Radulov? No. This change, as we all know, wasn’t a hockey decision, so I’m not expecting sea change. Do I like the idea of floating a fair, if slightly lowball offer out to see if you can pry them away below value? Of course, that’s never a bad idea. But I really like that approach with an underperforming Radulov, who, if you’ll recall, has scored 72 points in each of the past two seasons.
Boughner takes over in San Jose after the team cleared house of all other coaches except for him. This, in contrast to Dallas, is an opportunity for some major changes. And sure enough, Boughner did exactly what EA Sports’ algorithms would have done with the lines: Stacked them for Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers.
It was Logan Couture with Evander Kane and Timo Meier … in other words, the best center and two best wingers, together for the first time this season. On the second line, Joe Thornton played on a scoring line for the first time this season, flanked by Kevin Labanc and Tomas Hertl. This is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Sharks offense and it has me excited for most of them.
The defense fell apart on Thursday against the Rangers, but that was never the Boughner calling card. His Panthers finished 10th in goals scored, but 24th in goals against during his two years in Florida. So, no, I’m not keen on Martin Jones improving. But if you see Timo Meier as having been dropped in your shallow league (for sure in a few of them), or if Kevin Labanc is still available in your deeper league, take a chance on them. This offense and power play should be improving with Boogie at the helm.
As an aside, is promoting Boughner also an early play to be in the mix on Taylor Hall if he moves on from New Jersey? Both had their pinnacle of success together with the Windsor Spitfires a decade ago. Just saying.
Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 16 to Dec. 22
A 50-game schedule stays relatively balanced, with all teams playing a minimum of three games.
The Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators have four games.
The New York Rangers are the daily lineup choice. They play Monday, Friday and Sunday, which are among the lighter days on the schedule. Tony DeAngelo should be added in any league where you can change lineups daily for next week. Kaapo Kakko might be an intriguing play, too, given his current role with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. Both should be available in about half of leagues.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense), which is on the left for each game, and “D” (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that are available for potential use. Ownership below 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff. I’ll try to also include players below 10 percent ownership whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
New York Islanders: Don’t look now, but Brock Nelson is on pace for 31 goals and 65 points, with a whopping 266 shots on goal. Twenty-nine games isn’t 82, but it’s a decent sample size. Considering he’s never eclipsed 200 shots in a season before, this is a new side we are seeing of Nelson. His average ice time is only up 46 seconds on last year, so this isn’t just a counting stats thing. He’s not getting the love, rostered in about half of leagues at this stage. … If you are in a deeper league, you could consider taking a shot at Ross Johnston. He’s a fourth-line energy guy by trade, but the Isles are rolling him out with Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey of late. If your leagues counts hits or PIMs, I wouldn’t hesitate to use him.
Detroit Red Wings: With Dennis Cholowski sent to the minors, Filip Hronek was the power-play quarterback for the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. It’s absolutely OK if your response is: “Who replaces who in the what now?” Cholowski hasn’t been doing much with the role. But Hronek, who does have some offensive upside, had two power-play helpers in his first shot at the gig. … Anthony Mantha’s return doesn’t appear imminent (though he is getting closer). His return will change something with the lineup, as Robby Fabbri has done quite well in his stead on the top line and Filip Zadina has had a nice run of late. There isn’t room for all of them, plus Tyler Bertuzzi, on a line and power play with Dylan Larkin.
St. Louis Blues: Oskar Sundqvist had two points in his second consecutive game on Thursday. You may question that, but his previous outing was Nov. 27, when he played about half a dozen shifts, scored two goals and got hurt. Thursday was his first game back and he was buried on the fourth line, but still managed two points. There is opportunity on this team with Vladimir Tarasenko out and Sundqvist is a good candidate to get a scoring-line shot sooner than later.
Colorado Avalanche: Although he’s practising with the team, Philipp Grubauer remains out of the lineup. Pavel Francouz is making quite a statement about his own usefulness. Aside from Monday’s five-goal allowance to Calgary, the backup hasn’t had a rough outing since early November – a stretch of eight appearances. He’s absolutely in play if Grubauer is still out. … Somewhat quietly, Valeri Nichushkin has been a factor for the better part of a month. If someone had the incredible foresight to pop him into a lineup for the past 11 games, they’d have six goals and eight points to show for it. It’s nothing to write home to Russia about, but considering he isn’t getting scoring-line opportunities, it’s worth being aware of his improved performance in a limited role.
So, umm, Tristan Jarry had his shutout streak snapped by the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. What did he do on Thursday? Started it up again with an overtime blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The time to handcuff him to Matt Murray was a few days ago. Hopefully you’re not too late.
Do we have to acknowledge that, shortly after the coaching change in Calgary, Milan Lucic has three goals and four points in his last five games?