Coaching Changes in Vancouver and Florida
Fantasy Impact: The Vancouver Canucks have fired Head Coach Willie Desjardins, and the Florida Panthers have "re-assigned" Head Coach and GM Tom Rowe.
The entire Florida situation is a weird one. Dale Tallon put together a strong, young, deep team that made the playoffs in 2015-16 and was clearly on the rise. Tallon was then re-assigned and Tom Rowe took over. The Panthers proceeded to flounder their way out of the playoff mix and took a giant step backward. Tallon has just been renamed the team's General Manager, with Rowe as his "Special Advisor". Lesson learned? This is more than just a humble lesson – a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars just wasted an entire year.
In Rowe's defense, he did make the smart move of signing Jonathan Marchessault as an unrestricted free agent, and his aggressive signing of Keith Yandle seemed to start paying dividends in the second half. His signing of goaltender James Reimer for five years now looks like a good one, too. But his bad moves will haunt this organization – Reilly Smith for another five years and $25 million? How do you get rid of that albatross? Firing Gerard Gallant – could Tallon try to get him back or is that move unfixable? Jason Demers – a fine defenseman, but not one you lock in for five years at $4.5 million per season. Especially when you factor in that Demers took much needed ice time from the likes of Michael Matheson.
The moves in Florida will eventually right this ship. Can Tallon put them back on track as quickly as next season? Absolutely. But he'll need some help. A healthy Jonathan Huberdeau would be a great start, and if Aleksander Barkov can play even 72 or 73 games that would be nice, too. This team still has a quality core and is more than capable of bouncing back. And several of their players are on the cusp of that breakout age, which – if two or three of them hit at the same time – could make Tallon look like a genius. Vincent Trocheck, Barkov, Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Rowe's Marchessault are each ready to take that next step, with Nick Bjugstad looking to rebound.
For my money, the Canucks had the worst team in the NHL. The Avalanche are better (on paper). The Devils are better (on paper). The Coyotes are better (on paper). This is a bad team and GM Jim Benning knew it, and his signing of Loui Eriksson was his way of disguising it, and teasing the fans into thinking that perhaps they had a shot at the playoffs. They did not. Unless the Sedins were timewarped from 2006, this team wasn't going anywhere. And all Willie Desjardins could be blamed for was keeping the team out of the basement and robbing them of a couple of lottery balls (for what promises to be the worst draft year in over a decade and possibly in NHL history). His coaching decisions amounted to putting Minor League Player X into the lineup instead of Minor League Player Y. Or putting Minor League Player W on a line with the Sedins instead of Minor League Player V. Inconsequential. Not that Desjardins should be coach of the year, but he was a Lame Duck Coach from the start.
So what impact will this coaching change have on fantasy hockey? None. The Canucks scored 182 goals last season, the second-fewest in the league. No coach could have changed that for the better.
Ah the Coaching Carousel. And round and round we go…
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