Ramblings: Gallant fired; Hart injured; Farabee demoted; Ritchie waived – January 16

Michael Clifford

2020-01-16

 

The Vegas Golden Knights fired coach Gerard Gallant on Wednesday morning, which came as a pretty big surprise (though I’ll get to that). He led the expansion franchise to a Stanley Cup Final in their first year and another playoff appearance in their second year. He was replaced by Peter DeBoer, who had been fired by San Jose earlier in the season.

One thing I will say is that while I do not agree with the firing, it’s pretty obvious to see why this happened. The Pacific Division is mostly terrible top to bottom and that team, as of Wednesday, is on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Yes, the division is tight and in a week they could be at the top of the division, but here’s the issue: they aren’t banking points. We’ve seen teams with great fancy stats as Vegas has this year not make the playoffs before. Montreal last year was fourth in xGF% and missed. The year before, Carolina was sixth in xGF% and missed. This year, Los Angeles is fifth in xGF% and will assuredly miss the playoffs. At some point, teams need to put points on the board or run the risk of missing the postseason. The standings don’t care how good your team is if they don’t actually win hockey games. Yes, of course this is a PDO-fueled firing, but this is a results-driven business. Yes, I am surprised they fired him, because it’s not something I would do, but I’m also not in charge of a billion-dollar franchise whose success is determined in some significant portion by luck.

This also comes on the heels of perhaps the most spectacular single-game collapse by any playoff team in the last quarter-century. Yes, I’m still adamant that it is largely the fault of the officials and the league that Vegas was bounced in the first round last year, but at the end of the day, Gallant was the guy behind the bench for that collapse. Someone has to take responsibility for that, and while the players should certainly shoulder a lot of the blame, Gallant was the guy behind the bench, and you can’t fire the team. (That Gallant kept rolling out Deryk Engelland shift after shift as they were getting annihilated on that PK is one thing I haven’t seen discussed but is absolutely worth of discussion. That is completely on him.)

Had the penalty kill turned out differently in that first-round last season, or the team not had a month where they had regulation losses to Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles, and a decimated Columbus team, maybe we aren’t talking about Gallant’s firing. But at the end of the day, the early success of this franchise set a bar with the current roster that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. Gallant’s own success was the mechanism of his downfall. I also firmly believe he’ll be back coaching in the NHL by next season.

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Joel Farabee has been returned to the AHL by the Philadelphia Flyers. Once he started losing his slotting and was skating game after game on the fourth line, it seemed kind of inevitable this would happen. Much the same with Morgan Frost. Both are assuredly impact players down the line, it just doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year.

Staying with the Flyers, goaltender Carter Hart will be out until after the All-Star Game with an abdominal injury. It looks to be Brian Elliott’s net for the foreseeable future, but I imagine it’ll be whoever wins games will get the net (Alex Lyon was called up as a replacement).

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Brett Ritchie was put on waiver by the Bruins. We’ll find out tomorrow if anyone’s claimed him.

Normally, I don’t worry too much about waiver pickups but Ritchie is a guy I’ve been high on for a while. Not because I think he’s a great player, but because he’s shown flashes in the past of being able to produce high shot rates and commensurate goal rates, combined with a lot of hits (he’s basically at three hits per game this year playing 10 minutes a night). Though, now that it hasn’t worked out in Dallas or Boston, I wonder how much rope he has left in the NHL as the guy turns 27 this summer. I bet he gets one more shot next year somewhere else. I hope he can make the most of it.

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Antti Raanta was skating at Arizona practice on Wednesday. With that said, we’ve seen how fragile the goaltending situation can be in Arizona so let’s not get overly excited just yet. We need these guys to stay healthy.

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Head on over to the Dobber Shop to grab your copy of the Mid-Season Guide! 

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One question I got on Twitter last week was to go over some second-half bounce backs. Now, I’ll definitely investigate a few options, but I’d also recommend picking up the aforementioned Dobber Mid-Season Guide. It is loaded with much more information pertaining to the second half of this season that whatever will be contained in the next thousand words or so. It really is a great resource for anyone participating in second half leagues, looking to make a push for a title, or gearing up for a run next season. There’s something for everyone.

 

Joe Pavelski

It’s been a (predictably) rough year for Pavelski, who is on pace for under 40 points after surpassing the 60-point mark in every 82-game season since 2010. He shot over 20 percent last year; of course he was going to regress. I don’t think anyone expected this hard of a regression, though. It seems the pendulum has swung too far the other way as he’s on pace for his lowest shooting percentage in a season since 2010-11.

One problem with Pavelski is a lack of shooting. His shot on goal rate this year is the lowest of his career, but there is a sign of a turnaround: since the firing of Jim Montgomery, Pavelski’s shot rate per 60 minutes has climbed from 5.49 to 6.88. It’s still low for him, but at least it’s improvement, and a conscious effort is being made.

The big turnaround will come on the power play. His IPP on the PP is a career-low 30.8 percent (has never been below 44 percent before), his shooting percentage is a 10-year low, as is his on-ice shooting percentage (the team’s scoring rate on the PP with him on the ice). He’s being used on a loaded top PP unit and there are a lot of signs of a turnaround on said PP. Now would be the time to invest for cheap.

 

Tomas Hertl

This probably depends on the type of league in which the fantasy owner is participating, in that this is for leagues with plus/minus. As we sit here on Wednesday, January 15th, Hertl is a minus-18. He has never been worse than minus-8 in a season. Of course, his previous plus/minus ratings aren’t the reason for a turnaround here.

The reason for the turnaround is the save percentage Hertl enjoys when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5. That save percentage, as it sits right now, is .866, the second-worst mark among all forwards with at least 500 minutes player at 5-on-5 this year. The good news is that no forward in the NHL last year (minimum of 1000 minutes) finished with an on-ice save percentage under .875. The bad news is that the forward who finished in last in 2018-19 by on-ice save percentage was also Tomas Hertl, but at .876. So, hey, there’s going to be improvement!!!

San Jose is improving as a team (they’re just outside the top-10 in expected goal share since Christmas) and their goaltending cannot possibly get worse for Hertl. He’s a guy whose plus/minus should rebound.

 

Tyson Barrie

This one seems pretty obvious but after the firing of Mike Babcock, Barrie was immediately slotted to the top PP unit over Morgan Rielly. Now with both Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin out of the lineup, it’s hard not to see Barrie eating as many non-PK minutes as humanly possible. I would be concerned that he only played 18 minutes in Sandin’s first game, but that was a blowout against a lottery team. There was no need to play Barrie for 25 minutes.

It’s doubtful Barrie has a second half that comes anywhere close to good enough to make up for his initial draft investment, but acquiring him now could certainly be profitable. Maybe you can convince the owner that with Dermott moving to the top pair and Sandin having a great first game back, Barrie isn’t as appealing as they might think? Nothing wrong with trying to work some Jedi mind tricks.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency MTL Players
20.8% MAX DOMI BRENDAN GALLAGHER CHARLES HUDON
20.8% ARTTURI LEHKONEN NICK SUZUKI JORDAN WEAL
19.5% JOEL ARMIA PAUL BYRON PHILLIP DANAULT

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