Fantasy Impact: The Florida Panthers have hired legendary coach Joel Quenneville to be their next head coach. Quenneville has 890 NHL wins under his belt, second most in NHL history. The deal is for a whopping $5.25 million per season for the next five years, reportedly with bonuses that could push that number to $7 million per year.
Quenneville, who has won the Cup three times, coached the Chicago Blackhawks for nearly 11 seasons. As such, unlike with most coach hires, it's impossible to do a before and after analysis on his impact with certain players. The Hawks certainly started scoring more once Quenneville left, indicating a switch to something more run-and-gun. Perhaps it's an indication of Coach Q's speed, or lack thereof, in the way the new NHL is placed. Emphasis on speed from the forwards and puck movement from the defensemen is the way of the world, and once Quenneville was fired the Blackhawks saw Patrick Kane have the best second half in the league in terms of offense (tied with Nikita Kucherov) and 'create' a new star defenseman in Erik Gustafsson, who actually reached 60 points.
The Florida Panthers have tons of talent. Arguably more than Chicago. But will the tight, hard-working coaching style that worked so well for Quenneville from 2008 to 2018 still work today? As already noted, this is one of the most successful coaches in NHL history. It would be stupid to write him off, or look at this move as anything but a positive one for Florida's future playoff hopes. But it does give one pause – especially after seeing Chicago's success after Coach Q left.
Florida's lack of wins is not due to their lack of offense. Their 267 goals in 2018-19 puts them ninth in the league (funny enough, just behind Chicago's 270). It was the 280 goals that the team allowed that is the problem. So look for things to tighten up defensively. This means that Florida's goaltending – whether it's James Reimer (two more years left on his deal), Roberto Luongo (three years left) or anyone else they may pick up in the summer – will see a vast improvement in numbers. It also puts Samuel Montembeault firmly in the "possible next Jordan Binnington" bracket, given the injury proneness of the above two netminders.
The eyesore of plus/minus (for those leagues that still use that) will probably look a little better. Mike Matheson (minus-24) and Keith Yandle (minus-17) will see help here. Speaking of Yandle, Quenneville really loves his veterans and plays them hard long past their best-before date (see Duncan Keith for details). So Yandle's job as elite PP man is safe. One question to consider is Mike Hoffman, who was minus-24. Will Coach Q work with him and deploy him in better situations? Will he cut back his ice time, sacrificing goals for defense? Or will GM Dale Tallon simply trade Hoffman and save Quenneville the challenge altogether. Hoffman has one year remaining on his deal that pays him $5.65 million per year.
I think you can probably remove 10 points from each of the top players, and five points from each of the second-tier guys (other than Vincent Trocheck, who should rebound after returning a little quickly from his injury this season). So Aleksander Barkov may see 86 points instead of 96, Jonathan Huberdeau at 82 instead of 92, with Evgenii Dadonov and Hoffman at 65. Trickle effect here is Yandle dropping for 62 to something in the low 50s. Expect rookie Henrik Borgstrom to be on a short leash. He won't be getting minus-14 again after two or three months and still sticking on the roster under Quenneville.
Overall, from a pure hockey standpoint, the signing is a good move that should get this talented team into the playoffs. From a fantasy standpoint, it hurts.
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