Tuesday morning saw the axe finally fall in Edmonton. It wasn't the complete house-cleaning that many forecasted, but Todd McLellan was shown the door after three years as the bench boss.
Enter Ken Hitchcock. Many felt that Hitch had coached his last game in the NHL when he announced his retirement last April. Apparently, a chance to lead a group headlined by Connor McDavid was enough to bring him back. It certainly wasn't the amazing weather that Edmonton boasts.
The impact of Hitchcock behind the bench has long been documented. He reigns in his stars, asks a great deal from all of his players, invokes a tight-checking and responsible system that is predicated on the team buying in. He has often brought with him immediate success but his style is considered old-school and new-age players will inevitably tune him out after awhile.
The result is a team that takes fewer chances and scores fewer goals. That's not so good for fantasy skaters. It is often a boon to the goaltenders though. Cam Talbot has been suffering greatly behind a porous defense corps and his own personal struggles. Mikko Koskinen has been breathing down his neck of late posting a 0.917 save percentage on the year and appearing in three of the last four contests.
It will be interesting to see who Hitchcock goes with first and who he leans on. My expectation is that Talbot will get another handful of chances with the new coach. He better perform above the 0.888 SV% he's had in 14 contests this year if he hopes to continue to see action.
I don't imagine this move stymies McDavid much. Hitch may lean on him in defensive situations more as he did with Tyler Seguin in Dallas. But the Oilers' captain is already skating over 22 minutes a night. It'll be difficult to ride him much harder.
The re-formed duo of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will be a situation to watch. Does Hitch like Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins as the matchup second centre? Major fantasy implications here that can only be speculated on until we see where the pendulum lands. Drake Caggiula's spot on the top line is far from safe now as well.
Edmonton's power play has managed to crawl out from the basement where it lived last season. It's currently 15ht in the league with a 20.6 percent conversion rate. Can Hitchcock improve on that? Well, we're not really sure. Here's a look at his previous tenures and how their power-plays ranked:
Hitchock's teams, PP rank:— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) November 20, 2018
2017-18, DAL: 19th
2011-17, STL: 4th
2006-10, CBJ: 30th
2002-06, PHI: 8th
1996-02, DAL: 6th
So I guess anything's possible, but more good than bad here. https://t.co/U8dDu1SYkl
Players this helps (in order)
Players this hurts (in order)
All forwards not named McDavid.
As mentioned above, we really need to see how Hitchcock deploys his units. Outside of a more stingy defensive scheme that can benefit the goaltenders, help a penalty kill and reduce the sheer amount of minuses, it's more likely that skaters see a reduction in production versus an uptick.
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