Amid recent reports that he used racist language while coaching in the AHL a decade ago, Bill Peters has resigned as head coach of the Calgary Flames. Geoff Ward has taken over as the Flames’ interim coach.
There have been many reports and opinions shared recently about this topic. The focus on this post will strictly be on the fantasy implications of the coaching change in Calgary. If you would like to weigh in on the topic as a whole, you may do so on this Forum thread.
It’s easy to assume Ward, a former schoolteacher who has coached at various levels for over two decades, will assume a gentler approach with his players. However, there were no reports that Peters had been abusive in any way in his time as the Flames’ head coach.
Lost in the turmoil was the fact that the Flames had lost seven of Peters’ last eight games as coach. Ward won his first game as the Calgary coach on Wednesday, a 3-2 decision over Buffalo. The line combinations appeared to be status quo on Wednesday, with Ward likely acting in a caretaker role in administering the original plan. With Ward now assuming the head coach role (at least for the time being), changes could come, although he may not bring as much of a different perspective as an outsider to the organization would.
When Ward was hired as an associate coach to Peters in 2018, he helped improve the Calgary power play from 29th to 18th in the NHL. Today, the power play has sunk down to 24th, so this might be one area that Ward focuses on in order to improve offensive production, particularly that of the big guns. For example, Matthew Tkachuk has only one power-play goal all season after scoring 11 PPG and 10 PPG over the previous two seasons. For more on the cold starts from Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau, see the latest Frozen Tools Forensics.
It will also be interesting to see how Ward handles the goalie situation. David Rittich has played more games than any other goalie this season (22). Rittich has outplayed Cam Talbot in the latter’s limited duty, so there’s no reason to assume his starting role isn’t safe. However, Rittich’s highest single-season game-played total was 48 games back in 2015-16 in the Czech league. The new coach might provide Rittich with more rest.
Many recent coaching changes have had their desired effects, from Sheldon Keefe’s strong start to Craig Berube’s Stanley Cup win. Peters is not out of a job because of wins and losses, and this is a different dynamic because of the attention this story received this week. Don’t expect Ward to make sweeping changes, at least initially, while the Flames try to focus on just playing hockey and getting back into a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference.
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