Gerard Gallant is surprisingly the first coach to be fired this season.
The Florida Panthers have fired head coach Gerard Gallant. General manager Tom Rowe will take over as the team’s new head coach.
There are two ways to look at this.
Gallant’s firing comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that the team won a team-record 47 games last season. The slow start could be explained by the lengthy injuries to Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Jussi Jokinen. So Gallant was working without three of his top six forwards for a significant portion of time this season. Not fair.
Florida ownership taking a beating privately around the hockey community. Gallant is a highly respected and well liked hockey man.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 28, 2016
At least a Hurricanes employee was nice enough to help Gerard Gallant with his bags as he got into a taxi after being fired. (AP Photo) pic.twitter.com/04SVf0PiIb
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) November 28, 2016
On the other hand, the Panthers added Keith Yandle, Michael Matheson, Jason Demers, and super sleeper Jonathan Marchessault, so there were greater expectations this season. So the team’s 11-10-1 record was not indicative of a team on the rise. But Gallant was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy last season, so maybe he deserved more rope. Getting anywhere near that trophy must be a kiss of death.
The reasons here could be more political than performance-based. Gallant was hired by Dale Tallon, who was sent upstairs to be president and replaced by Rowe. The current regime in Florida is very analytics-focused, with Rowe leading the charge. One example of such a deal involved the Panthers sending former third overall pick Erik Gudbranson to the Vancouver Canucks for Jared McCann during the offseason. Although defensive defenseman Gudbranson brings many intangibles to a team, he is not well-regarded by the analytics community. Willie Mitchell and Dmitry Kulikov, who also are not strong possession-wise, are also gone from the roster.
Although Rowe is not well-known as a coach and has never coached behind an NHL bench, he has previous experience coaching in the AHL, most recently with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate. But it’s tough to put a finger on what Rowe’s coaching style will be. Regardless, mid-season coaching moves generally have a positive short-term impact on a team, so the move could have an immediate effect on any Panthers that you own. But the bigger question for fantasy owners is how this move will affect individual Panthers contributors.
Fantasy players impacted
Here’s a breakdown of the Panthers’ lines and power-play usage over the past three games.
17.32% EV BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – JAGR,JAROMIR – JOKINEN,JUSSI
17.04% EV MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN – SMITH,REILLY – TROCHECK,VINCENT
15.49% EV BJUGSTAD,NICK – MALGIN,DENIS – SCEVIOUR,COLTON
4.37% EV GRIFFITH,SETH – MACKENZIE,DEREK – RAU,KYLE
34.72% PP BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – JAGR,JAROMIR – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN
22.22% PP JOKINEN,JUSSI – MALGIN,DENIS – SMITH,REILLY – TROCHECK,VINCENT
55.56% PP EKBLAD,AARON – YANDLE,KEITH
30.56% PP DEMERS,JASON
Determining which players will be impacted by the move will depend on which players seem to be “analytics friendly.” In spite of the team’s .500 record and that they are around the league average in shot attempt percentage, many Panthers’ players have a positive shot attempt number. The only regular player that stands out negatively here is team captain Derek MacKenzie, who plays on the fourth line and doesn’t see any power-play time.
44-year-old Jaromir Jagr is a player who could be negatively impacted. The future Hall of Famer has a modest 11 points in 22 games, but only three of those points are goals. Jagr has been playing on the top line with Aleksander Barkov, but analytics stresses a more up-tempo breakout game, which could spell trouble for his future on the top line. On the other hand, Jagr isn't terrible in the analytics department. So the new boss could be the same as the old boss when it comes to Jagr's usage.
A possible Jagr replacement on the top line and top-unit power play could be Reilly Smith, who is a player who stacks up very well analytics-wise. Smith has just seven points in 22 games and just one point in his past nine, but Rowe could be viewing Smith as a player that simply needs the right opportunity. Smith’s 8.5 percent shooting accuracy is also a bit low when compared to his career average of 12 percent, so he could be due for an improvement anyway.
The move could also help Vincent Trocheck, who also has very strong possession numbers with an effective two-way game. With 13 points in 22 games, Trocheck is on pace for 48 points, slightly under his 53 points from last season. Rowe’s deployment of Trocheck could result in a turnaround for fantasy owners who were expecting more from Trocheck than what he has delivered in 2016-17.
Fantasy owners are discussing this right now. Give your take here!
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