Effects From Coaching Changes, US Thanksgiving Playoff Team Predictions
First, I’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who live or are from south of the border. Hope you enjoyed your turkey and your time with family. Just so you know, those of us in Canada like to refer to that day you call Thanksgiving as “Thursday.”
Because US Thanksgiving is also all about the NFL, the NHL went dark on Thursday night. So for the first time since preseason, I didn’t have any games to write about! So I’ll have to think of something. Let’s see…
So we’ve already had four coaching changes this season: Los Angeles, Chicago, Edmonton, and St. Louis. You can view our fantasy impact piece for each coaching change by clicking on the link for each team above. As you know, the changes in Edmonton and St. Louis have been very recent. But we’ve already had a couple of weeks with the new bench bosses in Chicago and LA making their mark. Has anything happened that we should be aware of?
The most notable change that new coach Jeremy Colliton has made is loading up the Blackhawks’ top line with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Brandon Saad. Kane and Toews are what you might expect (6 points each in the 7 games since the coaching change). But the previously struggling Saad has also chipped in three goals and an assist in the five games he has played since Colliton replaced Joel Quenneville. Saad’s goals have also been scored in his last three consecutive games. With just 17 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues, Saad is definitely worth taking a flier on if he’s available. He also received a season-high 22:33 of icetime on Wednesday.
But that means that other Hawks’ forwards are hurt by the line shuffling, in particular Alex DeBrincat. After skating with Toews for much of the first quarter of the season, Debrincat has been moved onto a line with Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz. Debrincat has just one point (a goal) over his last seven games, while his linemates haven’t helped much with two points each over that span. Overall, Debrincat has just one goal in his last 11 games, Anisimov has none over his last 11 games, and Schmaltz has one goal over his last 13 games.
As Dobber mentioned, Brent Seabrook has received increased power-play time and fired nine shots on goal on Wednesday. This might lead to a short-term spike in production, but I haven’t been that interested in Seabrook for fantasy purposes for at least a couple years now, and that won’t likely change now.
Seabrook’s long-time partner in crime had been on a major slide since before the firing. Duncan Keith had been held without a point in nine consecutive games before chipping in an assist on Wednesday. So as far as power-play blueline deployment goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Even if Keith and Seabrook aren’t as productive as they used to be.
Ever since busting out of the gate with five points in his first three games, Henri Jokiharju has just five points in his last 19 games. To boot, his power-play time has been sporadic. Jokiharju has a bright future as a potential keeper, but in single-season leagues it might be time to cut him loose. If there’s an injury to Keith or Seabrook or the Hawks fall well out of the playoff picture, Colliton could decide to throw him onto the first unit to see what he has. Then we could be discussing him in single-season leagues again.
Probably the most glaring example of a player who has been hurt by the appointment of Willie Desjardins as Kings’ coach is Ilya Kovalchuk. After scoring a goal and two assists in Willie D’s debut on November 6 against Anaheim, Kovy has now gone seven games without a point. After being held to just 12:47 overall on Monday, Kovalchuk was back up to 16:02 on Wednesday.
But as much as Kovalchuk has supposedly struggled (five goals in 21 games), he’s actually the Kings’ leading scorer with 14 points. That’s a scary thought if you’re a Kings’ fan. That means we’re looking directly at Anze Kopitar. So far, the coaching change has had little effect on Kopitar bouncing back from what has been a noticeably subpar first quarter, as Kopitar has just three points over his last eight games.
Since Kopitar seems to thrive on additional icetime, and Willie D was known for disbursing it evenly during his Vancouver days, it’s worth checking out the icetime splits for both Kopitar and Dustin Brown, who regularly logged at least 20 minutes per game last season:
Time on ice by coach:
That’s right, ATOI is down nearly two minutes per game for both players. It’s worth mentioning that Brown also has three points over his last eight games. So if you’re a Kopitar owner, the best thing you can do is cross your fingers and hope things will improve, as selling low is not the right approach.
The only truly hot player (and we’re not talking red-hot) under Desjardins is Tyler Toffoli, who has five points (2g-3a) over his last eight games. The Kings as a whole have scored 15 goals over those eight games, so you’re hard-pressed to find anyone else that has been helped by the coaching change. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a long season in LA.
Jeff Carter is glued to my bench at the moment. Like Kovalchuk, Carter has gone seven games without a point. He also has just four goals in 21 games, but his shooting percentage (6.6%) is well below his career average (12.4%). Carter doesn’t log the kind of minutes that Kopitar or Brown does, so he should be largely unaffected by the coaching change. Not only is there a buy-low opportunity given the low shooting percentage, but you might also be able to find Carter on your league’s waiver wire, as his Yahoo ownership has already dipped to 55 percent.
In case you missed it, the Penguins have placed Matt Murray on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. So that means we’ll likely see even more of Casey DeSmith, as well as a Tristan Jarry recall. As Dobber said yesterday, for some reason the Pens are playing much better in front of DeSmith as they have been in front of Murray. So if DeSmith starts to slide, expect the Pens to turn quickly to Jarry. Don’t be fooled by Jarry’s AHL numbers this season (2.89 GAA and .909 SV%), which are kind of around league average. Either way, the Penguins’ goaltending situation isn’t nearly as desirable as it has been in years past.
First, from the article introduction, regarding Ken Hitchcock’s immediate impact on a team:
Here’s what else we know: team defence gets better almost immediately. Dallas went from 260 goals against to 222 in his first full year. Philadelphia from 192 to 166. He coached 62 games in his opening season with Columbus. The Blue Jackets dropped from 276 to 244 when he joined for most of 2006-07. St. Louis was 228 to 155.
My immediate thought was to recommend buying low on Cam Talbot. As in pick him up for a very low price if you can.
But then here’s the second note. I listened to the podcast and at about the 7:40 mark, Elliotte Friedman stated that “Mikko Koskinen is the number one guy.” Hmmm, Koskinen is only 21 percent owned in Yahoo leagues. He's also the likely starter against Anaheim on Friday. So I added him to my team almost immediately. Although Koskinen has the better numbers at the moment, I’m not sure if he'll remain the starter for the rest of the season. But right now you have a new starting goalie who will reap the benefits of the Hitchcock effect. That means you need to add Koskinen immediately if he’s available in your league and you need a goalie.
The Senators and Oilers swung a minor trade on Thursday, with Chris Wideman heading to Edmonton. Wideman hadn’t ever been a 20-minute-per-game defenseman this season, but he was receiving second-unit power-play minutes in Ottawa. Wideman has a bit of offensive upside, although he’s probably only worth an add in the very deepest of leagues. I would totally expect to see him on the Oils’ second power-play unit in the near term, though. Long term, however, he’s simply keeping the seat warm for Evan Bouchard or Ethan Bear.
Public service announcement time: With today being Black Friday (is it an official US holiday now?), you’ll need to set your lineup earlier than normal. The Rangers/Flyers game starts at 1 pm ET (10 am PT), with five more games starting at 4 pm ET (1 pm PT). The Kings are the only team not in action, so make sure you bench any of their players if you’re in a daily league. And as always for your goaltending matchups, don’t forget to check Goalie Post.
You’ve probably heard by now the stat that most teams that are in a playoff spot by US Thanksgiving will make the playoffs. So I’m going to take a look at the playoff teams and tell you whether I think they will make it. Just a simple fun exercise, but there might be a fantasy tidbit or two in there.
Tampa Bay – Yes
Toronto – Yes
Buffalo – Yes, but as a wild card. They are a much-improved team though.
Columbus – Yes
NY Rangers – No, because the Metropolitan is too strong and the Rangers will ultimately focus on their rebuild.
Washington – Yes
Boston – Yes, assuming they get over all their injuries.
I’m thinking Pittsburgh and Florida make it. The Penguins will pull through because of their experience. So why Florida, if they’re at the bottom of the conference? Because they’re the only team in the entire league that has not played at least 20 games. They have as many as three games in hand on the teams that they’re chasing. Call it a fearless forecast if you want. But this prediction is contingent on Roberto Luongo staying healthy.
Nashville – Yes
Minnesota – Yes
Winnipeg – Yes
Calgary – Yes. If they go with David Rittich over Mike Smith and Rittich turns out to be legit, I wouldn’t count them out of winning a watered-down Pacific Division. Throw away goaltending and the Flames are a very strong team.
San Jose – Yes
Anaheim – No. I’m surprised they slipped into third into third in the Pacific, but that’s how cupcake the Pacific is this season. The only team with a worse goal differential in the entire NHL is their crosstown rival in LA. Both SoCal teams are proving to be too old and slow for the new faster-paced NHL.
Colorado – Yes
Dallas – Yes. Only because St. Louis and Chicago have issues and both West wild card teams will be from the Central.
As for the other team I think makes it from the Pacific, I’ll stick with Vegas because I predicted they would make the playoffs at the start of the season. But a good darkhorse pick here is Arizona.
Until recently, Vancouver occupied a playoff spot in the Pacific. I’m not going to go out on a limb and state they will make the playoffs. They have too many issues with defense and goaltending. But here’s a stat to store in the ol’ memory bank for later if you like home/road splits: Thanks to some lengthy early-season road trips, the Canucks play 22 of their last 37 games at home.
So I’ve picked a total of 13 of the 16 teams occupying a playoff spot to make the playoffs. Let’s see what happens!
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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