Can coaching changes have an impact in fantasy leagues? Sure! For starters, all players on the team begin with a clean slate as they attempt to make a solid first impression with the new bench boss. As well, a new coach provides a fresh set of eyes to look at some of the problems that the old coach couldn’t handle, meaning possible improved results for struggling players.
With that in mind, it was a bad day for coaches of struggling Southeast Division teams, as Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice were both handed their walking papers on Monday. Dale Hunter and Kirk Muller will both make their NHL head coaching debuts on Tuesday, which should make the St. Louis/Washington and Florida/Carolina matchups two to watch. This version of the Pick Six includes players who could be positively impacted by Monday’s coaching changes.
Alex Ovechkin, LW, WAS, and Alexander Semin, RW, WAS – start
In a moment of prophecy a few days ago, I hinted that the situation in Washington would be coming to a head in short order. Sure enough, the Capitals weren’t going to fire the two Alexes, so Boudreau was not going to win this standoff. Hunter is known for a wide-open style as the long-time coach of the OHL’s London Knights, so you should be able to put 2 and 2 together in this one. The coaching change is more likely to turn these two back into elite scorers than it is to make the Caps the team to beat in the Eastern Conference in this year’s playoffs.
Cam Ward, G, CAR – start
Just as Hunter should bring the Caps back to a good ol’ Southeast run-and-gun style, Muller will probably coach the same way that he played: effective two-way hockey. A more serious commitment to defensive responsibility should at the very least mean that Ward’s disappointing numbers (8-10-1, 3.10 GAA) improve. The Canes led the league in shots on goal allowed last season (2725), and they also lead the league in that total this season (794). Do the math, and that means that Ward faces an average of nearly 32 shots per night. Do the math, and a .900 SV% means that he will allow an average of three goals – right where he stands now. Those numbers have to improve under Muller.
Cory Schneider, G, VAN – start
Is there officially a goaltending controversy in Vancouver? Roberto Luongo owners have to be impatient right now, as the now-healthy starter is currently taking a backseat to the red-hot redhead. How hot has Schneider been? Four consecutive wins, including two shutouts and only three goals allowed. Schneider has been named the starter again for Tuesday’s home game against Columbus. Don’t worry, Luongo owners, he’ll get his turn. But the tea leaves suggest that Schneider should post yet another effective outing, perhaps even bailing the Canucks out if they play to the level of their competition as they have a time or two during the win streak.
Magnus Paajarvi, RW, EDM – add
The Oilers haven’t officially released MRI results on Taylor Hall, but don’t assume that the news will be positive. Any extended Hall absence should mean that fellow young gun Paajarvi will draw back into the lineup. Paajarvi’s stat line this season is hardly big league (one assist in 19 games), but deeper leaguers may wish to make a speculative grab in case he catches fire with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Bobby Ryan, LW, ANA – watch
If I employed Ryan on one of my fantasy teams (which I don’t), I would continue to play him as I normally would. However, I would also watch his production like a hawk. Ryan, who was listed in the top 10 in Yahoo pre-draft rankings (which I didn’t agree with), has just 11 points (7g-4a) and a (-6) in 23 games – numbers hardly worthy of where he was probably drafted. The Ducks’ recent struggles have the rumormongers suggesting that they need to trade Ryan in order to make it work as a contender. To keep our earlier theme of coaching changes, perhaps the Ducks will be the next team to go in a different direction behind the bench. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I mention Ryan’s name in this article this season.
Jonas Hiller, G, ANA – bench
If Ward’s numbers are bad this season, then Hiller’s numbers are even worse (5-10-4, 3.22 GAA, .897 GAA). Hiller has just one win in 11 tries this month, with a goals-against average that is pushing 4.00. The Ducks simply don’t look like a team that is going to turn it around anytime soon. In fact, the downtrodden Columbus Blue Jackets are now only one point in arrears for the race for 14th in the conference. If you are willing to sit Steve Mason, then you should surely be willing to sit Hiller right now.
Follow me on Twitter: @Ian_Gooding