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Fantasy Effect of NHL Coaching Changes

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, this one talking about all the coaching changes we’ve seen in 2022 and what we should expect their effect to be for fantasy. Before we jump in, be sure to check out the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon for even more content; I’ll be providing extras for Patreon members all summer and right now you can get in that group for a mere $1/month. I’m also in the Discord every day and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Luke Richardson, the Easter Island statues, or any other mysteries wrapped up in enigmas.

Before we dig into this list of new coaches for 2022, let’s define what coaching has a direct effect on. There are three things I consider to be fantasy relevant insofar as coaching goes: even strength ice time, power play time distribution, and player-specific usages. The even strength usage is pretty straightforward: does this coach tend to play his top forwards 20+ minutes a game? Or does he tend to roll lines and have the top 9 all play very similar even strength minutes? Power play time distribution is key as well, as we see near 50/50 splits between the “first” and “second” power play units in places like St. Louis, whereas over in Edmonton Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are typically on the ice for nearly the full duration of every power play they get. Lastly, player-specific usages can be very subjective but can help us identify some under-the-radar players who may get a greater opportunity than it may appear on the surface. Think about how Sheldon Keefe identified Michael Bunting as the Zach Hyman replacement on the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner line; in hindsight Bunting seems like an obvious choice given that his playstyle is very similar to Hyman’s in a lot of ways and Keefe clearly liked having someone fill that role on the top line left wing. All of these factors play into my thinking as I evaluate and project each individual player for the 2022-23 NHL season, and I hope this discussion on the topic will help you form your own conclusions as well.

BOS: Jim Montgomery

Montgomery joins the Bruins having been the head coach in Dallas for a season and a half and most recently a pair of seasons as an assistant to Craig Berube in St. Louis. As head coach in Dallas, Montgomery favoured a heavy PP1 featuring Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, and Jason Spezza. Montgomery leaned heavily on the Radulov/Seguin/Benn top line at even strength as well, giving us some hope for a heavily used Perfection Line in Boston (providing Patrice Bergeron does in fact sign a contract to return to the Bruins). Bruce Cassidy didn’t play a single Bruin forward more than 15 minutes a night at even strength while Montgomery had Seguin and Radulov in particular up over 16 and a half minutes per game.

One has to hope that Montgomery hasn’t picked up Berube’s tendency to split PP time evenly between two units while in St. Louis, but it’s incredibly difficult to imagine a new coach coming to Boston and currying favour with stars Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak by reducing their power play ice time. Given his tendencies in Dallas and the situation he finds himself in now in Boston, I expect Montgomery to be a slight net positive for Boston’s top forwards at even strength in terms of ice time and no change on the power play.

DAL: Peter DeBoer

DeBoer is an interesting case study because he has deployed a more balanced pair of power play units in Vegas the past two seasons but leaned heavily on a top unit for most of his time in San Jose prior. One thing about DeBoer that has remained constant is a general bent toward evening out his even strength minutes across all four lines. It feels reasonably safe to say that Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski will not be approaching the 20-minute-per-game mark any time soon. The good news is that this isn’t much of a change from last season under Rick Bowness, so it could be more or less business as usual at even strength for the Stars.

On the power play I do anticipate that DeBoer will lean heavily on a top unit now as he did in San Jose with a clear delineation of talent between the Dallas top line of Robertson/Hintz/Pavelski (plus Tyler Seguin) and everyone else. This could mean a bit more PP time for those top guys which would obviously provide them with a slight boost in production potential.

FLA: Paul Maurice

Maurice arrives in Florida as a coach unafraid to ride his stars both at even strength and on the power play and this could mean a big uptick in ice time for some Panther players. Maurice gave Mark Scheifele 17:46 a night at even strength last year and had his entire top-six above 15 minutes of even strength ice time per game. Contrast that with Florida where Aleksander Barkov led all Panthers with a mere 14:39 at even strength, and you can quickly get a picture painted of Maurice riding Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart, and probably a couple others in that 15+ minutes a night range. In my opinion this also means that whichever of Anton Lundell or Sam Bennett is playing the third center role may not get the ice time that their talent should theoretically command. Lundell vs Bennett at even strength and for the 5th man on the top power play unit should be the most interesting fantasy story in Florida this season; given the way Maurice leans on the top power play and the talent dropoff from the first to the second unit it will be a huge swing point for whoever that fifth member may be.

PHI: John Tortorella

The great news about Tortorella signing in Philly is that they don’t have any relevant players to worry about anyways so he can’t sink their value too much. And that’s a legitimate worry with Tortorella, who has seen just one player score at a point-per-game pace or better in his last decade’s worth of coaching gigs: Artemi Panarin. Panarin did it twice and then promptly took his game to a whole new level after leaving the Blue Jackets where Torts was coaching. The last time we saw him in Columbus, Tortorella was employing a very balanced approach to ice time allocation both at even strength and on the power play. Given that Philadelphia’s relative lack of talent mirrors that Columbus squad rather closely, I think it’s safe to say that Tortorella will hold every player’s point totals down and any interest we might have otherwise had in Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, or Cam Atkinson is probably misplaced.

SJS: David Quinn

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I don’t think Quinn is a great coach or realistically capable of elevating a team to a new level. We saw a marked improvement from the 2021-22 Rangers after Quinn left following a disappointing 2021 campaign, and New York was not good in the seasons prior either. On the usage side, Quinn has shown some ability to change his even strength deployment based on what’s available to him in terms of a forward group which has me somewhat optimistic that Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, and Logan Couture can at least maintain their fantasy value with plenty of ice time. Quinn also leaned heavily on the top power play in New York and things shape up similarly in San Jose with Meier, Hertl, Couture, Erik Karlsson, and an unknown fifth (William Eklund hype, anybody?) as the presumptive top unit. So while I don’t foresee Quinn creating offense via scheme, he should provide the Sharks’ top players with enough volume to hit the stat totals that we’ll be looking for.

VGK: Bruce Cassidy

In contrast to Quinn above, I think Bruce Cassidy is a very good NHL coach and have little doubt that he’ll optimize the Vegas lineup in short order. The trick with projecting Cassidy’s usage of the fantasy-relevant Vegas players is that in Boston things have always been much more straightforward: the Perfection Line played top line and top PP and everything else flowed around that. In Vegas you have a presumptive top line pair of Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, but beyond that it’s a host of question marks and how Cassidy doles out ice time to this group is anybody’s guess at this juncture. I don’t think that it’s impossible that Cassidy rolls with Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo both on the top power play unit as two of the five most talented players on the team. If Cassidy stays true to running a top power play unit and not a 1A/1B situation as Vegas players have been accustomed to for so long, it will be key to Theodore and Pietrangelo’s fantasy relevance to be on that unit. It may be worth docking Pietrangelo’s projection a tiny bit if you think Theodore is the most likely solo PP1 QB for the full season.

WPG: Rick Bowness

Bowness is a classic spread-the-wealth coach, unafraid to give ice time to plenty of undeserving bottom-sixers. This stark contrast to the Jets’ previous “ride-the-stars” approach under the aforementioned Paul Maurice and interim coach Dave Lowry will undoubtedly take a bite out of my projection for all of the Jets’ top guns including Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Blake Wheeler. The power play could very well go to a true 1A/1B situation making both Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk annoyingly almost-rosterable in points leagues, and generally capping the upside of any individual player. It looks like I’ll have to wait another year for the monster Nikolaj Ehlers year that feels like it’s been brewing for a hot minute.

CHI: Luke Richardson, DET: Derek Lalonde, & NYI: Lane Lambert

There are three rookie NHL head coaches this year which are always nigh impossible to project correctly in terms of player usage. Luke Richardson in Chicago was clearly brought in to teach the Blackhawks’ young players the “right way” to play the game, and so you could read between the lines and assume that the young players will get minutes while the Patrick Kanes and Jonathan Toews of this team may have their roles reduced. But given that Chicago likely wants to trade their veterans for top dollar it’s also in their best interest to keep their production as high as possible. I would bet on more of the same for Chicago’s returning players, with maybe a tiny bit more ice time allocated to the up and comers.

Derek Lalonde has the most enviable situation of the three with an improved Detroit roster. Lalonde comes to the Red Wings fresh off the Tampa Bay Lightning’s remarkable recent run of success as an assistant coach to Jon Cooper. If you believe in the “like mentor, like disciple” approach to projecting coaching then you would project Lalonde to allocate ice time similarly to Cooper: a solid balance of even strength time for everyone but a solid amount of ice time for the top end stars including a heavy PP1 bias. For this Detroit team it will mean PP1 is of even more importance than usual in determining who we can be drafting or streaming. Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, and Moritz Seider seem like locks but Tyler Bertuzzi, David Perron, Jakub Vrana, and Andrew Copp will likely all vie for the remaining two spots on that top unit.

Lane Lambert may be one instance where we can safely assign the disciple the mentor’s coaching style. After all Lambert was an assistant with Barry Trotz in Washington and followed Trotz to the Islanders when Trotz was hired there in 2018. It feels probable at the very least that Lambert’s player usage falls somewhat in-line with Trotz’s, which unfortunately means I’m probably left still waiting for Oliver Wahlstrom to break out, and Mathew Barzal’s untapped upside remains only in our imaginations. It’s probably acceptable to project that Lambert may be a slightly more moderate coach than Trotz in terms of offensive freedom, but I can’t in good conscience expect a rookie head coach to suddenly turn the Islanders into a league-average team in terms of offensive focus.

That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

Soundtrack to my writing: RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé

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Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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