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Notable Coaching Changes (Fantasy Hockey)

by Mat Vilcek
Aug 27, 2019

Ralph Krueger, the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, returns to hockey after a brief stint in the Premier League.

With any sport, a team can have all the star power in the world, but coaching plays the most significant part in any team’s success. As a fantasy owner, you have to place value in the coaching of a particular team. Questions need to be asked if a coach can bring a team and its players back to relevance, or if he must dismantle everything. Player changes are of great value; however, most of what we have seen this offseason has been only about the players, and not the new coaching or system. As the season approaches, let’s take some time to learn about the coaches and the signings that may help them.

Anaheim Ducks: Dallas Eakins
The Ducks became harder to watch with every month that passed last season. Fans may have had hopes for a positive season at the end of November into December when the Ducks won 11 out of 13 games, but that light quickly faded. The Ducks followed that stretch with 12 straight losses (the most in franchise history), and then another losing streak of seven games. The only stretch of wins more than two came in the last three games of the year.

The Ducks named Dallas Eakins their new head coach this past June 17th, and he has found some success in the AHL. While coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, Eakins was a two-time All-Star head coach. This success earned him a head coaching job with the Edmonton Oilers at the beginning of the 2013 season. Eakins only held the position for 18 months until being dismissed with an abysmal record of 36-63-14, ending his first head coaching stint. Since then, Eakins has been the head coach of Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, and he will now return to the big stage with hopes of leading the Ducks to a better finish than 13th in the Western Conference. A major upside is that Eakins already has a rapport with all the Ducks’ younger AHL talent.

Spirits may have risen with a coaching change, but the front office has not given the faithful Anaheim fans much to look forward to during the offseason. Bringing back a familiar face in Michael Del Zotto and signing Chris Wideman who saw action in only 25 NHL games last year is hardly a jump for joy.

Buffalo Sabres: Ralph Krueger
The Sabres finished 13th overall in the Eastern Conference last year, and they decided to move on from head coach Phil Housley (now coaching the Arizona Coyotes) after two years. The move wasn’t very surprising. In the morning hours of December 14th last season, Buffalo was 19-9-4. What followed can only be described as the most horrendous finish to a season anyone could envision. After that December date, Buffalo did not win more than a single game in a row until the final two games of the year.

Ralph Krueger is a journeyman. He’s a man that few people know, but he has been around the hockey world for many years. Krueger began coaching in the Austrian league and had some championship success. From there he moved on coaching the Swiss national team to appearances in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Olympics. Krueger first spent some time in the NHL as a consultant for the Carolina Hurricanes, and in 2012, he landed the Edmonton Oilers’ head coaching job. Unfortunately, the opportunity only lasted one year as he was fired at the end of the season. Krueger also coached team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. There is still a lot of potential behind this Buffalo team, and just maybe we haven’t seen what Ralph Krueger is capable of yet.

Re-signing Jeff Skinner was a must, but the Sabres made many other impressive moves this offseason. The Sabres bolstered their defense signing Colin Miller, and Henri Jokiharju, and on offense added young-gun Jimmy Vesey, along with veteran Marcus Johansson.

Los Angeles Kings: Todd McLellan
The third Edmonton Oiler alum lands a new coaching job. McLellan coached the Oilers the past four seasons, and after being fired 20 games into last season, he immediately found a place with the Kings this offseason. McLellan has exposure to coaching elite NHL talent in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl which will help in coaching the King’s top veteran players. McLellan was part of the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings as an assistant coach, and he was in charge of the power play over his time in Detroit which had two top-three finishes. McLellan’s resume is one of the best on paper of the coaches that landed jobs this offseason, but is it enough to turn around the second-worst team in the NHL from last season?

The Kings had a rough go last season., with one winning streak of four games and two streaks of only three wins. Over an 82-game season, that is certainly a cause for change. Here lies the issue. The coaching change is the only move of significance. If we dig deeper, we’ll notice the signings of Johan Sodergran, Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, and Sean Durzi, all of the ’18 draft class. Unfortunately, none of these players will be relevant in the Kings’ line-up this year, or of any fantasy relevance. The question will remain if the Kings can be relevant with an aged veteran core of players. My take? They can’t.

Florida Panthers: Joel Quenneville
The Panthers finished just outside of a playoff berth, and that was enough to end Bob Boughner’s two-year stint. Most know the man with the mustache as Coach Q, and his resume is all too impressive. As an assistant, Quenneville was a part of the Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche in the 1995-1996 season. From 1996 to 2018 Quenneville was the head coach of three teams, the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and Chicago Blackhawks, racking up 18 playoff appearances and raising the Stanley Cup three times with the Chicago Blackhawks. Under Quenneville, the star players score and teams win. This is stock that any fantasy owner should be buying.

The front office landed the coach and the players that they wanted. Quenneville has star power to choose from. Let’s set the stage: great young talent in Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. Veteran presence in Mike Hoffman, Keith Yandle, and Anton Stralman. Last but not least, the signing of an elite goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. This team has all the makings of a fantasy power-house this year, which sounds like a familiar blue-print of past successful Quenneville teams. Advice: buy all of it.

Other notable coaching changes: Dave Tippett behind the bench in Edmonton, D.J. Smith in Ottawa, Alain Vigneault in Philadelphia, and of course Craig Berube, who took over after Mike Yeo was fired, and then took a last-place St. Louis team to Stanley Cup Champion Status.

Mat Vilcek is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Mat, check out his archive and follow him @Mat1Thockey.

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