Here's the first of three off-season installments of the Fantasy Hockey Scouts NHL Coach Rankings. (Note: Today we'll look at the bottom 10 Coaches in our rankings and then hit you with the top 20 over the next week or so). Basically, we think its very useful to know a little bit more about each coach's preferences and tendencies and use this to help determine if they are a good coach from a fantasy hockey perspective. We all know a coach can have a huge impact on a player's fantasy numbers... remember the old joke, "Who's the only person to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points a game?"... punchline: Dean Smith.
We use historical information, statistical analysis and a keen scout's intuition to come up with our rankings and we think there's some pretty valuable information here for fantasy hockey GMs to consider, so use these rankings as you wish and we hope they help.
21. Andy Murray, St. Louis [2008 Rank: #29] - His historical numbers don't lie... Murray team's rarely show up in the top 10 of any category... but they did improve last season. He went to work on the PP and the PP goals shot up from 47 to 72 last year but the offense was still mediocre overall. Defensively, they really started to figure things out after the All-Star break but still finished in the middle of the pack for the year. On the plus side, he really lit a fire under his younger players like Backes, Perron, Oshie and Berglund.
22. Pete DeBoer, Florida [2008 Rank: #26] - Great coach in junior and he continued what he does right into the NHL as he had Florida in the top 10 in gaa & sv% despite giving up the most shots in the league. But offensively he didn't really have the talent and they were just average in goals, the PP was pretty dismal and they were bottom 5 in PIMs. On the plus side he did coax breakout seasons out of Weiss and Booth and gave a lot of ice-time to rookie Michael Frolik.
23. John Tortorella, NY Rangers [2008 Rank: N/A] - Ahhh Torts... any guy who grows a moustache just to avoid people saying that he looks like The Fonz is OK in our books... but we don't play favourites here at FHS, so we gotta be honest... Torts doesn't do it for us. Sure he won a cup with Tampa with a lot of offensive talent but his teams didn't typically put up great offensive or defensive numbers. Add to this his teams were always amongst the least penalized teams in the league and we're starting to wonder why we like this guy... right, the whole Fonz thing and his feud with Larry Brooks. He was only in New York for the final 21 games of the season but their PP was terrible and they were near the bottom of the league in goals after he took over. Can't you just see him and Maid Marian Gaborik becoming BFFs?
24. Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey [2008 Rank: #15] - We originally had a "NJ Coach To Be Named Later" ranked 20th but in finding out that Lemaire was just hired, we had to make an adjustment... such is our disdain for Jackie. No matter who the Devils coach is the results are always pretty predictable... very strong defensively, below average offensively and a low PIMs total. Add Lemaire to the mix and they're now a lock to lead the league in tears of boredom shed by their fans as well. In his last 12 seasons behind the bench Lemaire's only had two players break 70 points (Gaborik & Rolston each did it once). To his credit he does have a history of bringing in young players (Gaborik, Bouchard, Burns and Sheppard all played for him as teenagers in M'sota) but it takes him a while before he fully trusts them and he's likely to bench them or play them out of position along the way.
25. Cory Clouston, Ottawa [2008 Rank: N/A] - Let's see... he looks like he's about 13, not that it should matter (but it does), his short stint as an AHL head coach was pretty underwhelming, he took over the Senators about half way through last year and despite getting them to play better the goals were down 45 from the previous year (finished 23rd in the league) and, best of all, he demoted and managed to alienate the team's leading goal scorer (Dany Heatley) to the point where he wants out... not good for fantasy business, we say.
26. Ken Hitchcock, Columbus [2008 Rank: #22] - We had hoped with a little more talent that Hitchcock would open things up a little bit last year but it was not meant to be... the offense improved 30 goals from the prior year but was still in the bottom 10 in the league and their PP was easily the NHL's worst. Defense is certainly not an issue as they didn't concede a lot of shots (top 3 in the league) and were top 10 in gaa. Hitchy really shelters his younger players as guys like Voracek, Filatov and Russell didn't get a lot of top assignments although he did lean on Brassard prior to his season ending injury.
27. Rick Tocchet, Tampa Bay [2008 Rank: N/A] - Let's start with the not-terrible news... TB was top 5 in the league in PIMs. Now for the horror show... they were 25th in goals scored, 27th in goals allowed, 28th in shots allowed and 30th in PP goals allowed. Add to this: (1) He's a convicted felon; (2) He works for owners who make the LA Clippers look like a well run organization; and (3) He learned everything he knows from the coaching genius that is Wayne Gretzky... and you start to get a sense as to why we're skeptical. On a side note we love his involvement in the picture to the right where he looks like Wayne snuck up on him and scared the shitts out of him. We can only imagine the exchange went something like this... Gretzky: Put 10 Gs on Ohio State to cover... Tocchet: You crazy? the line is 42 points... Gretzky: I know, not sure what Janet's thinking with that one.
28. Joe Sacco, Colorado [2008 Rank: N/A] - In two seasons as a head coach in the AHL, Sacco's teams finished 26th and 27th (out of 29 teams) in the standings... so you'll forgive us when we question if the Avs thought they were hiring Joe Sakic as their head coach but got Joe Sacco due to a clerical error. Regardless, Sacco takes over the lowest scoring team in the league who had no 30 goal or 60 point scorers and they lose their top scorer (Smyth) and captain (Sakic). On the bright side, I guess Sacco can't take this team any lower than it already is?
29. Scott Gordon, NYI [2008 Rank: #30] - Flash was more of a defensive coach in the AHL prior to taking over the Islanders job last summer and so it was a little surprising that their goals against jumped up from 240 to 274 (28th in the league) last year. Not surprising was that the offense was still pathetic as they finished 29th in the league in goals, nobody topped 20 goals and only one player (Streit) cracked 40 points (only team in the league that managed both those feats). He did follow his orders from Snowy and played the kids as Bailey and Okposo gained valuable experience and we'd expect that to continue with Tavares this year.
30. Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix [2008 Rank: #28] - Hard to believe but Wayne's team actually regressed last year as they were firmly in the bottom 10 in pretty much all offensive and defensive categories. They were among the bottom 5 teams in goals scored and PP% (he can't even get that right) and only had two players break 20 goals and three top 40 points (and that includes Jokinen). And the outlook for next year doesn't look any better... at least Wayner can take solace that he's #1 on the list of the highest paid coaches in the league.
Check back in a few days for the rest of the rankings.