Here's the second of three off-season installments of the Fantasy Hockey Scouts NHL Coach Rankings. (Note: Last week we looked at the Bottom 10 coaches in our rankings, today we'll look at the Middle 10 and then hit you with the top 10 in the next week). 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.
11. Ron Wilson, Toronto [2008 Rank: #3] - Ronnie had a solid record in San Jose which led to his high ranking last year but we wanted to see if he could back that up in Toronto. Well things didn't quite go as expected in the Centre of the Universe as the Leafs were surprisingly strong offensively (3rd top 10 finish in goals in the past four seasons for Wilson) but they imploded defensively. Ronnie always had a good gaa while in SJ but his Leafs team was bottom in the league in both gaa & sv%... ouch. His team's offensive output was impressive given the lack of talent as they took on a scoring-by-committee approach with no 30 goal scorers but a decent nine players who topped 40 points. (See picture at left where Ronnie points to the pawn shop where he scooped one of Peter Pocklington's Stanley Cup rings... lord knows he didn't win that baby in San Jose)
12. Barry Trotz, Nashville [2008 Rank: #4] - It was a rough year for BT and the Preds as they slipped down into the bottom third of the league in goals and PP% but we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as his historical record is pretty strong. His defense was only average but it did pick up once Rinne heated up. A few tendencies to note: (1) BT's not afraid to shuffle his goalies as the #1 job is always up for grabs; (2) He develops the kids but he likes to take it slow; and (3) Counts on dmen to help out offensively (both Weber and Suter were among the top 20 scoring dmen last year).
13. Alain Vigneault, Vancouver [2008 Rank: #24] - The AV club is pretty defensive, which works out well for Luongo's numbers but not so much for anyone else. His defensive record is always good as once again the Canucks finished top 10 in gaa, shots against and sv%. The offense did improve, up to 11th in the league in goals, and he did get breakout seasons from Kesler, Burrows and Edler, although his track record with young players is spotty.
14. Paul Maurice, Carolina [2008 Rank: N/A] - P-Mo is a pretty decent offensive coach as his team's tend to fire a lot of rubber on net and post All-Star break last year they were near the top of the league in goal scoring. He allows his defenders to jump into the rush and had four dmen with 25+ points last year. He doesn't typically have a great team gaa but he really lit a fire under Cam Ward when he took over last season and turned the Canes into one of the best defensive teams down the stretch.
15. Brent Sutter, Calgary [2008 Rank: #25] - Finishing 23rd in the league in gaa last year didn't sit well with Calgary GM Darryl Sutter so he canned Mike Keenan and brought in someone that he trusts... Brother Brent. Brent, like Brother Darryl, focuses pretty hard on the defensive side of the puck and his defensive record in New Jersey was proof of that (4th in the league in gaa), even without Marty Brodeur for a large part of the past season. We had Brent ranked so low last time cause his offense in 2007/08 was quite poor but it improved by 40 goals this past year to a respectable level and the Devils had a league high five players with 60+ points last season.
16. Pat Quinn, Edmonton [2008 Rank: N/A] - Quinn had a successful seven season run in Toronto where he had a good offensive record led by a strong PP unit. He tends to go with a pretty veteran team and had problems in Toronto dealing with the younger players but he has since gone out of his way to poo-poo that notion by winning gold at both the U-18s and WJC in recent years. Regardless, he'll have Tom Renney by his side in Edmonton and Tom can deal with the young guys and take care of the defensive side of the equation as that's where he excels. Together the two of them should make a decent duo.
17. Todd Richards, Minnesota [2008 Rank: N/A] - Had a solid record in two seasons as a head coach in the AHL (finished top 5 in the standings both years to go along with one finals appearance) before joining San Jose as an assistant coach last year, where he was in charge of one of the best PPs in the league. Richards was an offensive defencemen during his playing days and he wants to play that style in M'sota... despite not having the horses for that just yet, it's a step in the right direction for players like Koivu, Burns and Zidlicky but probably not music to the ears of Niklas Backstrom.
18. Terry Murray, Los Angeles [2008 Rank: #19] - Good coach who really clammed up the Kings defensively last year as they were top 5 in the league in terms of fewest shots allowed and would have been even stingier if they had better goaltending. Unfortunately, the offense was in the bottom 5 in the league, so it appears that something had to be sacrificed. He allows the dmen to join rush and that helped players like Quincey and Doughty have solid seasons but we expected that he'd get more out of players like Kopitar/O'Sullivan/Purcell.
19. Marc Crawford, Dallas [2008 Rank: N/A] - If these rankings were based the coach with the best hair, then Crawford would be top 5. If it was based on the coach whose voice most resembles a 7-year old girl's (see video for Alex Burrows' impersonation), then he'd be #1... but from a fantasy perspective we have him somewhere in the middle of the pack. His recent coaching record is spotty, at best, as his defensive record is usually poor and his offense is nothing special. He has a reputation of working well with star players but not dealing very well with younger players... it could work out for him in Dallas as he inherits a talented & veteran squad.
20. Jacques Martin, Montreal [2008 Rank: N/A] - With a talented Ottawa team, Jackie had a great record, with a less talented Florida squad, not so much (see: vanilla). How will he do with a miniature & offensive-minded Habs roster that's been thrown together like my ill-fated 2001/02 fantasy squad "The Hejduk's of Hazzard"???... how the hell do I know? But at least he speaks francais.
Check back in a few days for the rest of the rankings.