Here's the last of three off-season installments of the Fantasy Hockey Scouts NHL Coach Rankings. (Note: Earlier we looked at the Bottom 10 and Middle 10 coaches in our rankings, today we'll finish with the high rollers... The Top 10). 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.
1. Mike Babcock, Detroit [2008 Rank: #1] - Babs holds onto the top spot as the Wings led the league in goals, shots for, PP% and had a league high 11 players with 40+ points last year. His teams are typically very good keeping the puck out of their own net as well but they slipped this past year finishing outside the top 10 in gaa despite allowing the 2nd lowest number of shots (we'll blame it on Osgood). Only knocks against him are that his teams are always amongst the lowest in the league in PIMs (2nd lowest last year) and he brings the kids along real slow.
2. John Stevens, Philadelphia [2008 Rank: #7] - Stevens' teams may just be average defensively but from a fantasy perspective, he's gold. Last season they finished top 5 in goals, top 10 in PP% and led the league in PIMs. Stevens was a breakout coach in his 2nd season ('07-08) and it was more of the same in year #3 as Philly was also among the league leaders with four 30+ goal scorers, four players with 60+ points and seven of the top 10 scorers on the team had 50+ PIMs. He's also had a big hand in the breakouts by Richards, Carter, Hartnell and Coburn... which bodes well for prospects like Giroux and Van Riemsdyk.
3. Bruce Boudreau, Washington [2008 Rank: #9] - Great offensive coach in his limited NHL career as last year, in his first full season behind the Caps bench, he guided them to a top 3 finish in goals, shots and PP%. Coach Bruce likes to play a wide open style as they were one of only three teams to have at least three 30+ goal scorers and one of those was a dman (Mike Green). As a result, the defensive side of the puck gets sacrificed but they did pick it up in the 2nd half. Another feather in his cap is his work with the younger players as studs like Ove, Backstrom, Semin and Green have all blossomed under his tutelage. We shouldn't be surprised by any of this as he had a very solid AHL coaching record, in his two full seasons in Hershey prior to taking over the Caps job, he took them to back-to-back finals appearances and finished 2nd in the league in goals during his final full season.
4. Todd McLellan, San Jose [2008 Rank: #14] - Todd's first season behind the Sharks bench was a rousing success... playoffs aside. During the regular season they were top 10 in pretty much every major offensive and defensive category and nobody had more 20+ goal scorers (6) or dmen with 25+ points (4). We also like the fact that he gave a lot of opportunities to some younger players and Setoguchi, Pavelski, Clowe and Vlasic all responded with breakout seasons last year. Interesting ToddMac fact: In his 15 years as a head or assistant coach in the NHL/AHL/IHL, he has never missed the playoffs.
5. Joel Quenneville, Chicago [2008 Rank: N/A] - Back after being out of the league for all of four games to start the year and fantasy hockey GMs should be happy as Coach Q has always been a friend to the poolies. He typically has a very good offensive team (4th in the league in goals last year) and a decent PP. Usually his defensive record is just average but last year the Hawks were 5th in the league in gaa. Add to this that his teams share the load with 10 40+ point scorers and four dmen with 25+ points and he's doing it all with one of the youngest lineups in the league.
6. Lindy Ruff, Buffalo [2008 Rank: #8] - A very underrated coach in our opinion, Ruffy's teams just plain score. This past year Buffalo finished just outside the top 10 in goals scored for the first time in the past five seasons. They play an aggressive offensive game, putting pucks on net and drawing a lot of penalties which led to 75 PP goals (4th best in the league). His defensive record is slightly below average but the fact that he's willing to give younger players and short men a chance are considered a plus.
7. Claude Julien, Boston [2008 Rank: #27] - We've been hard on Jules in the past as his record has never impressed us and we think he's benefited more from talented rosters than anything else but he put together a damn impressive 2008-09 season... #2 in goals scored, #4 in PP%, #1 in gaa & #1 in sv%... so we were forced to give in and rocket him up the charts. We're still not totally convinced as this is the first time in his past five seasons that his team has finished in the top 10 in goals and they were 21st in shots allowed, so Thomas really bailed them out. We do like the fact that he has a deep team, nobody had more 20+ goal scorers (6), and he gives the kids a chance, as Krejci and Kessel broke out last year and Lucic and Wheeler had strong years as well.
8. Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh [2008 Rank: N/A] - There's not much to go on with DannyBoy as he's only been a head coach for one season (this past year split between WB-Scranton and Pittsburgh) but he did win a frickin Stanley Cup so we gotta show him some love. He had the Pittsburghers playing some solid D and they were among the leaders in scoring after he took over with 25 games to go. So its hard to say with certainty how Bylsma's teams will do but given the talent in Pittsburgh its pretty safe to say that they'll score a few goals.
9. John Anderson, Atlanta [2008 Rank: #20] - We liked Andy's coaching credentials from the minors (in 11 seasons with Chicago (IHL/AHL) he took them to the finals six times, winning four championships and his team led the league in goals his final two years) but we waited to see how he handled a pretty poor Atlanta roster before we put him in the top 10. Well he had a very strong NHL debut as he took a team that finished in the bottom third of the league in goals (with 207) the prior year and dragged them into the top third of the league with 250 goals. His defense was awful, giving up the 2nd most goals in the league, so steer clear of Thrasher netminders but imagine what the offense would do if he actually had some talent and didn't have to squeeze every ounce of production out of guys like Todd White (73 points) and Rich Peverley (35 points in 39 games for Atlanta).
10. Randy Carlyle, Anaheim [2008 Rank: #11] - Not consistently great offensively but they have had a top 5 PP in two of the past three seasons and have been 1st or 2nd in PIMs in each of the past three years. His teams are much more consistent defensively but they did regress to the middle of the pack last year, mostly due to an off year from Giggy. One tendency to keep in mind is that he prefers to put all his big guns on one line and the 1st PP unit so there's not a lot of scoring depth on his teams.