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Coach Rankings - July 2008

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Here is the first installment of the Fantasy Hockey Scouts NHL Coach Rankings, which will be a regular feature that we'll provide for fantasy hockey GMs.  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. 

For example, I think most would agree that John Tortorella is a good hockey coach and most think of Tampa Bay as being an offensive team, but in the past 3 years they haven't been in the top 10 in goals in the league once and they only had 4 guys break 40 points last year (whereas a team like Philly had 8 and thats not including Prospal).  Torts tends to put all his ice time eggs in the baskets of his top line and doesn't leave much for anyone else.  The past few years he hasn't really brought any of the young guys in to his circle of trust and developed them into fantasy hockey contributors, his teams tend to have weak goals against averages and they are consistently in the bottom third of the league in PIMs.  So despite being a good coach with a stanley cup ring, he wouldn't rate very high on our rankings of coaches from a fantasy hockey perspective.

We use historical information, statistical analysis and a keen scout's intuition to come up with our rankings and we think there is 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 - Babs gets our top spot, not surprising since he may have the best team to work with. His teams do it all, lots of goals, low gaa, great PP, led the league in shots for and also in shots against.  His teams spread the scoring around, Detroit was one of only 2 teams (Philly was the other) to have 8 guys break 40 points last year.  Only knocks against him is that his teams are always amongst the lowest in the league in PIMs and he brings the kids along really slowly.  We might also have to give him the Anna Nicole Smith Award cause he seems to have a thing for old men, with Chelios (46), Hasek (43) and Drake (38) on his roster last year and he had Oates (40) and Thomas (39) with him in Anaheim.

2. Dave Tippett, Dallas - #1 was no surprise, #2 might be a surprise but Tipsy is right up there with Babs.  His teams are always strong defensively (which is good for Turco) and were in the top 10 in the league last year in goals.  The PIMs are usually decent, although not normally from the big guns, but his teams are always in the bottom third in terms of shots for and their PP suffered last year probably due to Zubov and Boucher being hurt.  Look for more offense this year with the a full season from Richards, the addition of Avery and the possible emergence of Loui Eriksson and Fabs Brunnstrom.

3. Ron Wilson, Toronto - Ronnie garners a high ranking due to his portfolio of work, especially with San Jose, but this season could prove that he was overrated as he's in tough with a re-building Toronto squad.  His teams are always one of the best defensively, not giving up a lot of shots or goals. In addition, he tends to have a strong offense lead by a good PP.  His teams never do much in the way of PIMs and he only one San Jose player last year (Thornton) managed to crack 60 points (we didn't include Campbell since he played most of the year for Buffalo).

4. Barry Trotz, Nashville - This could be considered a surprise but Barry's teams find a way to score goals and keep the puck out.  He's typically high in goals & gaa, while giving up more shots than they take.  His team took a bit of step backwards last year but he's shown he can work with whatever he's given and has developed prospects like Legwand, Erat, Radulov, Weber and Suter.  Also note that dmen always do well under BT.

5. Peter Laviolette, Carolina - Another surprise in the top 5, Pete consistently has one of the better offensive squads in the league. They finished 4th in the league in goals last year and 2nd in shots on goal. We won't talk about his defensive record.  He did add an improved PP to his arsenal last year (4th most PP goals in the league) and it should be even better this year with the likes of Corvo, Pitkanen and a healthy Justin Williams.

6. Michel Therrien, Pittsburgh - He has the most dynamic offensive talents in the league, so no shock that his team scores goals.  Beyond Crosby and Malkin, the offense gets spread a little too thin, only 2 other 20 goal scorers and 4 other 40 point scorers (not counting Hossa).  His gaa is improving (shots are hight but goalies are playing better) and his teams play with an edge and aren't afraid to take useless penalties (which is always a good sign for fantasy hockey GMs who use that stat).  He's also shown that he's not afraid to play youngsters, last year he had 5 regulars who were 20 or younger (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kennedy and Letang) and a 22 year old goalie. 

7. John Stevens, Philadelphia - Engineered quite a turnaround last year (an influx of talent certainly helped) and the offense went from 23rd to 6th in goals, led by the league's 2nd best PP.  Stevens was a godsend for fantasy hockey GMs as no team had more 20+ goal scorers (6), 40+ point scorers (8), dmen with 25+ points (3) or top 10 team scorers with 50+ PIMS (7).

8. Lindy Ruff, Buffalo - Very underrated coach, Ruffy's teams just score. They were the top scoring team in 2006/07 and followed that up by being the 5th highest scoring team last year even after losing Briere and Drury.  The past 4 years his teams have finished in the top third of the league in goals every year and his special teams are always solid as well.  His defense and PIMs leave a little to be desired but the fact that he's willing to give younger players and short men a chance are considered a plus.

9. Bruce Boudreau, Washington - Amazing that Bruce was only in Washington for 61 games last year, seem like longer, cause they did so much.  Ove went on a magical run to 65 goals, Backstrom became a legit #1C, Mike Green went from nowhere to leading all dmen in goals with 18 and they made the playoffs after missing for 3 straight years.  BB took over the team from Glen Hanlon and turned them into an offensive juggernaut (what the hell is a juggernaut anyway?) and if the goaltending was better they would have been one of the better defensive teams in the league as well.  We shouldn't be surprised by any of this, in his two full seasons in Hershey, he took them to back to back finals appearances and finished with the 2nd most goals during his final full season.

10. Guy Carbonneau, Montreal - For a guy with 3 Selke Trophies you wouldn't expect his defense to be so bad and you also wouldn't expect his offense to be so deadly.  Montreal finished #2 in the league in goals last year, they've had the leagues best PP for 2 years running and they had a very solid 7 players break the 40 point barrier.  On the flip side, his teams have finished 28th and 26th the last two years in the number of shots allowed, so Carbs hasn't been able to pass on what he learned as a player. Also a positive, he's done it with pretty much all homegrown players, outside of Kovalev. 

11. Randy Carlyle, Anaheim - The defense was just as good last year as it was during the championship season but the offense fell thru the floor, going from 9th in goals to 28th last year.  The PP also slipped from 2nd best two years ago to middle of the pack last year.  So its hard to tell whats on tap for this season as the only thing that's consistent is Giggy's numbers and a reckless amount of PIMs.

12. Tony Granato, Colorado - Was a hugely successful regular season coach in a season and a half with Colorado a few seasons back and now its round 2 for Cammi's brother.  He had stacked teams back in those days so it wasn't surprising that he had them doing well both offensively and defensively.  What was impressive was that he kept the D tight in his second season even after Patrick Roy retired.  He remained a Colorado assistant for the past 3 seasons and those teams have consistently been dangerous offensively, especially on the PP.  Also note that during Granato's two seasons as head coach, Milan Hejduk had seasons of 50 and 35 goals and led the team in goals both seasons.

13. Denis Savard, Chicago - Savy engineered a nice turnaround (dare we say Savardian Spinorama?) last year as he made Chicago more responsible defensively and rode the young horses to a 39 goal improvement from the previous season, up to 234 goals (10th in the league).  Now if he can only get the PP out of the bottom third of the league (Campbell might help) then we could be looking at an offensive powerhouse.

14. Todd McLellan, San Jose - Todd's been an assistant coach in Detroit for the last 3 years and before that he coached 11 years in the AHL/IHL, winning the Calder Cup with Houston in 2002/03.  In his 14 years as a head or assistant coach, he has never missed the playoffs.  In Detroit, he was credited with a lot of the success of the power play unit which was in the top 3 in PP goals in 2 of the 3 seasons he was an assistant.  He has said that in San Jose he wants them to put more pucks on the net and he thinks they need more offense from the dmen, so this should be good for the likes of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake.

15. Jacques Lemaire, Minnesota - Good coach whose defensive record is consistently solid, his goaltenders always end up with great numbers and his PP puts up a good percentage (with a low number of chances) but there probably isn't another coach whose stock drops any further in the eyes of fantasy hockey GMs than Jackie's.  His offense the last few years has been average but it just gets spread around too much and thats how he ends up with only two 20+ goal scorers last year. Now 2 of his top 4 scorers from last year are gone (Rolston and Demitra) but he does have a history of bringing in young players (Gaborik, Bouchard, Burns and Sheppard all played for him as teenagers).

16. Tom Renney, NYR - Renney deserves credit for being the guy who has gotten the NYR into the playoffs for 3 straight years after they missed for 7 straight seasons... but we're cold and calculated here at Fantasy Hockey Scouts... there's no room for handouts.  He's a good coach because of his attention to defense, which is always excellent (they were the 4th best in gaa last year), but his offense has never been above average.  Over the past two seasons only one player broke 30 goals (Jagr had 30 in 2006/07).

17. Craig MacTavish, Edmonton - MacT is not a bad coach but he just doesn't really do anything that well, he's the vanilla of NHL coaching flavours, which makes it fitting that he finished last year with 41 wins and 41 losses.  His offense isn't usually that great, his defense is alright, his PP is bad but his PK is good.  One thing that we do like is that he will play the younger guys and if Edmonton can hold on to them then it should pay off down the road.

18. Mike Keenan, Calgary - Iron Mike didn't have much of an offense last year outside of Iginla and Phaneuf and for a team built around the defense core and the goalie, they finished 15th in the league in gaa.  So we're not sure what way the former Nik and Nice Guys frontman is taking this team but you can always count on his teams to be very carefree when it comes to discipline so PIMs are always high.  He also doesn't really like to use the youngsters, hell he's probably begging Sutter to sign his old favourites Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau as we speak.  He's also one of the more erratic coaches, you never know who's going to be scratched or in the doghouse and his goalies are always on a short leash.

19. Terry Murray, Los Angeles - As we outlined in an earlier article around the time that Murray was hired, he's been a very solid coach in 3 prior head coaching stops.  He's had success guiding young teams that have been fairly offensive and he activates the dmen to join the rush and help out with the offense.  So look for him to be good for the young offensive players in LA.

20. John Anderson, Atlanta - No NHL experience but we say he's a good coach and we base this on the fact that all he does is win.  In 11 seasons with Chicago (in both the IHL and AHL) he took them to the finals 6 times, winning 4 championships, including last year.  His team led the league in goals the past 2 years, were typically in the middle of the pack defensively and consistently in the top 5 in PIMs.  So look for Anderson to get more offense out of this roster, Hartley's team's were usually fairly offensive but last year with Waddell as coach they were awful.  Atlanta's defense has always been poor and we wouldn't expect a huge improvement with Anderson given his past and the roster he's taking over. Also like this guy cause he was one of the better players on a bad Toronto team back in '80s, forming a decent line with Dan Daoust and Rick Vaive.

21. Craig Hartsburg, Ottawa - Relatively successful in his prior NHL coaching stops, Hartsy did well in 3 season's with Chicago, taking a strong defensive team lead by Belfour, Chelios and Suter to the playoffs twice.  His offense was less than spectacular although he did give a 20 year old kid named Eric Daze an opportunity and that paid off.  In almost 3 season in Anaheim he wasn't much better than average with a team that had Kariya & Selanne and not much else.  He did show a penchant for using a lot of european players, so that bodes well for a few of Ottawa's young euros.

22. Ken Hitchcock, Columbus - Hitchy did improve the team's defense in his 1st full season at the reigns but he couldn't get the offense out of the bottom third of the league and they only had 3 players break 40 points last year (and we included Fedorov in that number).  Despite his reputation as a purely defensive coach he did have a high scoring team in Philly when he coached there, so there is hope for Columbus fans now that they've upgraded the talent.  He did manage to get the most out of younger players such as Zherdev and Leclaire last year and hopefully he can do the same this year with Voracek and Brassard. 

23. Barry Melrose, Tampa Bay - Not a very successful coach in his previous 3 season stint in Los Angeles (outside of one lucky run to the finals) but I guess rockin the mullet for this long counts for something in the minds of Koules and Barrie.  Billy Ray's teams were free-wheeling back in the day, they could score goals but they gave up a lot as well (the year they went to the finals, 1992-93, LA finished 20th out of 24 teams in gaa).  One thing that he did show is that he's not afraid to lean on the youngsters, in the charge to the finals he rode 3 young dmen, Blake (23), Sydor (20) and Zhitnik (20)... they all played quality minutes and contributed offensively. There are a few similarities between that LA team and his new TB team as he's got a very young defense core and below average goaltending.

24. Alain Vigneault, Vancouver - The AV club is pretty defensive, which works out well for Luongo's numbers but not so much for anyone else.  Their leading marksmen last year was D.Sedin with 29 goals and only one guy not named Sedin broke 40 points (Naslund).  On top of that he's really not prone to using younger players as guys such as Mason Raymond and Alexander Edler only forced their way into the lineup as a result of injuries.

25. Brent Sutter, New Jersey - Sutter came in and didn't rock the Jersey boat, keeping the defense tight (not hard with Brodeur in net) and continued to sport a feeble offense.  Hard to imagine that they could be worse than the previous season under Claude Julien but they were, finishing with the 4th least goals and 6th worst PP last year.  All that and he didn't use many young guys, his youngest regular was Zajac at age 22 and not one of his top 10 scorers cracked 50 PIMs.  This has fantasy hockey GMs saying, "Ah, Brent, Red Deer is on the phone and they want you back... please go".

26. Peter DeBoer, Florida - Unbelievable coach in junior, we're really glad that he's getting a shot in the show, but its unfortunate that its with such a sad franchise.  His OHL teams were consistently near the top of the standings and were one of the leaders in goals and PIMs but his team defense is why he's making the big cake and he's typically done it without highly touted goaltenders.  So especially given the roster he's inherited in Florida, look for him to stress the defensive side of the game.  He's coached and developed a lot of current NHLers including Dave Legwand, Justin Williams, Stephen Weiss, Gregory Campbell, Derek Roy, Mike Richards, Steve Eminger and Dave Clarkson.  Now some people might say that some of these guys have not panned out in the NHL as expected and may have been overhyped but we think that just shows that DeBoer got the most out of these guys in junior and made them look good.

27. Claude Julien, Boston - For a coach whose offense is awful, at best, you'd think that he'd be a top defensive coach but Jules teams don't really keep the shots down (they gave up the 9th most in the league last year) so he seems to benefit more from good goaltending than anything else (He had Theodore in Montreal, Brodeur in NJ and a surprising Tim Thomas last year).  Boston managed only one 60+ point scorer last year (Savard) and nobody broke 30 goals.  He did use youngsters like Kessel, Lucic and Krejci so that bodes well for them and some of the other Boston prospects.

28. Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix - Hard to do this to Wayne but maybe its karma for that high stick on Gilmour in the '93 playoffs that Kerry Fraser pretended not to see... but we digress.  Granted Wayner's been using a lot of young players but both this offense and defense are sub-par and even his power play is powerless.  On the plus side, he must be employing his old buddy Dave Semenko to help out cause he's consistently in the top 10 in the league in PIMs.  We think things will pick up for GWG at some point... but hey, karma's a bitch buddy.

29. Andy Murray, St. Louis - The numbers say it all (from last season)... 26th in goals, 29th in shots for, 30th in PP goals, 30th in PP %, 22nd in gaa, 27th in SV %.  His PP is awful, the only time he had a decent one was one time in LA when he was coaching Ziggy Palffy.  Lets hope this has made him humble enough and he'll ride guys like Oshie, Berglund, Perron and Erik Johnson this year, otherwise it could be another debacle.

30. TBD Head Coach, NYI - Not sure that it will really matter who steps in to this calamitous position, this roster has less talent than Kevin Federline.  Hell, Scotty Bowman could coach this team and I don't think they would score. They were #30 out of 30 last year in goals scored and #29 in PP goals scored. Oh and they were also in the bottom third of the league in goals against, shots against and PIMs.  So what did GM Garth Snow do about it... get rid of 3 of his top 6 scorers (Satan, Vasicek and Fedotenko) and top scoring dman (Berard) and brought in Doug Weight and Mark Streit.  The kids should get an opportunity to play, so that is a plus but its shaping up to be a perfect storm of hideousness on the island.