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Frozen Fantasy: New Coach, New Life?

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

One man's garbage is another man's treasure. At least that's what Bruce Boudreau found out this week, all in the span of about 65 hours.

They love me, they love me not...

Someone else loves me? How much will they pay?

Paul Maurice and Randy Carlyle haven't been quite as lucky. Then again, neither of their resumes says 'fastest ever to coach 200 wins' the way Gabby's does. Maurice's just says ‘fired twice by same team'. Carlyle's? Probably 'extra on set of Grumpy Old Men.'

But I digress.

The firings and hirings produced plenty of on-and-off ice winners and losers. But what do these moves mean for fantasy owners?

I'll start in Anaheim where everyone gets a clean slate including Carlyle's whipping boy, Bobby Ryan. He's not going anywhere now. Gabby's a player's coach with a track record of getting outstanding performances out of stud players.

That means fantasy wins all around in Anaheim. They'll still have holes – their bottom-six is easily the worst in the NHL. But the reins will be loosened and the bits changed from gag to snaffle on all the stars. Expect improved paces from the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky, Cam Fowler and even Jonas Hiller.

In Carolina, Kirk Muller's defensive eye can only help the abysmal own-zone and two-way efforts of the Canes. Dud Cam Ward should become stud Cam Ward again. Eric Staal's plus-minus will trend in the right direction and the points will finally come. Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen will stabilize, Jeff Skinner will be Jeff Skinner and Tomas Kaberle will be toast.

I don't hold the same faith for the fantasy fates of the Caps' stars. Sure, Dale Hunter's number is hanging in the arena and he knows how to handle young studs. But it's a lot more challenging to convince a $6 or $9 million earner to back-check than an 18-year-old earning milk money. Then again, Hunter did manage to get Rob Schremp to back check …

Once.

I think the Caps would actually have been far better off hiring a well-respected, Russian-speaking coach/mentor who used to play in the NHL than to fire Boudreau. Someone like that could babysit – I mean mentor – the enigmatic stars in D.C. And perhaps extract/nurse/cajole/manipulate excellence from you know who.

But the Caps still don't have a guy like that. And I don't know if Hunter is bilingual. I do know he speaks both loud and scream – does that count? But those two things aren't likely to help fantasy fortunes of your sensitive superstars.

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Richard Bachman, G, Dallas (1 percent owned) – This guy should have been the back up in Dallas this year. But I suspect Stars' management knew they needed veteran insurance for Kari Lehtonen's wonky groins. And it seems they were right. Andrew Raycroft is now the starter for at least three weeks and Bachman is backing him up. But this 24-year-old has the ability to steal some time from Rayzor should the former Calder winner falter. He's small by today's goalie standards (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) but he's smart, has exceptional positioning and is very quiet between the pipes – his rebound control is fantastic. His AHL numbers this year haven't been dominant but he proved himself among the elite last year with a line that looked like this: 28-19-5, 2.20 and .927. Lehtonen is out at least three weeks and Rayzor won't play every night. This is Bachman's chance. I think he'll make the best of it.

Francois Beauchemin, D, Anaheim (4 percent owned) – Beauchemin has an absolute cannon from the blue line. It's best suited as a second power-play type of option but with Lubomir Visnovsky out, Beauchemin has finally started to pick up the slack. He's riding a three-game, power-play point streak heading into Friday and should thrive under new coach Bruce Boudreau. He can help you.

T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary (1 percent owned) – The Calgary feeder system is full of decent but unspectacular prospects. Brodie doesn't exactly project as the next Shea Weber but he's no pylon, either. He's a strong skater who can coordinate a strong breakout, butter soft passes to streaking forwards and loves to join the rush. That combination of talents earned him a berth in last year's AHL All-Star Game as a rookie and a fourth-place finish on the freshman defender scoring list. He's still learning his craft so that means he'll occasionally overextend himself and get into trouble on his side of the puck. But he's looked solid so far (three points in his last four games). And his ice time is about to go up courtesy of Mark Giordano's injury. He's worth nabbing short term.

Eric Condra, RW, Ottawa (0 percent owned) – Condra was absolutely prolific during his college career but this not-so-hot wheels have been exposed in the NHL. Still, he's “new ivy” smart and makes up for his overall lack of start-up speed with tireless hustle, intelligent angles and dogged determination. He profiles more as a checker but right now, those soft collegiate hands are showing their skills with two goals and two assists in his last four games. There are worse options out there.

David Desharnais, C, Montreal (3 percent owned) – Double-D has trouble making the height minimum for amusement park rides but he knows how to torpedo his way through on-ice traffic. Like other great small players, Double-D sometimes appears to have more guts than brains. But he somehow manages to bounce off opposing players and feather deft passes through a sea of legs right to his winger's tape. He has fit right in between sniper Michael Cammalleri and aggressive power winger Eric Cole, and ended up with a goal, two assists and a shootout snipe Thursday. He may give you good value while Scott Gomez is out. Cripes, he'll probably give you good value when Gomez is back.

Simon Despres, D, Pittsburgh (0 percent owned) – Deep leaguers should take a look at this guy right now. Kris Letang is out for who knows how long and Despres debuted Thursday with an assist. He's big with sweet wheels and a wide wingspan, not unlike Jay Bouwmeester. And his talents earned him the QMJHL Defenseman of the Year award last year. I wouldn't exactly call him a thinking man's man but that's not going to matter on a team with so much offense, at least right now. Despres could surprise short term.

Kristian Huselius, LW/RW, Columbus (2 percent owned) – Yes, the Jackets suck. But prior to last season, Huselius had delivered five-straight, 20-plus goal seasons. He knows how to score. And pass. His game isn't perfect. But his flaws can be hidden when slotted in beside a big-bodied center like Jeff Carter or Ryan Johansen. And that's just where he'll be in the matter of a game or two. It's not often you can nab a top-six type off the wire. He's worth the gamble.

Tyler Kennedy, LW/RW, Pittsburgh (13 percent owned) – He might be relegated to a checking role right now but he's still managed to deliver five points in his last five games. And remember – he was the Pens' top goal scorer over the second half last season (15-12-27 in 40 games). Clearly, the guy has talent. Plus he's feisty with fantastic wheels. And he can fit into just about any role, even a top-line gig in the event of an emergency. Owners in deep leagues are snapping up Penguins just in case they skate with Sidney Crosby at some point. But even if he doesn't, Kennedy offers surprising value in deep leagues.

Magnus Paajarvi, LW, Edmonton (4 percent owned) – I'd really hoped this talented speedster would snap out of his funk when given a chance to fill Taylor Hall's skates alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky on Monday night. So much for that … at least for now. Paajarvi has size, talent and speed to burn. But he just hasn't used them all together this year. He was back on a lower line Wednesday where he looked like he was starting to use his speed a little better. And that could spell another shot on the top line. He'll be gold if he can get his head back in the game. Don't nab him now but be prepared to pounce if he gets another shot and finds chemistry with those guys. The talent is there; the points could come flying in.

Ryan O'Reilly, C, Colorado (8 percent owned) – You need assists? O'Reilly is your man. He's run hot-and-cold this season but he's the kind of guy who's always in the right place at the right time AND doing the right thing when he's there. He has found recent chemistry with sniper Milan Hejduk and rookie stud Gabriel Landeskog … to the tune of five points (one goal, four helpers) in his last three games. It's sometimes hard to believe this third-year pro still isn't old enough to legally drink in the state of Colorado. The pride of Clinton, Ontario is a worthy addition in deep leagues, particularly if he can maintain his current mid-50s point pace.

Kris Russell, D, St. Louis (3 percent owned) – I don't think it's coincidental that the Blues traded for Russell right after former Jackets' coach and consultant Ken Hitchcock was brought in as their new coach. Russell is small but an absolutely exquisite skater – fast and fluid with the ability to turn and initiate the outlet on a dime. He's behind Alex Pietrangelo (84 percent owned) and Kevin Shattenkirk (74 percent owned), particularly for power-play time. But that's not his shtick any way. His mobility is going to earn him opportunity and points from transition. And I have a feeling there might just be a fair number of those with the new Blues.

Back to the sensitive superstars.

I really hope I'm wrong about the Caps and Dale Hunter. In one of my seven leagues, I roll four Caps – including first overall pick Ovie – every week. I should be comfortably in first in that league but I'm sitting in third thanks to his sub-first round output.

Spit.

I'm hoping – no, praying – "le petite peste" can light a fire under the Alexes. But I already know Gabby has kicked up the excitement level in Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan.

There's a huge difference between hoping and knowing.

At least I'll get the benefit of Getzlaf's boost in a couple other leagues.

Until next week.

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