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Frozen Fantasy: Coaching Carousel

Janet Eagleson

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

How much of an impact does a coach actually make on a team? Maybe Vinnie Viola, new owner of the Panthers, should have asked Ed Snider that question before Friday morning.

Heads or tails?

Peter Laviolette or Craig Berube? Kevin Dineen or Peter Horachek? And when it comes right down to it, John Tortorella or Alain Vigneault?

Now, Red Sox faithful would tell you the World Series is owed to John Farrell (yes, I'm a somewhat bitter Jays fan), but that's a stretch. And Devils fans would say Big Bird Larry Robinson was the perfect Robbie Ftorek antidote that team needed to bring home a Cup in 1999-2000.

Horseshoes. That's what Lou Lamoriello had back then.

Still, it's actually rare for a coach to effect major change on a team in the middle of a season. Just ask Craig Berube in Philly.


Sometimes there's a brief honeymoon after the arrival of a new coach where players respond with improved production. Some guys might even blossom in a new role in a new regime.

Yeah, and pigs can fly.

It's far more likely the team in question will be stuck with the same basic situation - they'll just feel better about it. And you'll be stuck with the same fantasy roster you had before.

Regular readers know I often recommend poaching the best scorers off bad clubs. But I'm not sure I can do that - at least right now - with either the Panthers or the Flyers. Both of them suck. Neither can provide you immediate fantasy help.

Am I cynical? Maybe, but I prefer to call it realistic. So maybe it's time to try something new. Maybe it's time to talk up the whole new coach rebound effect to my closest the hope he'll take the bait and pick up one of those losers.

Sometimes helping yourself doesn't always mean making changes to your own roster.

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

Todd Bertuzzi, LW/RW, Detroit (10 percent owned) - Every time I think Big Bert is done, he proves me wrong. His impressive physical game is gone and he's more than a decade removed from his best offense. But like the best, he knows how to get into the right spot at the right time. And that means points - and plenty of them - when he plays with guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. He'll be hard-pressed to keep delivering to the beat of his current drum (five points in four games). But he can deliver you decent production if he sticks with his current linemates. Take advantage. Then kick him to the curb when the lines get juggled.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Edmonton (unavailable on Yahoo!) - The league's craziest quote just inked a one-year deal in the city where it's minus-32 with eight months of snow. Edmonton is the North Pole, for gosh sake. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of folks in Edmonton who still remember his 2006 quote about their beloved city. But they'll cut him some slack for at least a few periods of hockey, particularly if he flashes anything good in their blue paint. Yes, they're a desperate lot. But here's the thing. His game was down the well without a rope for most of the last couple seasons. It's not like he's Tim Thomas, who went out on top and was pretty close to being back to that level before this most recent injury. Bryzgalov needs a strong system in front of him to help fuel his rebound. His greatness in the desert was a function of Dave Tippett's system, not his own talent. And the Oil don't exactly have a great system, do they...? Media circus. Ten foot pole. Don't do it.

Jan Hejda, D, Colorado (3 percent owned) - Hejda will never be miscast as an offensive guy. But this big shutdown specialist just so happens to have four assists and a plus-9 rating in his last five games. He's also on pace to obliterate his career high in hits and top his best in blocked shots. He may be boring, but he can help if - like me - you've been hammered with injuries.

Jakub Kindl, D, Detroit (3 percent owned) - He loves me; he loves me not. He loves me; he loves me not. Every time I pump this guy's tires, he gets cold feet. He only has six points, but four of them have come in the last four games. He's been a little soft in his own zone, but he's on a 30-point pace and that may have value in deep, deep leagues. Just keep an eye on those feet for when they go cold again. They will. And it'll drive you nuts if you don't have a plan for it.

Chris Kreider, LW/C, NY Rangers (9 percent owned) - Kreider is a tease. He's lightning fast and big, and has the tools to be a completely dominating, top-line scorer. But he's consistently inconsistent - he still has fewer goals in 32 regular-season games than he does from his delicious postseason displays of goal scoring (six in 26 games). Patience really is a virtue with this guy. But he's ripping in his last six - try two goals and six points in that span. Remember - he's still technically a rookie and he's currently tied for eighth in rookie scoring. Use him if you can afford some lows with the highs.

Clarke MacArthur, LW, Ottawa (12 percent owned) - Mack is a decent, complementary player who just so happens to be playing his best offensive hockey since his career year in Toronto. He's on pace for a 60-point season and that means he should be owned in all but the shallowest of Yahoo! leagues. Scoop him up and enjoy his production beside Mr. Bobby Ryan.

Dustin Penner, LW, Anaheim (10 percent owned) - Not only did pancake man enter action Friday on a four-game point streak, but he also led the league (yes - led the league) in plus-minus. Go freaking figure. So when he delivered a four-point game Friday against the Sabres, he became a member of one of my fantasy squads. I have plenty of space for a guy with more points than games played. How about you? The worst thing that can happen? He might hurt himself in the kitchen (again) and you have to drop him fast.

Colin Wilson, LW, Nashville (5 percent owned) - Heading into Thursday night, Wilson had five points in 13 games. Borrrrring. Coming out of Thursday night, he had four more points - two goals and two assists. Impressive. Wilson has the tool kit to be a 70-point player, but he's burdened with the chains of Barry Trotz and that means he'll be hard-pressed to hit 55 in a season. If only, eh? You need to pretty much catch lightning in a bottle with him if you pick him up, though - those four points were the only ones he tallied over the last seven games. I'm not snagging him yet, but you can bet your butt I'll be watching him over the next week or so.

Tom Wilson, RW, Washington (1 percent owned) - This man-child (6-foot-4 and 210 pounds at just 19) has been a revelation this season. He's skilled with enough aggression for fantasy owners to start whisper-chanting, power winger...power winger. It's still much to early to expect greatness from this tough and talented winger. But he'll keep putting up from PIMs and hits as long as he's getting ice time.

Mats Zuccarello, LW, NY Rangers (3 percent owned) - The Norwegian Hobbit is hot. He might only have eight points on the season, but seven of those - all assists - have come in his last six games. He's actually one of those guys who has blossomed under a new coach (hint: Torts didn't exactly think the Hobbit had what it takes in a big man's game). He's shifty and creative, and he knows how to dish pucks. The Rangers need more than just a dose of the Hobbit to heal their offensive woes, but you might as well enjoy the ride while he's surging.

Back to the carousel.

Laviolette and Dineen won't be the last coaches fired this season. There are plenty of others whose best-before dates are approaching. Ron Rolston. Claude Noel. And sadly, maybe even Dallas Eakins.

Vinnie Viola is new on the job and it sure looks like he's making his mark in Florida. The sad part? That team won't get better - just like the Flyers won't get better - because of poor team defense, a lack of true depth, underachieving talent and queasy netminding.

Hmmmm...sounds like a lot of other teams, eh?

Knee jerk moves are coming. And with those moves comes fantasy chaos. Sure, it'll be fun to watch, but buyer beware.

Until next week.