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The Week in Fantasy: Coaches can make all the difference

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche were really bad last year. They had the worst record of any Western Conference team last year aside from Arizona (non-Canadian team division). They were probably going to be very bad again this year. Then something magical happened: Patrick Roy quit.

For the unintiated, Roy was one of, if not the, worst coaches in the NHL last year. He was vehemently against analytics and seemed to want to hold back the offensively gifted Avalanche and do anything but play the modern puck possession-focused game. A team with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene along with Tyson Barrie on the backend should not be doing that.

So when Roy quit, they hired Jared Bednar, formerly the coach of the 2015-16 AHL champion Lake Erie Monsters. They hired a coach with success in the modern professional game and guess what: the team’s already more fun to watch and winning games as well.

Semyon Varlamov just put up a shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-0 win (at this point I’m convinced Ben Bishop is a sleeper against fighting against my fantasy team). MacKinnon has five points in four games. Joe Colborne has three goals and an assist. Landeskog has three points. Barrie has three points. And Duchene had two goals and a helper on Thursday.

Let us now contrast this with the Anaheim Ducks. They had one of the better coaches (playoff failures and goalie management aside) in Bruce Boudreau and fired him to be replaced with Randy Carlyle. Ask any Maple Leafs fan and you’ll hear horror stories about how much he held back the team and was also, like Roy, vehemently against any kind of focus on puck possession.

All of us Devils fans watched when the Devils played Anaheim. That team is not the offensive possession juggernaut they were under Boudreau, Hampus Lindholm or not. The team currently sits at 1-3-1, with only a win over the Flyers to show for it. They have ten goals in five games.

Anaheim’s shot attempt differential jumped by three positive points for the rest of the season in 2011-12 when Boudreau took over for Carlyle. Look for the opposite to happen here, along with a reversal of the gain in the standings the team has seen during the reign of Boudreau.

So what does that mean for fantasy? Ryan Getzlaf actually scored at a higher clip under Carlyle, but it’s reasonable to assume with Boudreau’s possession positive style and that players generally score their most in the early-mid-20’s that Getzlaf’s production was artificially enhanced by Boudreau recently.

The same can likely be said for Corey Perry. Perry won his MVP under Carlyle in 2010-11 and was only a point per game player once, in 2013-14 under Boudreau. But the same assumptions apply here as they did to Getzlaf. Players generally score their most points in their early-mid 20’s (Sidney Crosby’s career high in points came when he was 19, for example), and Perry may have fallen off more than the point total would show under Boudreau’s system.

Players we’ve never seen away from Boudreau in Anaheim may similarly fall as their value and perception may have been inflated in that system. Rickard Rakell came in late and is now playing for Carlyle. Stay away. Cam Fowler’s already a questionable defender and is now in a system that didn’t exactly end up being helpful for similar players like Jake Gardiner in Toronto. Jakob Silfverberg was pretty valuable as a second option at right wing in fantasy, but that may no longer be the case.

Ryan Kesler may still be able to play defense, but he barely broke 50 points last year. It’s not unreasonable that he drops to 45 this year and that makes him pretty much worthless in fantasy at center. David Perron may go back to what he was before he joined Anaheim, a disappointing scoring winger. Hampus Lindholm may not be himself and have a chance to get in shape whenever he comes back.

Just like you should go all in on currently undervalued Avalanche players, stay away and actively run from anyone on the Ducks. I’d consider trading Perry and Getzlaf now while they still have high value. Maybe even trade them for Duchene and Barrie. That’d be a pretty good deal right now.