The merits of an in-season coaching change can be debated ad nauseum when it comes to the impact in the NHL standings, but recent history suggests that the move has a significant impact for fantasy purposes.
We've had two coaching changes already this season and both have had dramatic results for the fantasy players on the teams involved.
Coach John Tortorella may still be guiding the Columbus Blue Jackets to the basement of the Eastern Conference, but there is no question that fantasy owners welcome his presence. Before being injured, Sergei Bobrovsky was among the best fantasy goaltenders in the NHL in a month under Tortorella. Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad and Brandon Dubinsky have all worked their way into fantasy starting lineups, and Seth Jones has been awesome since becoming a Blue Jacket.
Coach Mike Sullivan will get the credit for waking up Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins from a fantasy perspective. While they may be outside the NHL's playoff picture at the moment, fantasy owners aren't complaining much. Crosby leads the NHL in points since Sullivan was hired, and Kris Letang, despite missing half a dozen games, is 10th in scoring since then. Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz both came back from the dead under Sullivan. It's not all good, as Marc-Andre Fleury has suffered under the new regime, but on the whole, this change was good for fantasy.
This brings us to the Minnesota Wild and the firing of coach Mike Yeo over the weekend. It will be a bit different from the Blue Jackets' and Penguins' changes from a fantasy perspective, as interim Wild coach John Torchetti is not expected to make any major changes to how the Wild play hockey. He comes from the team's AHL affiliate in Iowa, and was coaching Yeo's system there to make it an easy transition on call-ups.
That said, a fresh voice behind the bench is bound to be a wake-up call that never came during an eight-game losing streak that resulted in Yeo being shown the door. This could also bode well for the Wild's younger forwards that have developed through the system. Torchetti coached the affiliate Houston Aeros in 2012-13 when Justin Fontaine, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund all had banner campaigns. He also coached Matt Dumba as a power-play quarterback with the Iowa Wild for parts of last season. We wouldn't be shocked to see that familiarity bleed through in the early going.
To really get a handle on how things might change, we need to see a game or two, but fantasy owners shouldn't sit on their hands. Dumba, by all means, should be scooped up in your league if he hasn't been already. Even prior to a change to a coach that knows him, his minutes have been on the rise and he's posted two goals and four assists in the past six games. Zucker is also well worth keeping an eye on, as he had fallen deeply into Yeo's doghouse of late, but posted a torrent start to the season on a scoring line. If he's given some responsibility back, he could respond in turn.
But beyond that, watch the deployment on Monday in Vancouver and Wednesday in Calgary and respond to what Torchetti shows us. Yeo was a coach who was fairly married to consistent line combinations, so we haven't seen all the possibilities yet. Torchetti might show us something we haven't seen yet that works.
Forwards rising and falling
Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings (up 16 spots to No. 73): It's about time Datsyuk was reunited with Henrik Zetterberg on the ice, and we are seeing a renaissance for the elite veteran. Since playing with Zetterberg again in five games, Datsyuk has at least one point in each. His totals are five goals, four assists and 20 shots in those five games. That's huge for owners who have limped along with his six goals and 18 assists in 36 games prior. So long as coach Jeff Blashill leaves well enough alone, expect Datsyuk to be back to his elite self.
Jaden Schwartz, W, St. Louis Blues (up 22 spots to No. 79): Schwartz returned with a bang, playing on last season's line with Jori Lehtera and superstar Vladimir Tarasenko. His ankle injury has forced him to miss so much time this season that fantasy owners may have forgotten that Schwartz finished as the 48th best forward on the ESPN Player Rater last season, ahead of names such as Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar. He's a potential game change for fantasy owners off the waiver wire, as he remains available in 30 percent of ESPN leagues.
Evander Kane, W, Buffalo Sabres (up 55 spots to No. 117): The Kane in the top-five on the ESPN Player Rater for the past month is not Patrick Kane. No one has more shots on goal in the past 30 days than the Sabres winger, and his traditional rough play has also earned him the third-most penalty minutes in the NHL during that time. Also, only five players have more goals in the past month. Kane has finally found his stride for the Sabres, and needs to be treated with new-found respect by fantasy owners.
Defensemen rising and falling
Dion Phaneuf, D, Ottawa Senators (up 30 spots to No. 152): Let's just say that sharing the ice with Erik Karlsson, even if it's just for the man advantage, is going to have a positive impact on Phaneuf's numbers. He had to play like the No. 1 defenseman that he is not for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now he gets to settle in with the Sens as the clear second fiddle to Karlsson and contribute. The results are three assists and two power-play points through three games.
Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 20 spots to No. 161): As we said when this trade happened, Jones had an outside shot of approaching No. 1 fantasy defenseman status as the top dog for the Blue Jackets. Well, in a 12-team league, he's there. Looking at the past month, Jones is the 12th-best defenseman on the ESPN Player Rater. Jones has nine assists, three power-play points and 31 shots in the past month, and is averaging a healthy 24:37 in average ice time. And did we mentioned he's a plus-6 during that span, too?
Goaltenders rising and falling
Ondrej Pavelec, G, Winnipeg Jets (enters at No. 189): Connor Hellebuyck stumbled at the exact wrong time. If Pavelec had returned to health one month sooner, the Jets would have had a conundrum on their hands with a hot rookie goaltender in Hellebuyck, adequate NHL backup in Michael Hutchinson and veteran starter in Pavelec. But Hellebuyck has been anything but hot during the past month, and it was a no-brainer to send him back to the AHL for the return of Pavelec. That cements Pavelec back into the starter's role, as Hutchinson was nothing special during his absence. Pavelec was a clear No. 2 fantasy goaltender last season, and with Hellebuyck not around to press him for starts, Pavelec should be owned in more than just the 23 percent of ESPN leagues where he's on a team.
Ben Scrivens, G, Montreal Canadiens (enters at No. 200): We've been ranking Carey Price with optimism for a return at some point in the near future, as the Habs have been stringing everyone along as to his status. But while general manager Michel Therrien dismissed reports that Price is done for the season, we doubt the report from Montreal's La Presse newspaper was based on nothing. The fact remains that Price has not progressed as quickly in his rehab as some had thought he would, and is likely still a long way from returning. While Scrivens will give mercurial results, he's been better than Mike Condon since he joined the Habs' mix.
Finding additional help between the pipes should be a little easier this week, as Cam Ward and Karri Ramo are both hurt. That leaves Eddie Lack and Jonas Hiller as options for fantasy owners in need of starts.
Marian Hossa's injury opens up a top-six role for the Chicago Blackhawks. Those gates have been shut since Andrew Shaw settled in on the top line with Hossa and Jonathan Toews. We don't know what the shuffle will be yet, but Teuvo Teravainen is likely first in line for a chance on a scoring line.
Nick Bjugstad might be worth speculating on this week, but it would be a shot in the dark. He hasn't done much with a chance on the top line while Aleksander Barkov is injured, but Barkov isn't ready to return yet, so there's still a shot Bjugstad puts up some numbers.
Michael Cammalleri has been very good for fantasy owners -- when he's healthy. That could be the case again as early as Tuesday, following a strong practice on the weekend.
Updated top 250 rankings
Here are the updated rest-of-season, top 250 rankings of forwards, defensemen and goalies, including position ranks.
Note: Sean Allen's top 250 players are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice for skaters, and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies.