The Montreal Canadiens have played four games since firing head coach Claude Julien and replacing him with Dominique Ducharme. Coaches ultimately make the decisions about who gets to drive the offense and the Habs are an interesting case.
Under Julien this season, the team was rolling depth. Nick Suzuki led all Canadiens forwards in average ice time with just 18:25 per game during Julien's tenure. Tyler Toffoli averaged 17:18 and all other forwards were between 12 and 17 minutes. For reference, Suzuki ranked 67th among all forwards during that span for average ice time and Toffoli was ranked No. 101.
It wasn't ideal for fantasy, as some strong candidates for production -- Toffoli and Josh Anderson, to single some out -- were being limited. Anderson was averaging just 14:38 per game despite his fantasy output topping that of Alex Ovechkin on a per minute basis.
Under Ducharme, Suzuki has averaged 20:08, with Toffoli, Phillip Danault and Jonathan Drouin all averaging more than 18 minutes. That is a positive sign that the offense is being distilled to the top of the depth chart under the new coach.
But there's one complication: Anderson has been hurt. Missing Anderson, in a way, takes the option of rolling three lines evenly off the table for the Habs. They don't quite have the depth for the third line to be as threatening without him.
So the question stands: Can we expect more out of the Habs top offensive options going forward with a new head coach? Or will the return of Anderson see the responsibilities spread back out among all forwards?
It's worth considering that more ice time might come to some of the forwards. For what it's worth, Anderson ranks 17th in the NHL in fantasy points per 60 (FPP60) at 7.88, while Toffoli ranks 26th at 7.55. At the very least, if Anderson is available in your league (rostered in 72 percent of ESPN leagues), he's worth adding despite his current injury.
Watching how coaching changes affect the dynamic is helpful for fantasy, to be sure. Next up will be the Calgary Flames, who have brought Darryl Sutter back to the league to take the helm. The Flames have split up Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan this season -- to limited success. In 2018-19, the trio played 823 minutes together; last season they played 510 minutes together; so far this season they have played 32 minutes together.
It may also be worth keeping an eye on Jacob Markstrom. During Sutter's most-recent six-season tenure in the league with the Los Angeles Kings, Jonathan Quick maintained the second best goals-against average in the league and had the most shutouts. Before that, Miikka Kiprusoff led the NHL in GAA under Sutter's tutelage for the Flames in 2003-04 and 2005-06. That is to say, he has a reputation as a coach that is good for goaltenders.
Fantasy Forecaster: March 8 to March 14
Speaking of the Flames, they are the only team next week that plays just two games. Perhaps it's a chance to give them a rest from your fantasy roster in order to see how Sutter squares them up against -- would you look at that! -- the Montreal Canadiens.
The rest of the league plays either a three- or four-game schedule.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense), which is on the left for each game, and "D" (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
New York Islanders: The Islanders get to pick on the struggling Devils three times in four total games next week. Load up your roster where you can. Oliver Wahlstrom and Nick Leddy are the top likely available choices. Wahlstrom has been doing a lot with minimal minutes and was rewarded with a season-high 16 minutes of ice time on Thursday. Leddy started the season slow, but has come on in recent weeks picking up plenty of assists and the requisite hits and blocked shots to earn his fantasy keep. This may also be a week that the Isles give two starts to Ilya Sorokin -- probably both against the Devils -- if you need some additional goaltending points.
Ottawa Senators: Given the current state of affairs for both teams, three games against the Edmonton Oilers might result in a grand total of 30 goals between the two clubs. Focus on Drake Batherson and Tim Stutzle from the Sens, with the duo playing together at even strength and on the top power-play unit.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Among the three-game schedules in the league, the Lightning boast the best one. Two games against the Red Wings and one against the Predators should be conducive to scoring. Alex Killorn and Blake Coleman are the current members of the top six that might be available in your league. Killorn also gets minutes on the top power play.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes have the inverse Lightning schedule on the docket -- two Predators and one Red Wings. Teuvo Teravainen is back from a concussion absence, allowing the team to stack three lines of offense again. When it comes to targeting players likely to be available, Martin Necas is playing on a line with Nino Niederreieter and Vincent Trocheck. He is widely available (70 percent of leagues) and has posted six points in his past three games.
Alexandar Georgiev, G, New York Rangers: It might be tempting to go out and nab Georgiev with the injury to Igor Shesterkin looking relatively serious on Thursday night -- and it may be a smart move in the medium-term -- but watch out for the coming week when the Rangers play in Pittsburgh and twice in Boston.
Max Comtois, W, Anaheim Ducks: I'm sorry, I know I keep hammering on Comtois. I'll try to stop. He remains 25th in the NHL for FPP60 and was featured on a line with Ryan Getzlaf on Wednesday. If he keeps playing 16-plus minutes per game, he's going to be fantasy relevant.
Conor Sheary, W, Washington Capitals: Somewhat quietly, T.J. Oshie has been mostly out of the Capitals top six since Feb. 20 or so. Sheary, on the other hand, has been spending most of his time flanking Alex Ovechkin. It's been a minute, but Sheary did spend most of 2016-17 on a top line, scoring 23 goals as a winger for Sidney Crosby. It's worth watching if he sticks here.