Capitals clean house - here's what it means for your fantasy squad
The sounds you heard early this weekend morning were two rather large shoes dropping in Washington, with the Capitals firing coach Adam Oates and opting not to re-sign George McPhee. Yup – a bona fide house cleaning. Oates had one year left on his contract, while McPhee had been in his position for 17 years.
Of course we’ll know more about fantasy implications once their replacements are named (step one is a press conference that will be held at 4pm Eastern on Saturday), but there are already some safe conclusions that can be drawn.
First and foremost, this was done – and done now – in large part to quell any speculation that Alex Ovechkin would pull an Alex Kovalchuk and “retire” to head to Russia. Alex was not a happy camper, and with the club taking this action there should be no doubt that Ovi will show up come training camp and be smiling a lot wider than he was on the last day of the season.
And of course a happy Ovi also means a happy Nicklas Backstrom, although for what it’s worth he had put up 127 points in 130 games while Oates was coach.
Arguably the second happiest Cap is Ovi’s fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov. Although Oates relented a bit and played Kuznetsov more than he said he would, you have to think Kuznetsov is excited about the idea of a coach who might be less afraid to let him loose right away, without training wheels. Put it this way – I think Kuznetsov and his fantasy owners can be quite confident that he won’t be taking 25% of his even strength shifts with Jay Beagle again next season.
The other Capitals players who stand to benefit the most are those who – deservedly or not – were not favorites of the now departed Oates and McPhee. And at the top of that list are Marcus Johansson and Dmitri Orlov, who never seemed to get enough traction to excel. Both will get a fresh start, and I for one think they'll each grab their big chance and run with it.
This might also end up being a net positive for John Carlson, who was getting all sorts of minutes under the prior regime, but whose offense was stifled by so much shorthanded ice time and tough match-ups. Maybe now he finally gets a chance to be a more all-around defenseman?
On the flip side, I’d be worried if I was Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, as although they were technically third line guys they received over 16 minutes and 15 minutes of ice time respectively as well as some decent PP time, which in turn translated to 40+ points for both. There’s a very good chance that the team will try to go with a more weighted “top six” situation when the dust settles.
I could also see this taking away some of whatever fantasy value Brooks Laich still had, as he always seemed to get regular playing time despite his numbers being way down of late. He might’ve just used his 9th life, even with his big salary. Mike Green also might have to show that he can step up, and it’s not clear whether that's something he can still do if push comes to shove.
As far as goalies, it’s harder to say what will occur. But making a change like this is often a way to prove to free agents that a team is very serious about competing, so I think this does not bode well for Braden Holtby, who could be seen as damaged goods tied to the pre-change era.
Overall, it's pretty safe to think that, unless a Ken Hitchcock type is installed as the new coach, a fair number of Caps players will see at least a first half bump in their numbers in part because of the excitement of a fresh start, but also to prove themselves to the new bosses. Go ahead and move Caps players up on your draft/retention lists.
Fantasy Players this helps, in order:
3. Whichever UFA goalie signs with Washington
Fantasy Players this hurts, in order:
1. Joel Ward
2. Braden Holtby
3. Jason Chimera
4. Brooks Laich
5. Mike Green