Kovalchuk

 

Atlanta general manager Don Waddell made himself interim coach when he fired Bob Hartley after a 0-6-0 start to the season. Like all coaching changes, this one brought a whole new attitude to the roster. Lines were mixed around, players responded in different ways, and subsequently the fantasy value of some players has changed dramatically.

 



For starters, Ilya Kovalchuk was following up a disappointing season with four points in six games before the coaching change. He has eight points in five games since. Waddell is still experimenting with several different linemates for the slick Russian superstar. Todd White and Eric Perrin saw success there, but more recently Darren Haydar and Bryan Little have been the guys. Whichever pair is lining up with him, his production has improved to the level where it should be. Whether he had it in for Hartley or Waddell found the right button to push, Kovalchuk is a 100-point player now.

Another player who has seen a production jump is rookie defenseman Tobias Enstrom. The 22-year-old Swede has three of his four points in the five games since the coaching change. He has played at least 23 minutes a game in the last three contests. During the Hartley regime, he did not reach the 23-minute mark once. For the time being, he will be good for more than one point every two games.

One player who is not doing so well is winger Marian Hossa. The 28-year-old – who could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer – has not recorded a point in his last four games. He is still getting the ice time, but Waddell has not found the right linemates for him as of yet. The GM/coach is stubbornly refusing to reunite Slava Kozlov with him and until that happens his numbers won’t be as big as they could be. Kozlov will also not be a fantasy factor until he can get the superstar back on his line.

That is the way things are shaking down in Atlanta until the new coach is brought in…

Meanwhile…

Toronto rearguard Pavel Kubina has nine points in 12 games to lead all Leaf defensemen in that category. He also leads the team in ice time this season, logging nearly 24 minutes per game. He is also seeing over three minutes per contest on the power play. He was a 35-point player in Tampa Bay and the Leafs would like to justify his contract by continuing to give him optimal ice time. While his torrid pace obviously won’t continue throughout the season, he could have a 40-point season for the first time in his career. He’s hot right now  - eight points in eight games, plus-11, 12 penalty minutes and 10 shots – and makes a great acquisition in most roto-league formats…

The Habs are still employing an ‘offense from the defense’ strategy, particularly on the power play, even after the team lost Sheldon Souray to unrestricted free agency in the summer. Andrei Markov has nine points this season in 10 games, including four in his last three. Roman Hamrlik is heating up with six points in his last four, while Mark Streit has four in his last four. Health permitting, under this system Hamrlik could be a 50-point player this year for the second time in his career and the first time in over a decade.

 

 

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