James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Not so Ruff any longer?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


In one of the earliest Daily Dose columns I’ve written, I expressed some serious optimism that the St. Louis Blues’ coaching change would benefit the team during the 2011-12 season. That ended up being far more accurate than I ever would have guessed, as Ken Hitchcock won a Jack Adams and the Blues nearly won the Presidents' Trophy.

To some extent, there’s a chance that any coaching change can give a team - or even just a few players who were in the doghouse - a little boost. It’s about human nature in much the same way as players making a jump is; when you fear for your job or just your established niche, you’re naturally going to play a little harder. If nothing else, some struggling types might respond better to a different voice barking at them.

Buffalo Sabres players must have had Lindy Ruff’s voice tattooed into their brains at this point. The NHL’s (formerly) longest tenured head coach was let go on Wednesday after the team dropped a boo-soaked 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

At least at this moment in time, GM Darcy Regier is still in power. One would think that might change in the future, considering it was Regier - not Ruff - who whiffed on big spending sprees featuring the likes of Ville Leino.

(We’ll see about the Derek Roy-Steve Ott swap, although exchanging skill for scrappiness usually isn’t the wisest move.)

Either way, the question for fantasy owners is: who might prosper with a new voice in the room? Honestly, looking at the numbers, I’m not so sure there are many obvious people … unless it’s by coincidence alone.

SAVING SABRES

One guy who might get some extra juice is Ryan Miller. I openly wonder if Miller’s silver medal and Vezina Trophy-winning year was an over-his-head experience and the Miller we’ve seen the last few years is the one we’ll always see. When you look at his career statistics, the anomaly season is that top-of-the-world one, not the ones around that campaign.

Still, merely watching a typical Sabres game should give you the feeling that he’s being hung out to dry. Maybe it will be subtle or pronounced, but better team defense might help Miller post better numbers.

I wouldn’t expect him to decline, since things couldn’t get a whole lot worse - at least if his effort remains apparent.

THE BIG BUFFS

If you’re anticipating even more greatness from Thomas Vanek, you’re nuts. Hopefully you’re a more reasonable individual than not. Vanek’s numbers will likely decline a bit just by the law of averages/decreasing luck.

As you look at Buffalo’s other big scorers, it doesn’t seem like effort is in short order, at least if you judge that based on shots on goal. Vanek has 58 shots on goal, yet Jason Pominville (seven goals, 15 points, 44 SOG), Cody Hodgson (seven goals, 15 points, 50 SOG), Tyler Ennis (five goals, 13 points, 48 SOG) and even Christian Ehrhoff (two goals, 10 points, 33 SOG) are also piling up chances.

Maybe guys like Drew Stafford (one goal on just 48 SOG) will just get luckier, but the sad fact is that this team isn’t loaded with underachievers, it’s low on talent. (Again, why Regier probably deserved to be canned instead of or with Ruff.)

Perhaps Ron Rolston can reach in the injury basement and dust off Ville Leino or something, though? (Seriously, what happened to that guy? I haven’t heard a substantial update about him since late January.)

More fantasy fun after the jump.


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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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