HANGIN WITH JON COOPER
A day after firing former AHL flavor-of-the-month Guy Boucher, the Tampa Bay Lightning named Jon Cooper - the head of their AHL affiliate - as the eighth bench boss in team history. Some believed that Lindy Ruff would be the guy, but GM Steve Yzerman opted to go for new energy over well-traveled, raspy raggedness.
Cooper coached the Norfolk Admirals to a Calder Cup title and won the AHL's coach of the year award for last season. That's a solid sign, but fantasy owners might be most delighted to hear that he considers himself an "aggressive" coach who hopes to blend the styles of the Broadstreet Bullies-era Philadelphia Flyers with the Wayne Gretzky-fueled Edmonton Oilers dynasty. (Wouldn't we all, though?)
Ultimately, we'll just need to wait and see; it's hard not to think that time has already run out on the Bolts this season. Then again, that AHL flavor of the month thing has actually worked out pretty well out of the gate lately ... just ask Boucher about the 2011 playoffs.
People who roundly mocked the Zach Parise-Ryan Suter signings might be a little less vocal about their satire in late March. The Minnesota Wild are fighting to maintain their spot atop the Northwest Division with a six-game winning streak and an 8-1-0 record in their last nine games (with just one coming via a shootout and their only loss was by one goal.)
While the Wild’s duo of well-compensated still-fairly-new additions can breathe a little easier lately, I’d wager that the biggest fantasy climber is goalie Niklas Backstrom.*
In January and February, the Finnish netminder had an 8-5-2 record with zero shutouts. Things have really picked up in March, however, as he's 9-2-0 in 11 games. Josh Harding's health issues have allowed Backstrom to appear in 11 games in a row and 15 of Minnesota's last 16 contests.
Even if his wins slow down as his goal support sags, he seems like he'll help you in workhorse categories like saves.
PENGUINS NOT PROCRASTINATING
It looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins are getting an early jump on the trade deadline. After acquiring Brenden Morrow on Sunday, the team nabbed fading defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks.
To some, it’s an example of a contender who might assume that declining players will somehow have a Eureka moment that comes from playing for a better team. Others will be quick to deploy their “warrior” and “tough to play against” mottos.
While Morrow might have some genuine fantasy use as a depth pickup, Murray’s not very worthwhile unless your league tracks hits and blocked shots.
INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS
Quite the audition on the Chicago Blackhawks first line for Michael Frolik: he scored two goals and an assist. His last goal came on the opening day of the 2013 season (Jan. 19), so it’s safe to say his fantasy relevance rests on him sticking with the big guns … Daniel Briere is out indefinitely with a concussion. Very disappointing season for the prolific playoff point producer … Paul Stastny is day-to-day with a foot problem ... Zbynek Michalek is day-to-day (lower-body) ... Craig Anderson skated on Monday. It's funny that the Senators' goalies have been so strong that such an update probably doesn't even excite Ottawa fans that much ... Two especially interesting centers whose expiring contracts could make them trade bait: Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy ... Erik Karlsson seems like he's leaving the door open a crack for a playoff-ish comeback. As amazing as he is, I worry that would be yet another example of a player rushing back from a serious injury.
* - Who’s fighting for a new deal - whether it’s with the Wild or another team - after this season, by the way.