Fantasy landscape changed by Murray firing, Foster trade
Anyone who drafted anyone on the Los Angeles Kings (with the exception of goaltender Jonathan Quick) has agonized all year about the lack of goal-scoring from this extremely talented team. How is it possible that a team with such talents as Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams up front last in the Western Conference in goal-scoring? How is a team with Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson on the blueline tied with the frickin’ New York Islanders for last in the entire NHL in goal-scoring?
Well, recently-fired coach Terry Murray would be a good place to start looking. His strict defensive system shackled his entire team to a boring series of 2-1 soporific snorefests when, if he simply let his talented squad of skilled players run-and-gun, they would clearly electrify their way to the top of the Pacific Division.
My advice to anyone in a fantasy league when analyzing these talented Kings is buy, buy, buy. Although the interim head coach, John Stevens, is not known for a wide-open style of play, he will cedrtainly not bind them to the dreaded defensive trap like his failed predecessor Murray. And whomever takes over as the next full-time coach of the Kings will at least allow the forwards to forecheck and the defensemen to rush and pinch in the zone, leading to more goal-scoring opportunities.
Defenseman Drew Doughty should be the biggest beneficiary of a coaching change. Extremely gifted offensively, he was a Norris Trophy candidate and Team Canada stalwart with 59 points in the 2009-10 campaign. Murray’s take-no-chances system has strangled him over the past two seasons, as Doughty dropped to 40 points last season and just 8 points one-third of the way through this year. He is a good buy-low candidate in a trade, as is fellow Kings’ rearguard Jack Johnson, who, just 24 years old, has untapped 50+ point potential with a blistering shot and superlative skating ability.
Up front, Kopitar and Richards are elite players who will be difficult to acquire, but Gagne, Penner, Williams and especially Brown should all step up their offensive output now that they will be freed to actually try and score goals, rather than simply prevent scoring opportunities for the opposition. All four of them should quickly return to 30-goal form and positively impact any fantasy squad which acquires them.
In trade news, it may have seemed barely notable when the Devils acquired defenseman Kurtis Foster for a pair of AHL spare parts and a seventh round draft pick last week. After all, Foster had been a frequent scratch with his previous club in Anaheim and had tallied just two points on the season thus far. Upon closer inspection, however, Foster might be a cunning add in deeper fantasy leagues. A 6’5″ oak tree with a howitzer slap shot and the ability to run a power play, Foster will get immediate first-unit man-advantage time with a New Jersey power play which includes a plethora of talent: Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and soon Travis Zajac. Do not forget that Foster tallied an impressive 42 points with Tampa Bay just two seasons ago, and it would not be a terrible gamble to assume he could repeat that kind of production with the Devils for the foreseeable future.
Adam Larsson owners should also monitor this situation, as the 18 year old defenseman is likely to lose power play time to Foster. As young and incredibly talented as Larsson is, however, I would not dare risk dropping him in any keeper-league format.