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09-09-2009, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Cory Wilkins View Post
Aside from the (now edited) Tikhonov error, I still see no reason why this team won't finish at the bottom, or near the bottom, of the West.
You'll have to excuse us for jumping all over you as if you intentionally misspelled Tikhonov and omitted Michalek from your writeup to piss us off, but it hasn't exactly been a banner offseason for us...and it could turn even worse tomorrow. I have to agree with everyone who is questioning why you believe Colorado will finish ahead of the Coyotes, however that still puts them at, or near the bottom, which brings up another point...the Western conference is tough, and finishing near the bottom doesn't necessarily show the true picture. I think you have to look at the points a team earns, the primary reason I think the Avalanche showed last year they were truly a poor team, while the Coyotes finished the season relatively strongly, with 2 players who they acquired at the deadline making significant contributions, who will get top 6 forward minutes this season, which shows that the team may in fact be on the verge of marked improvements. I guess what I'm saying is that the teams who finish in spots 9 to 14 may not be that bad of teams, and could likely all finish within 6 pts of the 8th place team....I understand if you think the Coyotes might finish 14th, but I'd like to hear that A) it's an extremely tough conference, and B) with some possible improvements from the young talent you speak of, that the team could challenge for the 8th playoff spot.

Here's my writeup:

When assessing the 2009-10 season for such a young and talented team, the focus on the Phoenix Coyotes should be on the team, not the future location of the team.

General Manager Don Maloney had a difficult task this off-season. While Maloney had an approved budget to work with, and some room to sign some players, he was at a disadvantage given the off-ice ownership battle. There were rumours Alex Tanguay was negotiating with the team, along with rumours that a contract could not be reached until the ownership was settled. As Tanguay ended up signing in Tampa at a bargain $2.5M 1 year deal, it's quite possible, Maloney could have reached a deal with him if not for off-ice conditions.

Maloney needs to assemble a competitive team to ice for a fan base wondering whether the team might not be located in Phoenix for the long term. Tanguay would have certainly helped, being a legit top line winger. Without Tanguay, Maloney will have to depend on talented youth, the return to form of Radim Vrbata or Peter Prucha, and the untapped potential of Scottie Upshall, who scored 8 goals in 19 games after being acquired at last years trade deadline.

The most significant losses for the Coyotes during the offseason were Steven Reinprecht (traded to Florida for Stefan Meyer) and Enver Lisin (traded to NY Rangers for Lauri Korpikoski). Fan favorite Rhino should not be missed as Matthew Lombardi, is a younger, quicker (not to mention cheaper) version. Lisin might be a superstar in the making, but there were concerns about his potential to return to Russia, and Korpikoski brings much needed checking and PK skills to a team which struggled in both areas last season. He is also a former Maloney draft pick.

Quite possibly the biggest weakness for the Coyotes last season was their faceoff percentage. Free-Agent signee Vernon Fiddler will make significant contributions towards that area, and should be looked upon to take almost every critical defensive-zone faceoff. Conversely, Matthew Lombardi showed good faceoff skills with the Coyotes last season, and should help in critical offensive-zone situations, notably the power-play which coincidentally was another primary weakness for the desert dogs last season.

Other than the talented youth of the Coyotes, the biggest wildcard for the team is fugitive winger Radim Vrbata, who was acquired from Tampa Bay in deal which also helped the Coyotes rid themselves of 2 players, Todd Fedoruk & David Hale, who didn't provide the things management was hoping they would provide when they were signed the previous offseason. In addition to offense, Maloney is also hoping Vrbata will help the PK, and continue to provide the mentorship to Martin Hanzal he established in his first go around with the team.

Speaking of Hanzal, he will continue to match up against the top centers of the opposition, something he did extremely well as a rookie, improved upon his sophmore season (most notably against Joe Thornton), and should continue the upcoming season. While is offensive production has been adequate, the Coyote are hoping he will improve that part of his game this year.

The Coyotes own a handful of young forwards who will all look to improve on their rookie/sophomore seasons, including Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov, Peter Mueller, and Martin Hanzal. At this time, third overall pick in 2007, Kyle Turris, will have to show he has the size/strength to compete against NHL players, or he may see more playing time on a regular basis in the AHL for the 2009-10 season.

Matthew Lombardi, acquired in the Olli Jokinen trade, will serve as the #1 centre, although not necessarily on the #1 line given his chemistry with Scottie Upshall last season. Lombardi scored 16 points in 19 games last year with the Coyotes and the team will see how that translates over a full season. Captain Shane Doan, whose line will be considered the #1 line, is expected to lead the team in scoring, energy, effort, and everything else. Possible linemates for Doan are Peter Mueller, Vrbata, Prucha, Boedker, Turris, and maybe Lombardi. The offseason debacle must be hitting Doan harder than anyone as he is the face of the franchise, and the one who takes responsibility for failure. Look for a very determined captain to hit the ice this season.

Phoenix’s blueline took a hit at the trade deadline when Derek Morris was traded for Peter Prucha and some spare parts who were let go during the offseason. His leadership, toughness, and crisp passes will be missed, but like most good defensive groups, what they lost will be absorbed by this years version of the defense. The 2009-10 version is highlighted by the underrated, underappreciated, often-ignored Zbynek Michalek who quietly led the NHL in shot-blocking last season, but more importantly led the Coyotes defensive core the entire 2008-09 season. Paired with Kurt Sauer, who was signed to a bargain 4-year contract by Maloney the previous offseason, the pair fared extremely well against the most dangerous NHL forwards last season, including Sydney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Zetterburg/Datsyuk. Seasoned Ed Jovanovski leads the remaining defensemen, including Keith Yandle, another young player who could breakout this season, and summer additions Adrian Aucoin, Jim Vandermeer, Sami Lepisto. While questions abound in the forward ranks, the defense is solid, if yet unspectacular (much like their leader Zbynek)

Entering his second full season as a #1 goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov will be the Coyotes most valuable player (success or fail), as he will likely determine whether the Coyotes reach the playoffs. Jason LaBarbera was added during the offseason.

From the intangibles department, the team lost players like Dan Carcillo, Todd Fedoruk, and Brian McGrattan. Those types of players will be replaced by some combination of Aaron Downey, Beastly Mitch Fritz, or possibly someone else. Carcillo's act was sometimes brilliant, and just as often costly. He will be missed and he will not be missed.

The only significant difference between this years version of the Coyotes and the previous season, is the loss of Olli Jokinen. However, that was an experiment that seemingly failed, and to date hasn't worked extremely well in Calgary either.

Judging by the performances last year of Lombardi and Upshall; Radim Vrbata's goal-scoring during his first stint with the Coyotes; the potential of the young talented forwards to improve; a stong defensive unit; and, a legit #1 goalie who desperately wants to lead his team to the playoffs, this could be the year the Coyotes make the playoffs. They may need to make the playoffs this year, and if they don't, when they do, it may be in another state.

Realistic Prediction: 10th in West (2 pts within the 8th spot)
Homer Prediction: anywhere 6th to 8th - top 5 go to
wings, sharks, hawks, flames, canucks...crapshoot after that....if Yotes are close at deadline, a top prospect will be dealt to get someone who will insure a playoff finish.

logic behind realistic prediction:
Avalanche are a bad team
Kings defense is a year away, Smyth=injured, goalie?
Stars - New coach will hurt, loss of Modano/Zubov, Turco will implode
Wild - loss of Lemaire and system will put team back a few years
one of BlueJackets, Blues, Predators, Ducks, Oilers will finish behind Yotes...if 3 of those team finish behind them the Yote are in the playoffs...

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