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Coyotes stir kid into the mix

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10-07-2003, 05:10 AM
Dancing Chicken
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Coyotes stir kid into the mix

Great write up from AZcentral on Spiller

Bob McManaman
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 7, 2003 12:00 AM

They traded Teppo Numminen and Danny Markov in the summer. They bought out the contract of Drake Berehowsky and passed on re-signing Deron Quint. On Friday, they rolled the dice and lost Todd Simpson in the NHL waiver draft.

Don't look now, but the Coyotes' young defense has more holes than one of Courtney Love's T-shirts. Rate it X for "Experience needed. Please apply within."

The blue line is so thin, the Coyotes are prepared to award one of their six spots in the lineup to a 20-year-old defenseman making a quantum leap from juniors.

Welcome, Matthew Spiller.

"I wasn't really expecting this, but I knew if I played hard and was prepared every day, I could only help myself," said the 6-foot-5, 233-pound Spiller, who learned after practice Monday that he will be in the lineup for Friday's season opener against the St. Louis Blues.

The Coyotes will carry seven defensemen, and Spiller's performance in training camp and the preseason will likely force coach Bobby Francis to sit a more experienced defender. Few have veteran savvy; the average age on defense is 24.7 years.
The options are slim. Spiller, from Daysland, Alberta, needs to play to develop. He can't help the Coyotes or himself by being a healthy scratch as the No. 7 defenseman.

Francis could play seven defensemen, something he hinted could be an option this Friday.

That means a forward would sit, ruining Francis' plan of being able to roll out four solid lines.

"The bottom line," Francis said, "is Matthew's play has warranted him being here. And to go along with that, he needs to play, regardless of where he is. Yeah, he's going to get some minutes here. If he can't handle it, then we have to make a decision."

The Coyotes, who scored the fewest goals (11) and finished tied for the fewest standings points (five) in preseason, are banking that Spiller will hold his own. Francis said he loves the player's disposition on the ice and his ability to absorb instruction.

He also lauds Spiller's hockey sense and his size, strength and reach. He dominated the Western Hockey League the past two seasons and finished his four-year career at Seattle with 648 penalty minutes, 24 goals and 88 points.

"Will he make mistakes? Yes, he will," Francis said. "Will he learn from those mistakes? Yes, he will. If he stays here and he's able to perform the way he has up to this point, by Christmastime, you're going to see something special."

Not many youngsters in Spiller's skates get this opportunity. But General Manager Mike Barnett, who used the first pick in the second round of the 2001 draft to get Spiller, expects the defenseman to step in and contribute just as Barret Jackman did last year during an All-Rookie season for the Blues.

Can Spiller?

"This just gives me more motivation to work even harder," Spiller said of making the roster.

"Every time I step on that ice, I've got to be prepared and play my style of game: be rough in the corners, don't leave my man, play hard in front of the net, and offensively, get the puck on net.

"If I do that every shift, I think I'll have a good shot of staying around."


Dancing Chicken is offline  
10-07-2003, 05:41 AM
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"Will he make mistakes? Yes, he will," Francis said. "Will he learn from those mistakes? Yes, he will. If he stays here and he's able to perform the way he has up to this point, by Christmastime, you're going to see something special."

I think come Christmanstime Francis has the chance of seeing a special pink slip :p Only kidding. My guess is that the Coyotes will play decently enough and somehow get a decent amount of points, but it won't be pretty.

Hoot is offline  
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