September 10, 2013 by andymisek
The Phoenix Coyotes missed the playoffs last season after making it to the Western Conference Finals in 2011 for the first time in franchise history. Ownership issues and the constant threat of being moved have been muted. (The new owner said they will be staying in Phoenix), which means the Coyotes can now focus on hockey. However, the Yotes don’t seem to have a team strong enough to compete for a playoff spot. While they did sign Mike Ribeiro to help with scoring, they are still weak up front. They also found themselves in a division of extremely talented teams after the new divisions were constructed: Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vancouver and San Jose. This is why Phoenix finishes #21 on our NHL Season Countdown.
The offseason began with the Yotes selecting Max Domi, son of Tie Domi, in the 2013 entry draft. Max Domi, unlike his father, is an extremely skilled center who lead the London Knights to an OHL championship last season. Max Domi might fight for a spot a roster spot of a weak Phoenix forward group, but it would be best for Domi’s development to play another season in London.
The other big move Phoenix made this off season was signing Mike Ribeiro as their big offensive threat. Ribeiro ultimately chose Phoenix because of Coach David Tippett. Tippett and Rubeiro have a history and it was the respect Rubeiro has for Tippett that brought him over to Phoenix.
Also, after a long negotiation, Mikkel Boedker signed a two year contract with the Yotes. Boedker has started to develop into a solid player over the last couple of seasons. If he continues to build on his prior success, he will turn into a solid top six forward for the Yotes.
Other than Mikkel Boedker and Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix’s forwards are relatively weak. Chris Brown, Max Domi, and Henrik Samuelsson will be fighting for a spot or two in the top six. Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal are the other players I would consider capable of potting over 50 points next season. Keep in mind, Doan isn’t getting any younger.
Their bottom six isn’t much better. Antoine Vermette and Lauri Korpikoski are average 3rd liners and David Moss should be decent flanking them on the right wing. Other than his name amazing name, Rob Klinkhammer doesn’t have much to offer to any NHL club. None of these players will help put up goals which was a really struggle for Phoenix last season.
Unlike their forwards, Phoenix’s defense is relatively talented. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is becoming a force for the Yotes blue line. He is more defensive minded but put up 0.5 points per game, which is a big improvement compared to his previous two seasons. Fans can expect big things from the 22 year old defenseman; he should have a breakout season. Also Keith Yandle is a young talented defenseman who will be playing behind Ekman-Larsson on the 2nd pairing. Zbynek Michalek, Michael Stone and Derek Morris are good defensemen as well.
There is also a road block in Phoenix’s defense. Young, talented prospects David Rundblad and Brandon Gormley will be spending another season in the AHL because Phoenix’s defense is so talented. The key to having a great team comes from having a strong defensive core and phoenix has one.
There is only one big problem:
Mike Smith, with the exception of the 2011-2012 season, hasn’t put up stellar numbers. Prior to playing in Phoenix, he was waived in Tampa Bay and he wasn’t picked up. Maybe I should eat my words, but let the record show I am not a believer in Mike Smith. Thomas Greiss is a decent back-up goalie, but if Smith were to play poorly, Greiss can’t play well in long stretches.
Strong defense is the key to winning championships, but won’t be able to make up for poor goaltending and lack luster scoring. The only way Phoenix makes the playoffs is if Smith repeats his 2011-2012 performance. Obviously, I’m not a believer and have the Coyotes missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.