NHL: Are Changes Coming for the Phoenix Coyotes
We all know how hard it is to win in the NHL, and lately that can certainly be said of the Phoenix Coyotes. Their current play has triggered some nervousness among the fans, as well as their coaches. Fans are asking which direction the club will take as Head Coach Dave Tippett continues to try to find a winning combination by regularly rotating his lines. Trade talks seem to be the hot topic lately on sports talk shows. It is apparent that this team is in a “funk” and changes will be necessary to keep this team in the Western Conference playoff picture after the Winter Olympic break.
If the Coyotes choose to make trade(s) they will have to keep the salary cap in mind. It was lowered this year from $70.2 million in 2012-2013, to $64.3 million this season; and the Coyotes are up against the cap. If this team starts thinking about making a trade(s) they will need to think through issues like contract terms, age of the player, and whether a potential player would be the right fit on the ice and even in the locker room.
Injuries have hit this team hard this year and, while that will not be used as an excuse by players or coaches, it does have to be mentioned. The Coyotes are a franchise that has little room for error when injuries occur. Part of this can be attributed to the budget constraints and some of it is due to the poor management of this team prior to Head Coach Dave Tippett’s and General Manager Don Maloney’s arrivals.
The goaltending of Mike Smith has been average so far this year and after Monday night’s game his record stood at 17-14-8. Smith certainly has to be better in the second half in order for the Coyotes to contend. He has the ability to be a dominant goalie, but this season he has been inconsistent as his 2.83 goals against average and .912 save percentage places him near the bottom of all goalies. In defense of Smith, while he should be performing better, we need to mention that the team’s “blueline” and forwards have impacted Smith’s play in net as well. They lack the physical dominance or penalty-killing ability required to succeed in the powerful Western Conference.
Other issues are the lack of faceoff wins and the team’s tendency to scramble after the faceoff. The Coyotes are also one of the league’s five worst penalty-killing teams and the mistakes that this team was able to overcome in the beginning of the season, when their penalty-killing strength was at its best, is not coming quite as easily now.
In order to stay in the playoff picture there needs to be more aggression from the offense. The Coyotes need to play with a purpose and need to find some way to catch fire and get back to their winning ways. They have 16 home games and 17 road games before the end of the 2013-2014 season, so they still have time to get back into the playoff hunt, but they’ll need to act now before their chances begin to slip away.
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