NHL: 2013 Coyotes Preview
Now that the agreement has been signed by the NHL players and training camp has opened for all the NHL teams; let’s take a look at the Phoenix (soon to be Arizona) Coyotes and what they need to do to get a top playoff spot during this condensed season.
Since all of the Coyotes 48 games will be played in Western Conference; it would be safe to say a losing streak of 3 or 4 games could take you from the top 8 to possibly the bottom and leave you looking for a way to get into the playoffs. A two point gain, which would come with beating a Western Conference foe this season, could make all the difference in the playoff seating.
A swift start is the key to getting and maintaining the division lead. The Coyotes have basically the same talented roster from last year and that team reached the Western Conference finals for the first time. Some of that talent includes:
Mike Smith: The Coyotes have an excellent goalie in Mike Smith. Smith will be counted on to have the same season as he did last year. This could be the “key” to a quick start for the Coyotes. Smith went from a “somewhat- journeyman” goaltender to one of the best in the league in his short time with the Coyotes. He is well liked in the clubhouse and will be counted on to keep the Coyotes in the game. Jason LaBarbera is a seasoned and capable backup and he will be counted on to give Smith a day off in what is going to be a fast paced season. If the Coyotes need help at the goaltender position during the season, look for Mark Visentin, with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, to be called up to help out.
The “blueline” is how the Coyotes are built. Led by All-Star Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman -Larsson, Zbynek Michalek, Derek Morris, and Rusty Klesla are sure to be the top 5 defensemen for the Coyotes. It will be an interesting battle for the backup spots. There may only be 2 or 3 spots available. Fan favorite and former Arizona Sundog, David Schlemko, could get one of those spots; other contenders include, Mike Stone, Chris Summers, David Rundblad, and Brandon Gormley. They are all capable of making the team which will make this a difficult decision for the coaching staff.
On the power play, which have been an issue for the Coyotes in the past; Lauri Korpikoski and Mikkel Boedker will have to step up and be the leaders. The Coyotes will need to start off fast and maintain that level and style of play. Hopefully new players like Nick Johnson and Dave Moss will step in immediately and help out.
With Ray Whitney off to Dallas, the production line of Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal will need someone to help move the puck. Steve Sullivan is likely to play that role. He brings experience and the passion for the game. If the Coyotes need more offense, current Portland Pirate leading scorers Alexandre Bolduc and Andy Miele could be brought up and fit into the Coyotes system immediately.
What is left to say about Shane Doan? The savvy dependable winger and veteran leader will be called upon more than ever in this condensed season. He is physical and is at his best when he throws his weight around. Extremely durable, he is an excellent two-way player and the ultimate team-first guy. He also displays loyalty to fellow players and coaches.
In closing, after coming off their most successful season, Coach Dave Tippett and the Coyote players are looking to continue that momentum into the 2013 season. Tippett’s method for winning has been imprinted into each player on this team. His “take anything tossed our way” and “no excuses” attitude may prove to be the edge that puts this Coyotes on top of the Western Conference.