Saturday, September 10, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes are always subject to talk of relocation and imminent to departure, first to Winnipeg, and now possible Quebec City and Kansas City. However, this is an on-ice preview, so the focus will be on Dave Tippett to see whether he can put in another Jack Adams like performance to take a team on the decline up again back to the postseason.

Strengths: There really is not a unit of strength on this team, but there is a good collection of individual players. The secret is out on D Keith Yandle, who has proven to be an amazing weapon on the blue line as he is mobile, and can score too. C Shane Doan is the heart and soul of this team, as he has been ever since they were the original Winnipeg Jets, and his leadership will be key. They have some other good veterans like D Rostislav Klesla, D Adrian Aucoin, C Daymond Langkow, and good young players like RW Viktor Tikhonov, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and C Kyle Turris.

Weaknesses: There are plenty. They lost their heart and soul between the pipes in Ilya Bryzgalov, who went to Philly for a ridiculous sum of money, and they also lost a captain in Ed Jovanovski, who went back to his original stomping grounds in Florida. Mike Smith is an admirable replacement, but there is doubt as to whether he will be good enough to fend off the challenges faced by a team that doesn't score very often. There really is no legit top scorer on this team, and for the past couple of years, that was masked by good goaltending, but that may not be the case anymore. There are depth problems most everywhere you look, and as long as they have trouble scoring, the problems will persist for this team.

Any Help Coming? D Oliver Ekman-Larsson has bounced between the AHL and NHL for awhile, and he has the tools to become a bookend on the blue line. D Brandon Gormley is a sold two-way defensive prospect who can become a solid potential top pair D-Man, and they have other young players who could be on their way to making the big club, on a team where that is entirely possible.

Outlook: This is really a trial and error year in Phoenix. There are too many questions on the ice for them to make the postseason. If they do, then Dave Tippett will lock up the Jack Adams in early April. They shouldn't worry too much about the off-ice issues, but the on-ice issues will be the ones leaving Coyotes fans scratching their heads this season.

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