After three straight trips to the post season the Phoenix Coyotes suffered a minor setback in 2013. The 48 game schedule was not an enjoyable one for the NHL’s most underrated club. The Yotes missed the playoffs by 4 points. You have to wonder how the standings may have changed if the year was 82 games long. Ah well, they didn’t get in – this is a new year.
With an ownership deal in place, the Coyotes enter the 2013-14 campaign with a clearer view regarding the future of the franchise. That must be a huge weight off the shoulders of the players, who have children to raise and families to house. Aside from the fear of trade, Coyotes’ players can enjoy this season without having to worry which school their kids are going to attend next year. Clarity is important while trying to focus at work.
The Coyotes 131 goals against last season ranked them a respectable 17th in the NHL. Defence has been their strength for a while. Goal scoring, however, is something the Desert Dogs have struggled with at times – last season was no exception.
Only 9 NHL squads scored less than the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. Their lack of offensive production prevented them from achieving a playoff birth. This season they hope to change that with the addition of playmaking centre Mike Ribeiro.
Goaltender Mike Smith is locked up between the pipes. Smith has done well in Phoenix, and his 0.946 SV% after two games this season suggests he’ll continue to provide his club with stellar puck stopping.
The Coyotes are ready to dispel an off year and return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, making it 4 trips in the last 5 seasons. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. The Coyotes Blue Line Is One Of The Best In The NHL
From 1 through 6 and beyond, the Phoenix Coyotes possess one of the NHL’s top defence corps’ and that’s a good start when trying to make the playoffs.
After Yandle and OEL, Zbynek Michalek heads a group of well slotted specialists who compliment each other to round out a highly effective unit.
2. Chemistry Is Key To Success
While some NHL teams in the West juggle a roster of multiple new faces, the Coyotes take the ice with a group that is very familiar with each other. In the NHL, familiarity amongst teammates is a huge proponent of winning – made evident by the most recent Cup winners. The Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings have kept solid cores together for a while now. It makes a difference who you go to war with, and for NHL teams, going to war with your brother of 3 years or more is beneficial.
The Coyotes core of Shane Doan, Yandle, Ekman-Larsson, Smith, Martin Hanzel, Antoine Vermette, Radim Vrbata and Mikkel Boedker have been together for a couple seasons now. Don’t expect a long period of figuring out systems and styles this season from the Coyotes. This group knows what its game is, and they should be ready to execute it immediately.
3. Dave Tippett
Since joining the Coyotes in 2009, Tippett has enjoyed success. His clubs have made the post season all but once. They climaxed in 2011-12 with a trip to the Conference Finals.
Dave Tippett is one of the league’s most underrated coaches. His more than 400 career wins as a head coach are no accident. Tippett earned notoriety for his exceptional coaching career in 2010, winning the Jack Adams award as the NHL’s top bench boss.
He can hit 500 career coaching wins this season if his club can manage to win 73 games for him. You think they can do it? Alright, 73 is a huge stretch, but 40 or more isn’t too far fetched. Dave Tippett has reached the 40 or more win milestone in 8 of his 9 full seasons as an NHL head coach.
4. The West May Not Be Best
For years now, we’ve been saying the Western Conference is the top conference in the league, and that was true. However, it may not be true anymore. Playoff arch nemesis the Detroit Red Wings are no longer a potential 1st round opponent, or regular season competitor.
The Red Wings left the West to be replaced by the not-so-scary Winnipeg Jets. Don’t get me wrong, the Jets are a solid club, but they still need to prove some things before we can start saying they’re as good as the Wings. *Note: The Columbus Blue Jackets also moved to the Eastern Conference to begin this season.
The Coyotes play in the more difficult of the West’s two divisions, meaning a trip to the playoffs may come via wild card. The Pacific features some tough competition but the conference’s other division is loaded with teams that many question as playoff hopefuls. Whether they land a spot in the top 3 or get-in as a wild card, the Phoenix Coyotes are definitely in the conversation.
5. Mike Ribeiro Is Exactly What The Phoenix Coyotes Were Missing
The acquisition of Mike Ribeiro is a smart one for the Coyotes. The former Stars centre is familiar with head coach Tippett, which makes the transition with his new team easier.
The new Coyote middle man has over 600 career NHL points – he’s been quietly producing quality offence for years now, hidden away in Dallas. He got more attention in Washington last season, where he worked very well with NHL legend Adam Oates. Ribeiro scored more than a point a game last season, something he accomplished for the Stars earlier in his career.
The addition of the scoring centre means Phoenix is stronger offensively and deeper up front. They will be tough to beat in 2013-14, as they return to their steady defensive ways, this time with a heightened offensive flair.