After one-half season of vacillating, general manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett settled on their number one goalie.
No surprise they selected Mike Smith and this only reinforces a decision made back in training camp. The problem here is that Smith was off to a terrible start and lost the opener at home 6-2 on Oct. 9 to the Winnipeg Jets.
Then, the avalanche. Smith proceeded to drop six of his first eight games this season and benched for three contests against the Kings, the Preds and the Capitals in the Coyotes’ first 11 games.
That’s when back-up Devan Dubnyk entered the crease and turned in a winning record.
His reward was a trade late Wednesday afternoon to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a third round pick int he 2015 draft. At the time of the trade, Dybnyk had a 9-5-2 and then shipped to the tundra of Minnesota.
With the transaction, the Coyotes are now committed to Smith and his career-high 3.52 goals against average for the rest of this season. Coming into his next start at home against Calgary Thursday night, Smith has won only seven games (7-17-2) in his 26 starts and retains a .885 save percentage.
Still, the veteran net minder from Kingston, Ont. said he sees life after his dreadful start.
recovering from a terrible beginning
“Consistency, that’s what I need to figure out,” Smith said after a recent practice. “Funny as it seems but I felt good after that St. Louis game. I felt the confidence coming back and the old swagger.”
The reference here was to a 6-0 defeat to the Blues at home on Jan. 6. The St Louis loss was in the middle of a four-game run in which Smith went 2-2.
In this stretch, Smith clearly experienced bouts of inconsistency. In the win over Columbus on Jan. 3, he allowed three goals and in the victory against Jets, Smith surrendered one goal.
In his next start last Saturday against the Sens at home, Mikkel Boedker’s goal early in the first period gave the Coyotes a quick 1-0 lead but Smith then allowed five unanswered goals in an eventual 5-1 defeat.
Now, he assumes the mettle and hopes to regain his production of the past.
At this point, the Coyotes have little choice.
Here’s a team buried near the bottom of the NHL, and has a penchant to repeat the same mistakes.
One culprit was defenseman Chris Summers, who had a tendency to follow the puck behind his net and leave opposing forwards free and open on the doorstep of the crease. Summers will not not have an opportunity to make similar mistakes because the Coyotes waived the native of Ann Arbor, Mich on Wednesday along with forward Brandon McMilian.
For McMilian, the issue was production.
In 39 games with Arizona, McMilian registered just three points and one goal. His lone tally came on Dec. 16 at home against Edmonton and registered an minus 11.
Against Calgary Thursday night, the Coyotes will take to the ice for their 42nd game, just past the half-way junction.
If they are to show any kinds of life from this point out, Smith will have to undergo a dramatic transformation from his marginal play so far in this season.
Follow Mark Brown on twitter, @journalist193
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.