Big Z has spent nine of his eleven seasons in the NHL with the Coyotes, but his style of play might not be conducive to a winning season in Arizona.
Returning to the Coyotes
In the offseason, Zbynek Michalek returned to the Coyotes after a deadline trade that sent him to the Blues. The move was applauded by most, as Arizona is a young team and needed a veteran presence. He also has one thing that the Coyotes need, the desire to be in the Phoenix area. He also chews up ice time, averaging over 20+ minutes a night.
Over the past five seasons, Michalek has been 32nd or better, most of the time in the top 20 in blocked shots leaders. The two times he was out of the top 20, 2011/12, 32nd, and 2012/13, 30th, he missed much of the season due to injury. On the topic of injuries the number of games played for the veteran has dropped significantly. Five of his eight most recent injuries are a “lower-body injury,” as Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett does not disclose specifics, but one can assume that most of these are directly related to blocking shots.
Why is this important? Well, it’s a little early, but currently the Coyotes sit 3rd in the Pacific & 9th in the Western Conference. The last time the Coyotes made the post season was 2011/12 when the club went to the Western Conference finals, eventually losing to the Champion Kings. The style of play that got then Phoenix that far was unusual. It saw them often being out shot by opponents by a wide margin. It seemed as though the more shots goaltender Mike Smith faced the better he would become. Oddly this opposes Coach Tippett’s defensive style, but it worked with this goaltender/group in the past. Back to Michalek, in 2011/12 he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Its tough to teach an old dog new tricks. Can Michalek change his style of play? At this point in his career it may be difficult to make the transition. He is known as being a tough, gritty, workhorse defender and limiting his ability to block shots takes away one of his strengths. And in order for this club to be successful the Coyotes will need his presence to help with the youngsters. For his sake and the clubs, he should block fewer shots and take less ice time, just under 20 minutes, which should benefit both parties.