NHL 15: Arizona Coyotes Guide
Written By: Roboyote
Year in Review:
FREE AGENCY & DRAFT:
In 2011-2012, the Phoenix Coyotes were the Pacific Division Champions and reached the Western Conference Finals on the back of a hot goalie and character team with great chemistry and no real superstars. In the shortened 2013 season, the Coyotes fell out of a playoff spot.
The 2013-2014 season had to be big. It had to be a return to form for a team that hadn’t missed the playoffs under a newly re-signed Coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney. Especially not twice in a row. The first season with stable ownership since the move to Glendale had to make a splash.
So, the Coyotes signed top free agent center Mike Ribeiro on July 5th, 2013. On the same day, the Coyotes locked up #1 goalie Mike Smith for six more years, while bringing in a stable back-up in Thomas Greiss. Free agency otherwise was a boring affair. Some players left – Boyd Gordon and Jason LaBarbara both headed to Edmonton, which only half worked out for the Oil. Others re-signed – Kyle Chipchura opted to stay in Arizona for three more years, Lauri Korpikoski opted for four, and two more NHL ready defensive prospects stayed in Chris Summers and Michael Stone. Outside of players, the Coyotes hired Newell Brown as a special teams coach, hoping to pick up an extremely stagnant power-play.
In addition to adding to the team in free agency, the Coyotes also drafted well – picking up Max Domi 12th overall, and expecting him to make the jump into the big leagues right away. The later rounds were less stunning, but the Coyotes still managed to pick up solid prospects in both the CHL and NCAA. No 2013 draft picks were ready for the big leagues, despite Domi’s absolutely stunning training camp and being one of the last prospects to be sent back.
Outside of those minor free agent signings, the team otherwise remained the same – generally unchanged from the 2012 WCF appearance. Lead by Perfect Human™ Shane Doan, and assistant captains Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle, and French-Canadian Jesus, Antoine Vermette – the Coyotes were poised for a great year. The back end remained stacked. The longstanding problems at center were fixed with the addition of Ribeiro. If Smith could bounce back to form, the Coyotes were, by all means, on their way to a new level of success.
The Coyotes opened their season on October 3rd, 2013 against the New York Rangers. With Mike Smith making a few killer saves, Kyle Chipchura starting the scoring for the Coyotes, and Radim Vrbata following up with a natural hat trick – the first game provided excitement, and a look at the new, offensively charged Coyotes. And what an exciting look it was. Following that, the Coyotes went on a two-game road trip – losing to San Jose and the Islanders in a shocking 6-1 affair. This prompted a team meeting, and a drastic turnaround by the team brought on by the locker room leaders. The next seven games brought the Coyotes at least a point, and five of the seven were regulation wins on the road – including the game on October 19th, in which Mike Smith scored his first ever NHL goal.
After a see-saw blowout (if that can even be a thing) against the Kings, the Coyotes again returned to form and again got points in 5 straight games, and won 8 of 9. Power rankings started to reflect the Coyotes standing as one of the top 3 teams in the league. They were ranked #2 at one point, only below the Blackhawks. However, reaching the end of November – hard times were on the way.
Shane Doan was leading the Coyotes with 23 points in 27 games. The Captain was doing his job and doing it well, and it was looking like a career year for Captain Coyote. On December 3rd, Shane Doan scored against his childhood team – the Edmonton Oilers – in his home province and helped lead the Coyotes to a commanding 6-2 win. The next night in Calgary, the Coyotes lost to the Flames by almost the same amount. This was the last time Doan would play until the next month, and the beginning of a skid that would put the Coyotes out off the division championship, and out of the playoffs completely.
Doan was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Fever, a disease that still claims lives even in this modern age. He was weak, and pictures and videos of him from that time showed him looking substantially more tired, and thinner than he had since his rookie years. It was a scary time, some wondered if he would be able to come back at all. After all, he is a great athlete, but this disease can kill. Luckily, he eventually came back to the team, but during the month he was gone the Coyotes went 3 – 4 – 5. Yandle and Vermette both stepped up hugely, leading the team well in the Captain’s stead, but no one could stop the skid.
Doan returned on January 4th against the Flyers – a game the Coyotes lost, and a game that coincidentally coincided with Keith Yandle’s omission from Team USA’s Olympic team – a jolt to his confidence that could be seen through the rest of the season. A burst of offense in the next game against Calgary couldn’t be sustained, and after that victory, the Coyotes again lost four in a row and 8 of 12 to end the month of January.
END OF THE SEASON:
Prior to the Olympic break, the Coyotes went 50/50 – winning against powerhouse teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh, but failing to capture any points against Dallas – something that would later come back to bite them. Following the Olympics, the Coyotes lost three in a row and barely squeaked out a 1-0 win against Vancouver. In March, the Coyotes won eight out of fifteen, and it really looked as though the team might be coming for a playoff spot, beating the Kings, Montreal, and Pittsburgh, but losing to Washington, Boston, and Minnesota. On March 24th, though, the Coyotes hopes for a comeback were destroyed when Mike Smith went down with a leg injury after NYR’s Brassard fell onto his legs as Smith was on the ice.
Despite his early season success, Greiss was unable to perform consistently for the last month of the season, only winning 3 out of ten games, and top goalie prospect Visentin didn’t look any better, losing the only game he was in net for. In the end, the Coyotes lost out on the final playoff spot against Dallas by only two points, despite beating them the last day of the season.
The summer has brought a slew of changes to the Coyotes. Among the UFA losses are Thomas Greiss (now a Penguin), Radim Vrbata (now a Canuck), and Derek Morris, Jeff Halpern, and Paul Bissonette (all still unsigned.)
New pick-ups include Joe Vitale (formerly a Penguin) and Devan Dubnyk (formerly an Oiler, Predator, and Canadien). Trades also brought us Sam Gagner and B.J. Crombeen from Tampa.
Overall, the Coyotes lost a lot of offense in Vrbata, and haven’t done anything to replace it. Dubnyk is a big goalie that should do well replacing Greiss under Sean Burke’s tutelege, Vitale replaces Halpern, Crombeen replaces Biz, and our stacked defensive prospects replace Morris. Vrbata is a huge hole we have to fill. Luckily, players like Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson and Tyler Gaudet are looking to make their mark in the NHL coming out of the CHL, and players like Tobi Rieder, Lucas Lessio, and Jordan Szwarz are looking to make the jump from the AHL. Will this youthful approach work for the Coyotes? Time will tell.
2014 DRAFT EVALUATION:
Fantastic. The Coyotes draft is rated as one of the best from more than a few sites, and the players we took look to provide a huge impact to this team in the not so distant future. Brenden Perlini at 12th overall is a steal for a player that is 6’3″, 205lbs, and a projected top 10 pick. Similar to JVR, Perlini is extremely talented offensively and working on developing his defensive game. He can score from anywhere and scored 61 points on an abysmal Ice Dogs team.
The second round saw two selections from the Coyotes. At 43rd overall, the Coyotes selected Ryan MacInnis, and at 58th, the Coyotes selected Christian Dvorak – one of Max Domi’s London teammates. The Coyotes love bloodlines, and Ryan MacInnis definitely comes from good stock. At 6’4″, MacInnis is a solid and responsible two-way center.
By far, my favorite pick the Coyotes made was in the third round, 87th overall, with the selection of Anton Karlsson. Anton is the brother of Erik Karlsson, but not that Erik Karlsson. The other one. Meaning that he could still end up the better brother. Karlsson is younger, and his skills have yet to be proven at a high level, however the lowest he was projected to go was 31st overall, so at 87th, this was a first round talent at a third round price. Karlsson is extremely offensively talented – he skates quickly and can avoid defenders with his high agility. He’s strong and can power through checks, and battle for the puck in the corners and in front of the net. Karlsson has excellent puck control, stickhandling skills, is an agitator, and loves to play a gritty game despite his scoring touch.
Despite his extreme offensive upside, Karlsson doesn’t skimp on the defensive side of the game. He backchecks hard and helps the defense. He’s mostly compared to Ryan Callahan, but much bigger and with a much bigger potential.
Rounding out the draft included Michael Bunting at 117th overall, Dysin Mayo and Edgars Kulda from the Memorial Cup championship Oil Kings team at 133rd and 193rd overall respectively, David Westlund at 163rd, and Jared Fiegl at 191st.
Highlights from 2013-2014 Season:
Also, look at the highlights for the individual players – I tried to include only this seasons highlights up there, so they double for this section.
- Holy fucking shit, what an effort from Yandle. Strips the puck from Petry. Then, picks it from Eberle, squeezes past Petry, turns on the jets while Belov holds on for dear life, and pots the puck against Bryzlolgov. With six seconds left in OT. There is a reason this guy is the Captain in waiting, and this is it.
- Sorry for the NHL.com link, for some reason this fucking beauty play wasn’t deserving of a Youtube video, apparently. Yandle dives across the blue line to catch the puck and toss it back in to OEL, who then scores a PP goal to (if I remember correctly) win the game. After being down by four.
- Another moment I was so thankful to be there in person for. Lots and lots of Detroit fans, but all of the sudden, you couldn’t hear them anymore as the puck crossed the line and Smithy got his first NHL goal. There was lots of jumping and high-fiving in the stands after that. Fun story, this was my 3 year old cousins first NHL game I took him to, and after that moment, Mike Smith is his new favorite hockey player FOREVER because he has a cool mask and scored a goal. Kids, man.
Why the Arizona Coyotes Will Win The Cup This Year:
Vrbata is gone. Historically, this has worked out better for us than it has for him. Sad, but okay. Ribiero is gone. Huge, huge waste of money – but this is a locker room that thrives on a team identity, and Ribz was the antithesis to that. These sound like negatives, but they’re not. This is a new beginning and a true new era of Coyotes hockey.
Max Domi will be on this team next year. Tyler Gaudet will at worst be in the press box. Sam Gagner will thrive in this system. The Coyotes are taking a youth approach to this season, and these eager youths will be so ready to prove themselves, that they’re going to go out there and work hard to return this team to the playoffs. Mike Smith is due for a rebound season, and with the stacked defense, complete with shiny new Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley, as well as a drastically improved forward group that can run all four lines and expect some offense, the Coyotes will be able to ride to the Finals.
From there on out, it’s butter. They’re this close. They haven’t tasted it yet. Do you think they’re going to let Shane Doan down? Do you think Shane Motherfuckin’ Doan is going to let them down? No. No fucking way.
Coyotes over Montreal in 6 games, and again Arizona gets to say, #suckitquebec.
Why the Arizona Coyotes Won’t Win The Cup This Year:
Radim Vrbata is gone. That’s 50 points. Mike Ribeiro is gone. That’s 47. We lost 97 points in the offseason. And what did the Coyotes do to replace it? Brought in Joe Vitale who provides 14 points, Sam Gagner, who brings 37 to the table, and B.J. Crombeen, who provides 10. 97 points in two players is being replaced by 61 points from three. That’s a huge difference, and the parts we have to replace them is not going to be enough. If Mike Smith does not have another statistical anomaly for a season – as 2011-2012 is proving to be – this team is going to at best be a middle of the pack team.
The Coyotes are notoriously “slow cookers” of their prospects. Max Domi is not going to be the first to jump from the CHL to the NHL, and GMDM and Tipp are going to expect him to prove himself in the AHL first. Outside of that, our talent is undrafted Tyler Gaudet – who has a lot of heart, but looks to be another Kyle Chipchura or B.J. Crombeen. The youth approach will not work. These players are unproven, they don’t know how to handle an NHL season, and can not lead this team to the playoffs.
The defense will stay solid, but without scorers up front like Vrbata and Ribeiro, they’ll be expected to provide more offensively. This will lead to worse defensive plays. OEL will end the season a minus player, and the fans will turn on them as they have Yandle. There will be clamoring to trade OEL for more “gritty forwards” like Boyd Gordon.
Eventually, this spirals out of control and in four years, the Arizona Coyotes don’t exist.