Key Offseason Losses: Matthew Lombardi, Zbynek Michalek
Key Offseason Additions: Adrian Aucoin, Eric Belanger, Martin Hanzel, Taylor Pyatt, Lee Stempniak, Ray Whitney, Wojtek Wolski
Last Season Ranking: 4th, West
Offense: The Phoenix Coyotes surprised a lot of fans last year and look to wow a few more this upcoming season. The team has 4 solid lines that all can score. Those expected to top the points for the Coyotes are Wojtek Wolski, Shane Doan and a healthy returning Scottie Upshall. Added last year Lee Stempniak looks to continue his point per game production (18) with the club after netting only 30 points in 62 games played with Toronto last season. New comers from free agency veteran Ray Whitney and playmaker Eric Belanger look to add the depth and skill to make the Coyotes one of the most deep teams in the NHL.
Defense: Like the offense, the team’s defense is also one of the deepest defenses. Last season the Coyotes were one of the top goals scored by defense. The team is lead by tough nose Ed Jovanovski, a strong supporting cast, and better yet, top defensive team point getter Keith Yandle is expected to line with rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Oliver, at age 19, is a player to watch for this season coming from Sweden. A skilled puck handler and playmaker offensively, as well as a very sound positioning defensive style that likes to pick some pockets.
Goaltending: As if it could get any better, it most certainly does. Netminder Ilya Brysgalov very well could be one of the top goaltenders next season. Posting a 42-20-0 record in 69 games started, was 6th best in goals against average (2.29) as well as second to only Martin Brodeur in shutouts with 8. Backup netminder Jason LaBarbera will be a solid replacement when Ilya needs some rest.
Season Outlook: Perhaps my viewpoint of the Coyotes is a little biased, this I am aware of. Despite that, in a non-biased assessment, the Coyotes could very well put up another 100 point season, lead the Pacific Division over the tough San Jose Sharks, and perhaps even challenge for Western Conference leader.