Key Offseason Additions: Daymond Langkow, Raffi Torres, Mike Smith
Key Offseason Losses: Eric Belanger, Lee Stempniak, Vernon Fiddler, Ed Jovanovski, Ilya Bryzgalov
Last Season Ranking: 6th in West
Offense: The Phoenix Coyotes were in the middle of the pack last year as a team for offensive statistics. Averaging 2.76 goals per game, it is going to be interesting to see if the team can better last years numbers with the amount of changes to the lineup.
The Coyotes are still lead by the great work ethic of Shane Doan. Doan is a player you would love on your team but hate to play against. Averaging 64 points over his last five seasons, it seems likely he will meet that number again this year.
Doan will be supported by an assortment of players, most notably Martin Hanzel, Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata, Taylor Pyatt and new addition Daymond Langkow. Hanzel is coming into his 5th season and has been looking to break into the 40 point threshold. Whitney brings the veteran presence as well as great playmaking capabilities. Vrbata has jumped to a few teams but it seems Phoenix is the place for him. Vrbata has averaged 49 points in the three seasons with the Coyotes. Pyatt brings good depth to the team, not exceling, but manages to stay positive in +/- over his years.
The final piece of the puzzle comes from Daymond Langkow who previously played for the Calgary Flames. He has been suffering from a neck injury, but if healthy, can add another 40+ points to the team. The positive for Coyote fans is that his production is a good combination of assists and goals.
Defense: When you look at Phoenix’s defensive pairings you cannot help but notice the team has depth. Sure they lost gritty Ed Jovanovski, but that can be easily overlooked by giving more ice time to sophomore Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson only played 48 games last season, needing time to develop with the San Antonio Rampage. Expected to play a full season this year without any unforeseen hardships, Ekman-Larsson could develop into a very good defenseman.
Most of the weight of the defense will be carried by Keith Yandle. Yandle had a breakout season posting 11 goals and 48 assists for 59 points. Include a plus 12 rating and 103 blocked shots, Yandle does what it takes for the team to win.
Goaltending: The biggest change for the team comes in the net. Ilya Bryzgalov has gone to the Philadelphia Flyers to be replaced by Mike Smith from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Smith did not play much last season for the Lightning as Dwayne Roloson stole the show. It is expected the time out of the number one spotlight, as well as replacing Bryzgalov’s shoes, will make Smith hungry to be the best goalie and the right choice for the Coyotes.
If, however, Smith falters, backup Jason LaBarbera will be there to assist. While playing for the Los Angeles Kings, LaBarbera was expected to be a great goalie. The hype far outweighed the production, and he will forever be just a backup.
HWB Playoff Prediction: Not Playoff bound. With the loss of Ilya Bryzgalov and no real added stars, the Phoenix Coyotes will not make the playoffs. Poor performance will increase the low attendance, expect rumors to be spreading all year about a potential city change.