Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
-by Thomas Drance
The Coyotes are Going to be Good
Last year’s listless performance was an aberration. In the wake of Ray Whitney’s departure the Coyotes just didn’t have that extra offensive oomph, and it cost them.
But this is a Dave Tippett coached team, and Dave Tippett could make lemonade out of stones. Mike Ribeiro more than replaces Ray Whitney’s offense and the hiring of former Canucks assistant and power-play x’s and o’s master Newell Brown will help. Good goaltending, solid defense, and just enough offense is the Coyotes way. They’ll get back to it this season probably too, mostly because they’re among the best coached clubs in the league.
Phoenix is deep right through the line-up. Just look at their centers: you start with Ribeiro, have a couple of two-way aces in Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal on your second and third lines, and have Kyle Chipchurra holding down fourth-line duty. That’s a strong, well balanced group.
Combine a deep forward group with Phoenix’s ridiculously loaded blue-line group, and you can begin to understand the (non-economic) optimism in Glendale. Even if Rusty Klesla is out of the lineup to start the season, Phoenix’s blue-line should be among the league’s best.
It starts with Oliver Ekman-Larsson who is already a top-5 NHL defenseman and under-garment mogul. Rookie defenseman David Rundblad has been a revelation in the preseason and will help on the power-play at the very least. Keith Yandle is arguably the single best offensive defenseman in the league not named Erik Karlsson. Beyond that there’s a nice mix of veterans like Derek Morris, and young guys with upside like Michael Stone and David Schlemko.
Throw Mike Smith into the equation, and you’ve got a team that will be very tough to score against, even if they’re bound to be in the bottom-third of the league in goals for.
The Coyotes are Going to be Bad
Hockey doesn’t even belong in Arizona – it never has, and it never will. Sure the ownership question is settled (for five years), and that might help the club out. On the other hand it kind of undermines the whole underdog mentality that this club has thrived off of over the past few seasons, doesn’t it? Will it be easy for Tippett to preach the whole “us against the world” thing this upcoming season when guys from the Coyotes ownership group answer fan questions on Twitter? Doubt it.
As for the Coyotes blue-line, let’s get real, outside of Ekman-Larsson and Michalek it’s an over-rated group. Morris has stuck around for a long time while contributing next to nothing, Rundblad and Yandle are defensive liabilities and the rest of the group is unproven at best.
And speaking of over-rated, how about Mike “good one year, a sieve the next” Smith?
Phoenix might be a bit better offensively, but they’ll still be reliant on straight up trap hockey (boring) and gooning it up (like always). Even then, they won’t score enough.