August 08, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
He probably won't make the big club and, therefore, the most natural reaction to the news is "who cares?" But at the same time, it kind of underscores a much larger problem the Coyotes will face next season:
They haven't signed anyone worth mentioning all summer.
It's kind of troubling — like the attendance totals for any game at Jobing.com Arena — to see that a team that has been as good as it was the last two years (they've piled up 206 points since Dave Tippet took over behind the bench) can't seem to sign anyone that's going to help them win games.
Apart from re-upping Keith Yandle(notes) and Radim Vrbata(notes), which obviously are wonderful and good moves, respectively, it's very easily argued that their best pickup so far this summer is Raffi Torres(notes). Which, if you're in a position like the Canucks were last year, is fine. Torres was a good player for Vancouver last year when he wasn't getting suspended, but he's not exactly going to be a game-changer for a team that shed talent in a hurry this offseason.
In fact, the Coyotes have taken a downgrade at nearly every position.
(Coming Up: In praise of Sean Avery(notes); counterfeit Jets jerseys; the Blues as sleepers; knocking down the Igloo; Blue Jackets gamble on future; Patrick Kane(notes) goes to sniper camp; James Sheppard(notes) traded to the Sharks; Pronger health update; Lebda may face a buyout; the reason Marc Savard(notes) hasn't retired; switching from seamless glass; Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) as a franchise player; and a preposterous Datsyuk-to-the-Kings proposal.)
The same Mike Smith who posted an .899 save percentage behind a team coached by defensive mastermind Guy Boucher? Oh OK, well maybe they have an insurance policy in place.
They do? Oh it's career backup Jason LaBarbera(notes), whose GAA last year, against softer competition than Bryzgalov would have faced, was about three-quarters of a goal higher than his batterymate. But don't worry, they also signed Curtis McElhinney(notes), whose numbers last season were somehow worse than Smith's.
Sure, they also inked this year's first round pick, Connor Murphy, to a three-year entry level deal, but he can't exactly be expected to fill any appreciable role with the big club as an 18-year-old, can he?
And what actual NHLers did they sign to take up the departed Ed Jovanovski's(notes) spot? None. The only defensemen they've brought aboard from other teams this offseason are Tyler Eckford(notes), Nathan Oystrick(notes) and Dean Arsene(notes), who all played a combined 26 games with their respective clubs. Not exactly last year's Bruins in terms of defensive depth.
Up front they lost only Vernon Fiddler(notes), so the Torres move more or less makes up for that. Boyd Gordon(notes) was the only other notable addition if you don't count O'Sullivan or Kyle Chipchura(notes), and why would you?
Essentially, the Coyotes have cobbled together a team mainly consisting of some very promising young players who haven't necessarily shown they can make the next step (Kyle Turris(notes), Mikkel Boedeker, Martin Hanzal(notes), Oliver Ekman-Larsson(notes)), veterans slightly past their primes in the best cases (Vrbata, Shane Doan(notes), Derek Morris(notes)) and well past it in the worst (Aucoin, Ray Whitney(notes)).
And there are two important caveats here. First, Dave Tippet has a hell of a system in place that allowed the team to average 103 points over the last two seasons despite a roster largely spare of what most people would consider difference makers, the result of management not being able to spend as splashily as it would probably like.
Consequently, the team won't be as disappointing as it probably should be. However, a key component of that success was the fact that Bryzgalov is an excellent goaltender (though one made better by the system). But to expect this Smith/LaBarbera/McElhinney rotation to reproduce even 90 percent of his success seems like folly.
But the second is that it's understandable why the Coyotes can't sign anyone to actually improve their team. The Coyotes are looking like they're not long for the desert, and will retreat to cooler and likely more profitable climes next summer. Few free agents would want to sign long-term deals with the team and move their families to Arizona only to have to uproot them again in another year. Plus, playing in a building where the empty seats outnumber the full ones 2-to-1 can't be an appetizing prospect no matter how nice the weather is in January.
Realistically, the Coyotes are almost certainly not going to repeat their success of the last two years. More likely, they are going to be remarkably lucky to win 40 games next season, and they might win as few as 35.
But hey, at least they got Yandle locked up.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks will host the Fedorin Cup, an exhibition game between current and former NHLers to benefit the Athletic Sports Fund of America, later this month. And what's that you say? The teams will be on a USA vs. Canada basis? Perfect chance for Bobby Ryan(notes) to get revenge on Ryan Getzlaf(notes).
Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo 2010 first pick Mark Pysyk(notes) got cut from last year's Canadian World Juniors squad, and with almost all the defense from last year's team not coming back, he's got a pretty good shot to make it and get demolished by the good ol' US of A.
Carolina Hurricanes: The RBC Center was one of several in the league still using the seamless glass that seemed likely to kill everyone on the ice at any given time, but per league rules, the far safer system will be put in before the season. And wouldn't you know it, to make the story more relatable, the building's landlord likened the changes to those made in — you guessed it — NASCAR.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane helped run a hockey camp put on by Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, known as "Sniper Week." 'Course, Kane still can't shoot a puck because he's recovering from wrist surgery, so I'm sure he just gave all the kids tips on partying.
Colorado Avalanche: Tim Stan Kroenke, the guy who owns the Avs, is the 10th-richest owner in American sports. He also owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, St. Louis Rams and Arsenal. Which means he's not going to be winning any titles at all for a long, long time.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have reportedly entered into talks with the city of Columbus about getting revenues from a new, nearby casino in an attempt to keep the team from moving. So hit the slots, Columbus. That Wisniewski contract ain't gonna pay for itself.
Edmonton Oilers: In an attempt to get the people of Edmonton to pay for a billionaire to build a new rink, Oil owner Darryl Katz is now negotiating/threatening to start construction on a patch of land outside the city.
Los Angeles Kings: Mike Richards(notes) is a highly-paid, famous athlete who recently helped raise more than $40,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society, but he still can't afford a decent pair of shorts or adult footwear.
Montreal Canadiens: As if 5:07 p.m. on Sunday, 50 percent of Habs fans think Brian Gionta(notes) can score between 31 and 40 goals this season. Number of times he has topped 30 in his career: One. The year after the lockout. And hell, who DIDN'T score 30 back then?
Philadelphia Flyers: Chris Pronger(notes) might miss the start of training camp, putting him well behind the 8-ball in terms of getting his smug self-satisfaction in shape for the grueling NHL schedule.
Phoenix Coyotes: Adrian Aucoin is really excited to help the Coyotes' young defensemen develop this season, and one skill they'll get a lot of experience with in front of that goaltending tandem is fishing the puck out of the net and flinging it angrily down the ice.
San Jose Sharks: This just in: The Sharks are going to be really good this season. I mean, when was the last time San Jose one of the top four or five teams in the NHL? Like 2007?
St. Louis Blues: The Blues are the sleeper team of the Western Conference? Oh right they are. Jaroslav Halak(notes) is basically gonna not be quite so bad this year, and the injuries probably almost can't be as terrible.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Bolts prospect Brett Connolly(notes) was injured at Canada's World Junior camp and missed a day of practice, but he's fine. "He looked OK at breakfast this morning. Of course, they all look good then. God, you should see them eat," said Hockey Canada chief scout Kevin Prendergast. So what you're saying is Canada is fostering a generation of Kyle Wellwoods.
Vancouver Canucks: New Canuck Byron Bitz(notes) is excited to get going again after missing all of last season with a number of injuries. Groin problems, hip problems, hernia problems. Finally, the Canucks have a replacement for Sami Salo(notes) in the pipeline.
Washington Capitals: Given how gritty the Caps have gotten this year, who's gonna lead them in penalty minutes this year? Smart money's on Matt Hendricks(notes) since he's their tough guy, but you can't discount the number of lazy hooking calls Alex Semin is wont to take either.
Gold Star Award
Big ups to Sean Avery for getting out of jail and immediately winning a race against a field of horses as a 17-to-1 longshot. But only a $250,000 purse? Probably see those every day as an intern at Vogue.
Minus of the Weekend
You might've caught it here on PD yesterday but apparently tedious Boston-based bro-rockers the Dropkick Murphys are selling shirts that say "Bite This Burrows." Wicked good stuff, kehd.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User ComradeChris is trying to get the entire cities of Los Angeles and Detroit to riot simultaneously.
To Los Angeles:
That's Jerry. He's a major player down at the sewing store.