Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phoenix Coyotes 2011-12 Preview


Can the Coyotes shake off their off-ice troubles and once again make the playoffs?

The departure of all-star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov may spell the end of playoff appearances for the Phoenix Coyotes. No disrespect to newcomer Mike Smith (Okay, maybe a little), but the departures did not end with Bryzgalov. Ed Jovanovski, Eric Belanger, and several role players also left.

In return, the Coyotes nabbed Boyd Gordon, Raffi Torres and Alex Bolduc, along with the aforementioned Mike Smith. This exchange of talent will open the door for youngsters to inherit more senior roles. The likes of Martin Hanzal and Kyle Turris will have greater expectations placed upon them this year.
The Coyotes will be in a fairly tough Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings looking to claim the title. The Anaheim Ducks will be tough as well, and that does not leave the Coyotes in a good position. Battling with Dallas for 4th place in the division likely means they will miss the playoffs or finish 8th at best. Assuming Chicago and Vancouver win their divisions, and Detroit and Nashville are as strong as last year, the Coyotes will have to be better than every other team in the Western Conference to claim the 8th seed.

With the lack of proven goaltending and youth up front, expect a long year in the desert.


Forwards Phoenix offers some late options, but Doan is the only sure thing up front.

Shane Doan
A UFA by year’s end, expect Doan to perhaps be on the move. A gritty and skilled forward, Doan can still amass 60 points in the right situation. This year’s team may not be as good, but 25 goals and 60 points seem within reach.

Ray Whitney The Wizard is a crafty playmaker who keeps on going. 57 points last year are a testament to his versatility and while he may slow down a little bit this year, he still possesses excellent vision and will be a great resource on the power play. 50 points can be expected of Whitney this campaign.

Kyle Turris
Turris had 25 points in 65 games last year, but did pot 3 points in 4 playoff games. His role should increase this year and his production will follow suit. If he winds up in a top-6 role, his skill should easily see him score at least 50 points. Serious breakout candidate.

Martin Hanzal
The big Czech has more offense in him, Phoenix just hasn’t really seen it yet. Playing nearly 20 minutes a night and scoring 16 goals suggest there is more in him. 10 assists suggest he may not have had the best linemates. An increase in offensive opportunities should yield greater numbers from the talented youngster. Expect 40-45 points.

Radim Vrbata

Vrbata is a bit of an enigma. Well, perhaps not. He’s a streaky player with considerable talent, but not a lot of consistency. He’s good for 40-45 points over the course of the season. If you can play him when hot and bench him when not—more power to you.

Lauri Korpikoski

The talented winger managed to notch 40 points last year, along with an impressive +17 rating while only averaging 15 minutes of ice time per game. This time around, he could improve upon those numbers, especially if he pushes for more ice time. 45 points is the ground floor for him

Mikkel Boedker

The Danish forward had a good year in the AHL last season and 14 points in 34 games with the big club. Not bad for 10 minutes a night. Expect more from him in the future, perhaps as early as this year. Boedker has speed to burn.

Taylor Pyatt
Pyatt is relatively consistent. His size and skill suggest there is more to be seen, but he has yet to deliver. Pyatt is a 15-20 goal, 30-40 point forward.

Defence
Keith Yandle

Kudos to you if you drafted Yandle last year. Expect him to be drafted right at the top of the pile this year. His 59 points last year was a huge surprise to most, but the underrated Yandle is the real deal. He’s only 25 years old, so he could get even better.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The sixth overall pick in 2009 is slowly rounding into form. Some project him as a future all-star, and he showed some potential for that this year. With Jovanovski’s absence, he could step up now, or later. Worth the gamble.

Goaltending
Mike Smith

Acquired from Tampa Bay, Smith played well at times but seems incapable thus far of holding down a starting position. He’ll be given another shot in Phoenix this year. Expect a modest improvement but also some long nights with the departures in front of him. Phoenix is going through a bit of a re-build and that won’t help Smith.

Prediction - 26 Wins

Jason Labarbera

Labarbera has established himself as a very capable back-up goaltender. He may see more action if Smith struggles at any point throughout the year.

A great team guy, he’ll get his share of games.

Prediction - 14 wins

TOP SLEEPER
Lauri Korpikoski

Perhaps a hidden gem on the Coyotes, Korpikoski flies under the radar. Playing in relative obscurity in Phoenix, he may emerge as one of their best forwards this year.

His 40 points last year with relatively modest ice time suggests that there is more to be had from the Finn. Expect a bump in production from a more prominent role. He could surprise and notch 50+ points

TOP ROOKIE
F— Brett MacLean

The versatile winger’s time appears to be now. A brief audition with the team last year yielded solid results after a tremendous AHL campaign. If any scorers in Phoenix succumb to injury or struggle, MacLean may be well-positioned to fill the void.

While Brandon Gormley may have better long term potential, the opportunity is there this year for MacLean to make his mark.


Potential Breakout Player
Kyle Turris

The talented center has had a rough time of things so far in the NHL.

He may have been pushed too quickly at the outset, setting back his development. Turris burst onto the scene last year however and played well when given a scoring role.

Last year, in games where Turris played less than 10 minutes, he scored 3 points in 23 games. When he played over 10 minutes, he had 22 points in 42 games.

Expect more ice time, and a bunch more points. Turris could notch 50+ points this year.



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