Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Arizona Coyotes.
For years the dominant story surrounding the Coyotes was their struggle to find an owner and if that quest would force the team out of Glendale. They were finally bought last summer and while the five-year out clause that activates if the team loses $50 million means that the looming threat of relocation hasn’t completely vanished, the on-ice product itself is now front-and-center.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, things didn’t go quite as well as planned in 2013-14. The Coyotes struggled offensively due in no small part to the fact that Mike Ribeiro failed to live up to expectations after inking a four-year, $22 million contract. Ribeiro went from averaging roughly a point-per-game in Washington to recording just 47 points in 80 contests last season. It was later revealed that his behavior was also a problem.
In the end, defenseman Keith Yandle led the team with 53 points, but he also had a team-worst minus-23 rating. A plus/minus rating isn’t always a great indicator of how a player performed, but it is noteworthy in this case given that, as Coyotes coach Dave Tippett noted in April, Yandle was inconsistent defensively.
Inconsistent would also be a good word to describe Mike Smith’s play. The 32-year-old goaltender, who is playing out a six-year, $34 million contract, was prone to severe hot-and-cold streaks and his overall performance was still a far cry from his 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 2011-12. That being said he had gotten into a rhythm before an MCL sprain injury cut his season short.
That forced Thomas Greiss to serve as the team’s starting goaltender for the final weeks of the season and while he held his own, he got very little offensive support as the Coyotes went on a 1-4-3 stretch to close out 2013-14. That late season collapse caused them to concede the final Wild Card spot to the Dallas Stars.
Citing the aforementioned behavior issues, Coyotes GM Don Maloney bought out the remainder of Ribeiro’s contract. He also watched Radim Vrbata and Greiss walk as unrestricted free agents.
Devan Dubnyk signed a one-year, $800,000 contract to serve as the team’s new backup goaltender. The Coyotes also acquired forward Sam Gagner, along with B.J. Crombeen, from the Lightning (after he had been dealt from Edmonton to Tampa Bay) in the hopes that he will bolster the team offensively.