Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Phoenix Coyotes.
For the first time in four years, talking about the Coyotes over the summer doesn’t necessitate talk about whether or not the team is going to stay in Glendale, Arizona. After all that time, IceArizona led by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc bought the team from the NHL and now they can all focus on the game on the ice. Thankfully.
Last season, the team had a huge letdown failing to make the playoffs. Coming off a season where they made it to the Western Conference finals, that makes for quite a step backwards. GM Don Maloney stayed vigilant in the offseason, however, as he looks to get the Coyotes back in a position to win a Stanley Cup.
The Coyotes summer was mostly spent on spending cash to lock guys into staying in Arizona. Goalie Mike Smith signed a lucrative six-year contract. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson inked a six-year deal of his own. Throw in free agent pickup Mike Ribeiro and his juicy four-year deal and you can’t accuse the Coyotes of not spending money.
Of course, deals like that will raise questions. Did they give Smith too much money based on one excellent season two years ago? Is Ribeiro the answer for them at center? Will Ekman-Larsson finally grab everyone by the face and make them see how excellent he is? If anything, the biggest question for coach Dave Tippett is: Is it all enough?
The Coyotes still have some questions surrounding their roster heading into next season, but at the very least wondering if they’ll be in Arizona next season isn’t one of them.
Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series
When you come as close to winning a Stanley Cup as the Bruins did this past season and overhaul the roster, it’s going to lead to questions how the new players will fit in. When those new guys are veterans like Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla, it feels like a major upgrade.
That’s what the Bruins are contending with this season.
Bringing in a pair of guys who have piled up goals through their career to replace Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin seems like a move that would play out seamlessly but it comes with some potential pitfalls. A couple questions have to be asked.
What does Iginla have left?
Before last season’s lockout-shortened year, Iginla rattled off 11 straight seasons of 30+ goals. Now as he heads into his 17th NHL season and at 36 years-old it’s appropriate to ask if he can produce at that level again.
Iginla wants to stay in Boston past this season and scoring goals at the pace he did last year (28 goals over 82 games possible) would help that. Consider this if you think that’s not enough: Horton’s best season in Boston (2010-11) he had 26 goals.
Did they give up on Seguin too soon?
That might not even be the right question. The Bruins’ concern with him centered more on him not having grown up yet, but when you look at the raw numbers, the answer is probably yes.
Seguin saw his numbers improve each season and he was on pace to break 30 goals last season if not for that darn lockout. After scoring 29 two seasons ago, it’s not a stretch to think his stock is only climbing. Eriksson, by comparison, has been steady for 60-70 points in his last four full seasons.
Giving up a possible superstar for consistently great output only means fans will debate their trade for the next 10 years.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t have a lot of new faces in the locker room this year, but one of them already has his creative juices flowing.
Norm Sanders of the the News-Democrat shares that Hitchcock likes the fit of newly acquired forward Magnus Paajarvi working with with center Patrik Berglund. GM Doug Armstrong says it’s a natural partnership.
“Paajarvi has had some history with Patrik Berglund,” Armstrong said. “I like his size and skating and I have to believe –and my hope is — there’s a huge hunger there for him to start to define his career.”
We’ve written plenty here about Paajarvi’s arrival in St. Louis but having him on a line with a playmaker like Berglund provides the opportunity he needs to spark his career. One thing Hitchcock likes about his team is how there are many interchangeable parts.
“We’ve got flexibility all through our lineup,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play center and a lot of guys that can pay wing.”
His biggest struggle will be to find the combinations that help spark a Blues offense that lacks a dominant scorer.
Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins.
The Boston Bruins came as close as you can to winning the Stanley Cup without doing so. They were moments away from winning Game 6 against Chicago but gave up two goals 17 seconds apart with about a minute to go and saw their dreams dashed on their own ice.
Now they’re heading into next season with a drastically different team and the same lofty level of expectations of winning another Stanley Cup. It’s never not boring in Boston.
What didn’t happen to the Bruins this summer? They sent apparent party boy Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas for Loui Eriksson. They watched Nathan Horton (Columbus), Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey), Andrew Ference (Edmonton), and Anton Khudobin (Carolina) all walk away in free agency.
Their lone signing in free agency didn’t come without drama as they signed the guy who turned down a trade to go there last season in Jarome Iginla. That makes for an awkward return to Boston, especially after the Bruins knocked out the team he did opt to go to (Pittsburgh) in the Eastern Conference finals.
Two areas they didn’t tweak were ones they’re all set at. Losing Ference may hurt them on defense, but guys like Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and Torey Krug are ready to tackle big minutes regularly. Tuukka Rask was snubbed for a Vezina Trophy finalist spot but proved he’s the man in goal. They’ll have healthy competition to see who backs him up between Niklas Svedberg and Chad Johnson.
Next season will hinge on how the virtual new set of forwards works out. Coach Claude Julien’s ability to get his team on the same page will be more than tested.
Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series
Now that the Phoenix Coyotes are no longer wards of the NHL, it’s time to get to know the group of businessmen who jumped in to save hockey in the desert.
The 10-man group called IceArizona is headed up by team Chairman and Team Governor George Gosbee. He was the guy who helped spearhead the group in rallying together to buy the franchise. Gosbee was thrilled about seeing the purchase finalized.
“We are extremely pleased to have finalized the transaction with the NHL and to take ownership of the Coyotes franchise,” he said.
Joining him are Anthony LeBlanc and Daryl Jones, former members of the Ice Edge Holdings group who attempted to purchase the team two years ago. LeBlanc as well is ecstatic to finally own the Coyotes.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring a Stanley Cup championship to our tremendously resilient, passionate and dedicated fan base here in the Valley. We have a lot of work to do and we can’t wait to get started,” LeBlanc said.
Rounding out the group of 10 are: Avik Dey, Gary J. Drummond, W. David Duckett, W. R. Dutton, Robert Gwin, Scott Saxberg, Craig Stewart, and Richard Walter. You search engine wizards can have fun looking up who they are.