Tag: predictions

Coyotes Oilers Hockey

Life after Bryzgalov: how will the Coyotes succeed in net?


There’s not much hope among the hockey community for the Phoenix Coyotes this season. There’s a shocker. Despite back-to-back season with people all over the NHL doubting the desert dogs, the Coyotes have posted back-to-back playoff seasons. Yet still, after repeated success, most people are expecting them to fail.

Each season there are question marks surrounding the team; each season Don Maloney and Co. prove that they have the answers. But this season could be different. This season there’s a larger question mark—and the old answer between the pipes that could bail the team out is 2,000 miles away in Philadelphia. So what do the Coyotes plan on doing now that star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has moved onto a new contender in the Eastern Conference?

The first thing the Coyotes needed to do was bring in a goaltender they believed could lead the team. Even though there were other alternatives on July 1 (like Tomas Vokoun), Phoenix management had a certain guy in mind: Mike Smith. Coyotes GM Don Maloney spoke to ProHockeyTalk.com earlier in the summer about the problematic goaltending situation:

“We looked at a couple of different veterans that might have been there. We looked at a couple of younger goaltenders, there were a number of goaltenders available in trades, but we kept coming back to Mike Smith. His style of game – he’s a big goaltender – Sean Burke has had good success with big goaltenders. Dave Tippett had him in Dallas and liked him a lot. We think our system will help his game progress. He has all the tools to be a top goalie in this league; we just need to bring it out of him. He was really our #1 pick.”

Smith may have been management’s #1 option—but he probably wasn’t the fan’s first choice. He’s shown flashes of potential over the course of his career in Dallas and Tampa Bay. But he’s also had bouts of inconsistency that relegated him to platoon duty or even the bench.

Many forget that Bryzgalov had similar bouts with inconsistency when he was with the Anaheim Ducks. He’s shown stretches where he could carry the team and look like a legitimate #1 goaltender. Then he’d show flashes that reminded everyone why he was the back-up and a guy who eventually hit the waiver wire.

One of the big questions surrounding Bryzgalov was if he’d be able to play well for an entire 82 game season. He succeeded—but why? Was it the Coyotes team defense? Was it the system that Dave Tippett brought from Dallas that put him in a position to succeed? Perhaps, but GM Maloney has another reason for Bryzgalov’s asset to stardom in Phoenix.

“I think it was maturity,” the Coyotes general manager argued. “I think the way we treated him—to his credit he played [well], but I thought Sean Burke did a terrific job instructing him. I think the way we handled him, and I think our system is a very detailed system. Everybody knows what’s expected. I think it helped to just get a little more consistency in his game. If you look back at Bryzgalov prior to coming to us, there were periods of brilliance and then periods where you couldn’t put him in the net. We were able to get him to the point where he was consistently a top goalie.

“And that’s the same with Mike Smith. You saw it last year; he was fantastic in one playoff game. Now we just need to get about 70 of those games out of him.”

That could be easier said than done. Everyone looks for consistency between the pipes and a starter they can lean on for 70 games per season. Judging by the preseason predictions floating around, not very many people believe that Smith will be able to step into Bryzgalov’s rather large skates. If the Coyotes can’t get elite goaltending, then it will be tough for the team to compete for their third straight playoff berth.

Of all the people worrying about the Coyotes’ goaltending situation, the folks in the Coyotes’ front office don’t seem all that worried. They got their man. They have confidence in their goaltending coach because they’ve seen him do it before. Now it’s up to Smith to learn from Sean Burke and start fulfilling the vast potential that made him the main piece in a trade for Brad Richards.

If Mike Smith is the goaltender that Maloney thinks he is, the Coyotes will be set to raise eyebrows yet again. But if he can’t—well, all of the prognosticators may finally have their doubts confirmed.

Preseason Odds: Who do you think will win each division?

Boston Bruins Victory Parade

‘Tis the season for prognostication. With a steady flow of previews flowing around the internet, everyone is trying to figure out what we can expect from the upcoming NHL season. Some are trying to figure out where their favorite team will finish? Some want bragging rights with friends and others want to know if they should start saving for playoff tickets.

Then there are the people that want to get paid. In what has almost become an annual tradition, gambling sites are starting to release their NHL odds for the upcoming season. We’ve already seen that Bodog.com has tabbed the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals as the favorites for each conference.

Today, we break down each division (Note: All add courtesy of Bodog)

Despite all of the changes in Philadelphia, the Flyers are still the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s more faith in the Devils (and their second-half run) than the New York Rangers.

Odds to win the 2012 Atlantic Division
Philadelphia Flyers: 6/5
Pittsburgh Penguins: 13/10
New Jersey Devils: 15/2
New York Rangers: 9/1
New York Islanders: 25/1

In the Northeast Division, the defending Stanley Cup champions are favored to repeat as Northeast Division champs. They also seem to like the Sabres with all of the moves they’ve made in the offseason to strengthen the team—obviously they were big fans of the Ales Kotalik waiver.

Odds to win the 2012 Northeast Division
Boston Bruins: 5/4
Buffalo Sabres: 3/2
Montreal Canadiens: 5/1
Toronto Maple Leafs: 12/1
Ottawa Senators: 20/1

The Tampa Bay Lightning took the next step last season when they were within 60 minutes and a single goal from the Stanley Cup final. Unfortunately, for fans in Tampa, that doesn’t mean much as the Washington Capitals are still the prohibitive favorites. On the other end of the spectrum, the odds makers managed to remember that the Winnipeg Jets are still just the Atlanta Thrashers in new jerseys.

Odds to win the 2012 Southeast Division
Washington Capitals: 2/5
Tampa Bay Lightning: 9/4
Carolina Hurricanes: 15/1
Winnipeg Jets: 30/1
Florida Panthers: 30/1

It’s no surprise that the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are expected to be good next season. But for people following the offseason hype machine, it might come as a little bit of a surprise that the Columbus Blue Jackets are tied as the longest of long shots to win their own division. Do you think it’s because people aren’t used to believing in the Blue Jackets or did they make the wrong moves this offseason?

Odds to win the 2012 Central Division
Detroit Red Wings: 10/11
Chicago Blackhawks: 11/5
Nashville Predators: 15/4
St Louis Blues: 16/1
Columbus Blue Jackets: 30/1

The Vancouver Canucks are the favorite to win the Northwest Division? The only thing shocking here is that the they are only 1/8 favorites! It would be interesting to see what the odds would be for a team to come within 10 points of the Canucks this season.

Odds to win the 2012 Northwest Division
Vancouver Canucks: 1/8
Calgary Flames: 13/2
Edmonton Oilers: 20/1
Minnesota Wild: 25/1
Colorado Avalanche: 25/1

It’s a two-horse race in the Pacific between the Kings and Sharks. Apparently, the odds makers have their doubts about the Sharks being able to improve upon their back-to-back Western Conference final appearances. And once again, no one believes in the Coyotes.

Odds to win the 2012 Pacific Division
Los Angeles Kings: 3/2
San Jose Sharks: 8/5
Anaheim Ducks: 6/1
Phoenix Coyotes: 15/2
Dallas Stars: 17/2

What do you think of these odds? Are there any long-shots stick out to you as teams who could make a run at their divisional crown? Are there any favorites who are getting more love than they should? As always, we’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

Three players from 2011 Draft to watch next season

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits

We’ve heard plenty about all of the top picks by now. But a question that plenty of people are asking is: who will we see in the NHL next season? Which prospects will be able to step into an NHL locker room and compete with the best players in the world as an 18-year-old? It sounds like a daunting task when we put it that way—but we’ve identified three players who we think will make it with the big boys next season: Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils, and Mika Zibanejad of the Ottawa Senators.

To be clear, this is not a list of the only players who will make it over their career—nor is this specifically a list of who will have the best NHL career. In fact, there’s a very good chance that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau will be the best of the 2011 class when all is said and done. But for now, both players could use another year in the minors to increase both size and strength. It’s not a knock on them and in the long-run, it’s usually best for players to full develop in the minors (or juniors in this case) before they try to make the jump against fully-grown professionals. This is a list of the three prospects best equipped to immediately make the jump this October.

It’s a decidedly Swedish list.

Gabriel Landeskog: The big Swedish left-winger was widely regarded as the most NHL-ready prospect in the 2011 draft. Much has been made of his off-the-charts leadership abilities that made him the youngest captain for the Kitchener Rangers in the last 30 years. He was also the first European captain ever for the storied OHL franchise. The skilled forward already proved that he could play with grown men at the age of 16 in the Swedish Elite League. He plays a physical brand of hockey that should make his transition the most seamless of the draft class.

Adam Larsson: The size and speed may be a slight step up for the blue-chip blueliner, but the age of his opponents won’t change when he steps onto NHL ice. At 18-years-old, he’s already played two full seasons in the widely respected Swedish Elite League. At 6’3” and 200 pounds, the talented Swede already has the size to hold his own against NHLers. The key for rookies—and particularly rookie defenseman—is to be able to keep up with the pace of the game. That plays right into Larsson’s strengths as his single greatest attribute is his poise with the puck.

Mika Zibanejad: The Senators’ first round pick might be a dark horse to make the NHL in 2011, but we think he has all the tools to make the jump sooner rather than later. Like Larsson, he also played against men last season in the Swedish Elite League. He finished his 26 game stint with 5 goals and 4 assists with Djurgardens in Stockholm; by the end of the season it was hard to believe that he had started the season with Djurgardens’ junior team. He showed great improvement with his 2-way responsibilities to go with his expected offensive game. Already at 6’2,” Zibanejad will undoubtedly grow into a power forward in the NHL. With his willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice, his high skill level, and the Senators need for NHL forwards, Zibanejad should get a real shot to make the team and contribute in training camp.