Coyotes GM: We can’t ‘match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West’


In a conference loaded with talent up front — especially at center — the Arizona Coyotes are behind the 8-ball.

Just ask their GM.

“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” Don Maloney told Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.

“With our goaltending, our blue line and our coaching, we’ll find a way to score some goals up front.”

The Coyotes broke camp with a projected top-nine forward group comprised of Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker, Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, Sam Gagner, Martin Erat, David Moss and (it’s assumed) rookie Max Domi. It’s not a bad group, but one that’s light on goalscoring ability — Vermette, Doan and Radim Vrbata were the team’s only 20-goal scorers a year ago, and Vrbata’s gone — and bereft of elite-level talent down the middle.

This isn’t a knock on Hanzal, Gagner and Vermette (the latter was very good last year, and finished 14th in Selke voting), but it’s pretty obvious Arizona has a collection of No. 2 and 3 centers, missing a top-line stud — and in a conference that features the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Anze Kopitar, Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, there are difficult matchups on a near-nightly basis.

It’s something Maloney acknowledges. While he said he believes the Coyotes can be a playoff team, he was also realistic about how his club would have to qualify.

“Let’s face it,” Maloney said. “We need a lot of things to go well.”

Oilers invite Westgarth to camp, probably to deter what happened last preseason

1 Comment

One year ago, the Oilers bemoaned a lack of toughness after Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall were targeted during exhibition games.

This preseason, the club is being proactive.

The Oilers are bringing noted pugilist Kevin Westgarth to training camp, the club announced on Tuesday. Westgarth, 30, spent last season with Edmonton’s inter-provincial rival in Calgary, where he was part of a Flames team that also featured fellow enforcer Brian McGrattan (the pair combined to scrap 17 times.)

As mentioned above, the Westgarth invite could be Edmonton’s version of preventive medicine. Following last year’s incidents involving Gagner (had his jaw broken by Zack Kassian) and Hall (Dale Weise took a run at him), the Oilers claimed leviathan Steve MacIntyre off waivers, despite the fact they already had the likes of Mike Brown and Ben Eager in the lineup.

This year, the Oilers already have some toughness on hand in the form of Matt Hendricks and Luke Gazdic — a guy Westgarth knows relatively well:

Domi in contention for roster spot with Arizona

1 Comment

With top scoring forwards Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro moving on during the summer, the Arizona Coyotes are looking for help offensively.

Enter Max Domi.

The Coyotes first round pick from 2013 (12th overall) scored 34 goals and 93 points in 61 games last season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

“We’re all questioning how we’re going to score,” General Manager Don Maloney told The Arizona Republic, “and that’s what (Max) does. So let’s see if he can do it.” has the 5-foot-9, 185-pound center pegged as a second liner between Lauri Korpikoski and new comer Sam Gagner.

Domi’s strength on the puck, his quickness and his play in his own zone were all concerns raised by Coyotes coaching staff. The 19-year-old has spent the summer addressing the issues.

“It’s obviously something that I’ve been told to work on, so doing that and using my teammates a little better is something that I know I gotta do better at,” Domi said. “I’ve been watching video of the Coyotes and how they run things. I’ve worked on that a lot, and we’ll see how it works out.”

Domi, the son of 16-year NHL veteran Tie Domi, has proven he can score at the junior level netting 94 goals and 229 points in 187 games over three OHL seasons, but Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is interested to see if Domi can do it against the bigger, better competition the NHL presents.

“Those players are talented in juniors,” Tippett said. “They can get away with things that they can’t get away with here. There has to be a base of knowledge of structure and how to play in certain situations before you can use that skill here. That will be the test for him.”

Domi still has a year of junior hockey eligibility before he can even play in the American Hockey League, but how good will it be for his long-term development to go back to London and dominate against kids younger than him?

Arizona could have a tough decision on their hands as Domi looks to make the leap to the NHL this season.

Related: Gagner looking for fresh start in Arizona

Gagner looking for fresh start in Arizona


After being traded twice on the same day in June, center Sam Gagner is hoping to put his struggles in Edmonton behind him with a fresh start in Arizona.

Gagner was dealt from the Oilers to the Lightning and then to Arizona in the span of an hour on June 29.

“Obviously the last couple years in Edmonton haven’t been great, so I’m excited for a fresh start,” Gagner told  “I’m at that phase of my career where I need to take a step forward, and I feel like Arizona is the place to do that.”

In 481 games with Edmonton, the 25-year-old scored 101 goals and 295 points over seven seasons.

Originally a first-round pick of the Oilers (6th overall in 2007), Gagner never materialized into the point-producing forward he was projected as after averaging more than two points per-game with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Ontario native matched a career-low with 10 goals in 2013-14 while battling with a broken jaw suffered in the preseason.

Gagner’s not the only one hoping a change of scenery will do him well.

Coyotes head coach, Dave Tippett feels more minutes will help Gagner flourish.

“If you look at Gagner in Edmonton, they have some top, top talent with guys like (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, (Taylor) Hall, (Jordan) Eberle,” Tippett said. “So we hope that Sam can get some of those key minutes that those players got in Edmonton that will allow him to flourish here.

“It’s always a calculated risk, and we hope the change of scenery will do Sam good.”’s Corey Masisak projects Gagner could move from his natural center position to the wing if rookie centers Max Domi or Henrik Samuelsson are ready for the NHL. As Masisak points out, Gagner’s faceoff numbers are not strong and his defensive game has struggled at times, Gagner was a minus-29  last season.

With the departure of Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro, Gagner will be counted on to contribute in Arizona.

“I’m really excited for it, I think they play a solid two-way game and compete really hard,” Gagner said. “I enjoy playing that way, I think it’s really important to be competitive and work hard on and off the ice. I think it really fits well, and it’s just a matter of making the most of it.”

Related: How will Arizona replace the offence lost this summer?

Oilers expect Draisaitl to make ‘strong case’ for roster spot


The Edmonton Oilers have high hopes for their 2014 first-round pick Leon Draisaitl.

Earlier this month, the Oilers rewarded Draisaitl with a three-year $10.2 million entry-level contract.

On Friday, general manager Craig MacTavish said he believes the 18-year-old will contend for a roster spot with the big club when camp opens next month.

“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t make a strong case,” MacTavish said. “Fortunately we don’t have to make that decision right now. I, in my mind, think that he’s going to make a very strong case. I’ve seen him play. He’s going to make a strong case.

“If this decision is easy, he’s staying. I don’t think he’s going to come in and not make a case for himself. I’d be shocked.”

The 6-foot-1, 204-pound German native is coming off his second season with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League where he scored 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games.

“Anybody – fan, coach, manager, media – anybody that tells you that they can tell you definitively whether Leon Draisaitl is ready or not ready, right now, before getting the information at training camp is naïve,” said MacTavish.

With center Sam Gagner gone there is every opportunity for Draisaitl to make this Oilers team. He’ll likely have to compete with Mark Arcobello, but behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a gaping hole at center in Edmonton at the moment.

Related: Oilers ink Schultz to one-year deal