After missing the playoffs for the second straight season, Phoenix was finally able to give a clearer explanation as to what injury befell starting netminder Mike Smith — he suffered an MCL sprain on Mar. 24 against the Rangers.
“I know we were somewhat cryptic about it publicly,” GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We just didn’t want it to be a distraction for Thomas Greiss and the team. We had to move past it.
“We knew internally he was not going to be able to help us get to the playoffs, so we said, ‘Let’s leave it on the sidelines. Let’s focus on Thomas and our team and get to the playoffs, and maybe Mike will be back in the playoffs,’ and that was far from certain.”
Maloney then added surgery to repair the ligament wasn’t necessary, and that the club had “no qualms whatsoever about a long-term problem with it.”
The injury was a thud ending to an otherwise good season. Smith captured gold as a member of Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and, upon his return, put together a stellar run of play, going 7-4-1 in March with a .924 save percentage while allowing three goals or less in 11 of his 12 starts.
Smith finished the season 27-21-10 with a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage, pretty solid numbers in the first of his six-year, $34 million extension (signed last July). The Coyotes are no doubt pleased his knee injury is minor and won’t require going under the knife, as the club’s late-season swoon with Greiss in goal only furthered the notion that Smith is the team’s most important player.