August 12 2012 10:03PM
Can Don Maloney find another steal?
By Mathew Cerasoli, via Wikimedia Commons
The Phoenix Coyotes are one of the more interesting teams in the league when you think about it. They are an out of market team with a tight-budget, are always in relocation talks and are still searching for an owner but despite that, they have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and appeared in the Western Conference Finals last year. Phoenix is a team that has always managed to “beat the odds” for the last few seasons. They always seem to be in the playoff mix despite many predicting them to regress, and they always seem to do it while losing a major piece or two.
Ever since they made the playoffs, the Coyotes haven’t been a bad team at even strength, but they have been largely mediocre, ranking 15-19th in Fenwick close in the last three seasons. The main reason they have reached the playoffs is because they’ve received outstanding goaltending. Their lowest even strength save percentage the last three years has been .923 and it was at least .930 in the last two seasons. Most hockey minds thought they would take a large step back when they replaced Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith, but the exact opposite ended up happening and the Coyotes ended up getting a Vezina-quality season from Smith.
Elite goaltending can boost a mediocre team to greater heights and that has been the case with the Coyotes over the last few years. The question now is will Smith be able to replicate his incredible season and will it be enough to keep the Yotes in contention? Goaltending performance is something that is next to impossible to predict, so Smith could go either way. A bigger problem for the Coyotes is that they lost a couple important players up front and could be on the verge of losing another, so Phoenix may need more than great goaltending to get back to the post-season next year.
August 06 2012 01:28PM
Weiss wants to stay on top.
By Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons
One year ago, Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers were the laughing stock of the Internet after he splurged to get his team to the cap floor. Tallon acquired eight multi-year contracts last season and while some of them may have appeared reasonable, many of them were just flat out terrible. Not only that but they were raising the market value by overpaying for mediocre players. Despite all of this, Florida managed to win the Southeast Division, make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and take the eventual Eastern Conference champions to seven games in the first round. So the joke is on us now, right? Not quite.
Florida did have a good season and were actually a pretty decent team at even strength, but luck played a role in them winning the Southeast Division last year. They had a worse goal differential than both Washington and Winnipeg, had the same amount of regulation and overtime wins as the Avalanche, Sabres and Hurricanes and acquired 52 of their 94 points from one-goal games, 18 of them coming in shootout/overtime losses. They also played in arguably the weakest division in the NHL, which was left wide open thanks to disappointing seasons from the Capitals and Lightning.
Tallon’s shopping spree last off-season could come back to haunt the team, as well since they are now saddled with a lot of long-term deals and could run into problems when it comes time to give Stephen Weiss a new contract after this season. The good news is that they have a lot of quality forward prospects in their system and one of them could replace Weiss eventually, but having a little under $30 mil. committed to seven players in 2014-15 could make it difficult for the Panthers to build around that group of talent, especially for a small market team.
That being said, the Southeast title is still up for grabs and the Panthers are the defending champs, so they are going to look to defend their throne coming into the year. The only problem is that their team didn’t improve much coming into this off-season while other teams in the division got better. How does Florida stack up compare to them?
August 04 2012 01:05PM
Does Martin St. Louis have a last hurrah in him?
By Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons
When Steve Yzerman took over as the Lightning’s GM in 2010, most hockey minds thought that he would help make this team competitive again and during the first year of his tenure, he was able to do just that. Tampa Bay made the playoffs and were able to knock off both Pittsburgh and Washington in the first two rounds before being eliminated by Boston. Their success that year appeared to be legitimate as they had the third best Fenwick close percentage in the NHL and a decent young corps to build around in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Unfortunately for Yzerman, things fell apart last year.
July 31 2012 09:15AM
By 5of7 (Antoine Vermette) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the last seven months, no general manager has been flogged more than Scott Howson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. His team came into last season with some promise only to finish dead last in points and a skeleton of what they were a year ago. Some of the things that went wrong for the Blue Jackets were beyond Howson’s control but he reacted in the worst way possible and Columbus is going to pay the price for it for years to come. The Blue Jackets and Howson’s reputation might be in shambles but something that gets overlooked is that Howson did a decent job in at least trying to build a contending team in Columbus.
July 28 2012 11:46AM
Alexander Semin, Marcusvfx/Wikimedia Commons
Every franchise needs to gamble a little bit if they want to become a contender. This is especially true when it comes to signing free agents because you are essentially taking a risk whenever you sign a player to a contract. The degree of the risk is usually determined by the amount of money awarded to the player or the length of the contract. Teams are more likely to take long-term risks on players who are proven top-level talents (see Zach Parise and Ryan Suter) while lower, short-term deals are normally given out to those who have a number of question marks surrounding them (see Peter Mueller, Brad Boyes and Wojtek Wolski).