BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 12: Antoine Vermette of Canada looks on during the IIHF World Championship quarter final match between Canada and Russia at Orange Arena on May 12, 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. In this week's edition of the Roundtable we discuss the NHL trade deadline, the Coyotes upcoming schedule, and which injured Coyote is the most important to the team's future success. This time around we are joined by Coyotes TV play by play announcer Matt McConnell. Matt joined the Desert Dogs broadcast team this year after spending time as the voice of the Atlanta Thrashers. In addition to his work for Fox Sports Arizona, he also calls games for the CBS Sports Network. For more on Matt check out his profile on the Coyotes website and his Twitter feed.
Did you like GM Don Maloney's strategy at the deadline this season (trading for Antoine Vermette and not wanting to give up assets to add depth)?
Matt: I love the deal to get Vermette to Phoenix. He's fit in well with a team that prides itself in having the fit of a player inside the group be as important as the statistics the player brings to the organization. Vermette has worked well with Doan on the second line. I also like the fact that Maloney was able to do the deal prior to the team's two game trip through Alberta. Vermette undoubtedly helped the Coyotes in both wins and did well in the face-off circle.
I'm fine with Maloney not making a deal on deadline day. These deals tend to be inflationary in nature. Besides, with players such as Rusty Klesla, David Schlemko and Kyle Chipchura getting closer to return, I don't think he had to make a deal. He likes the current mix in the locker room and seems very pleased with the team's current run. Why mess up a good thing?
Jordan: I can't disagree with the notion of not changing something that is working. At 10-0-1 after the last 11 games, it certainly seems like things are working. Depth is always good, of course, and his past deadline deals have been fantastic finds (at least for the remainder of that season). I trust that he was fielding calls and if he didn't think anything was worth pulling the trigger on, then I'm willing to go with that.
The Dude: I don't like his strategy, I love it. He basically got away with trading nothing for something, and its a something that is definitely going to help the Coyotes get to the playoffs and potentially get deep into the playoffs. Having another person who has been to the Stanley Cup finals is definitely a benefit, and so far he has been playing extremely well and I'm happy with his performance. He seems to come very close to scoring every game and I think that sooner or later he is going to capitalize and get the good goal.
Carl: I loved the Vermette deal and the fact that Maloney was unwilling to part with high round picks or players for what was available on the rental market. GMDM has shown time and again that he looks for value and it was obvious by the lack of deadline deals this year that there wasn't much value out there with so few players on the block. In addition, the franchise now has center and blueline depth unlike I can recall it having at any other time in its 15 years in the Valley.
Which trade leading up the NHL Trade Deadline do you believe will have the biggest impact in this year's playoffs?
Matt: I like what Nashville and Vancouver did. The Preds were able to pick up Andrei Kostitsyn, who badly needed a change of scenery. Maybe being in Nashville with brother Sergei will be a good fit. I also like their deal to get Paul Gaustad. The price was steep in having to give up a first round pick, but he's big with a nasty side and should be a great fit in Barry Trotz's system. The Canucks gave up a lot in Cody Hodgson, but add a physical element to their roster in Zack Kassian, who should fit in well for their playoff run. I also like Tampa's pick up of Keith Aulie.
Jordan: I really like the move that Los Angeles made in bringing in Jeff Carter. Of course, as I write this, they are losing 2-0 after Carter dinged one off the post, but they have an offensive need and they made a play to get an offensive impact player. Not sure if it will come together in the next month, but I don't think reuniting Carter with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards is going to do anything to hurt that team. Additionally, other than the Coyotes deal for Vermette, I really like San Jose's pick-ups of TJ Gagliardi and Daniel Winnik - never like to see the Sharks improve, but that's a nice pick up for them.
The Dude: It remains to be seen if it will make a difference in the playoffs, because currently the team doesn't have a playoffs spot, but I think that Jeff Carter to LA could make a difference. The Kings system doesn't seem to be based on scoring a lot, but adding someone with offense could definitely give them a bit of an advantage if they manage to get into the top 8. If they don't, it could put them in a good spot next season.
Carl: I'm not sure which moves will have the biggest impact. I thought the Canucks and Blackhawks made moves to address their deficiencies, though I'm not sure Johnny Oduya alone will be the answer to the Hawks blueline issues. I thought the Kings made the best value move in acquiring Jeff Carter. Carter's defensive abilities as a center have been as underrated as Jack Johnson's as a defensemen have been overrated. Even if Carter doesn't get the Kings into the playoffs this season it's a long term plus for L.A. to have him instead of Johnson on their roster.
The team whose moves may impact a team's fortunes the most one way or another may be those made by GM David Poile in Nashville. He added depth for the postseason at every skater position. However, the Andrei Kostitsyn deal could either be a stroke of genius or blow up in his face.
Which of the Coyotes remaining 20 regular season contests are you most interested in watching?
Matt: Pretty much all of them! I mean, every game with the exception of next week's tilt in Pittsburgh is against Western Conference opponents. So all of them should be intense. I'm especially looking forward to the remaining three games against San Jose, especially if a division championship is on the line. It should be a great final six weeks of the schedule.
Jordan: There are five games coming up against St. Louis and San Jose that I think will be a big test as the Coyotes will be going into that homestretch, possibly fighting for a playoff spot, possibly fighting for the Pacific Division and just taking on some of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Dude: I think that the 3 games against San Jose are going to be the most intense games of the season, provided there aren't any changes in the standing. I think that SJ and the Coyotes are the two teams with the best chance of the Pacific Division title, provided they continue this level of play, and when they meet it is going to be war on ice. I don't think that either team will leave anything on the ice for any of the games, and by the last game they play together, March 29th, we will know who is going to win the division.
Carl: The games the Coyotes play the Sharks on 3/10, 3/24, and 3/29. As others have already noted these games may decide who wins the Pacific Division.
Which of the players currently out of the Coyotes' lineup is it most important for the team to get back for the stretch run and the playoffs?
Matt: For me, it's Rusty Klesla. He eats up minutes and has been the team's most consistent blueliner this season. He's also been the team's best penalty killer and the numbers prove that out. The team has killed off nearly 90% of penalties with him in the lineup and about 68% when he's been out of the lineup. He's really matured as a defenseman and has become Dave Tippett's shutdown guy, when healthy, in the second half of the season.
Jordan: Rostislav Klesla - shutdown defensemen do not come a dime a dozen, and Klesla has shown since he's been in Phoenix that he really is one of the best in the games. The Coyotes are going to need to play a very stingy game to win in the post-season, so having their full depth of defensemen will be essential.
The Dude: I think that Rostislav Klesla may be the player that it is most important to get back. Not only is he good on defense but he can set up some great plays which can and do lead to scoring opportunities
sometimes. For a system like Phoenix's defense is very important and Klesla is a very important part of it, not that the guys who are stepping up to fill his shoes aren't doing a great job. I also think that Gilbert Brule is going to be very useful to get back, he is great on his line, they have a great forecheck and they can really change the momentum of the game. He can also rack up some points which is going to be good for the playoffs.
Carl: It's Klesla. Not much more I can add to the excellent comments Matt and the others said above.