As the 2012-13 season approaches for the Phoenix Coyotes, much of the attention will be justifiably focused on the likes of Mike Smith and Steve Sullivan. As important as they will be to the Coyotes, they are not the only ones who need to have elevated expectations. Read on to see some other Coyotes who should have the spotlight on them this year.
Lauri Korpikoski: As I alluded to in today's earlier post, the Coyotes have had high expectations of Korpikoski since acquiring him from the New York Rangers. His speed and quickness are definitely an asset and also make him a legitimate shorthanded scoring threat. He hasn't been able to produce points in the playoffs unfortunately: he didn't record a single point in the 11 games he played in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes rewarded him with a two-year, $3.6 million contract in the 2011 offseason because they believe he can be a solid two-way player. He's now entering another contract year (he will be an RFA), so it's up to him to prove to management that he can be a consistently effective forward.
Antoine Vermette: Vermette was the subject of our Countdown to Preseason much earlier in the summer, so I won't rehash too much of what I said there. Put simply, Vermette will have to rebound from an mediocre season and provide not just more offensive production, but continue his excellence in the face-off circle and in the locker room. Vermette has been to the Cup Finals before; he will be looked to as one of the two main anchors in the center position.
Keith Yandle: This wouldn't be a proper article about Coyotes who need to improve if I didn't include Keith Yandle. Keith has undeniable offensive skill; it's why he's made the All-Star Game in consecutive seasons. But he's also had some maddeningly absent-minded moments in the defensive zone (I challenge you to watch this Kyle Brodziak goal without cringing). He also finished the season with a +5 which, while not horrible, is the second straight year in which his +/- has declined. He also had his worst statistical season on the power play this year, an area the Coyotes sorely need to improve on. He's currently being paid to be the team's #1 defenseman; the Coyotes need him to be that on both sides of the ice.
So these are a few of the players I think need to have better seasons in 2012-13. Of course, it's not just about us here at Five For Howling. We want to know what you think too.