Phoenix Coyotes Roundtable: Playing Pucks and Pleasant Surprises (with Mike Grose)

Harry How

Which players have impressed or disappointed the FFH staff so far this season? Special guest Mike Grose from NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 joins us to answer that question and more.

Through seven games, what has been the most pleasant surprise for the Coyotes? The biggest disappointment?

Mike Grose: The most pleasant surprise to me has been the play of Rob Klinkhammer. You always wonder who is going to step up and be "that guy." It's obviously way too early to say how the season is going to play out, but he is certainly off to a nice start and I hope he can keep it going.

The biggest early disappointment has been the inconsistency we've seen from the team so far. I know it's early, but we've become used to certain things on the ice the last four years. Giving up a 2-0 lead like they did Tuesday night isn't one of them. Ten goals in back-to-back losses (Sharks and Islanders) isn't one either. That being said if anyone can fix it, it's Coach Tippett.

Jordan Ellel: I've been most surprised, and pleased, by the continued performance of Rob Klinkhammer. I had a bad feeling that last season was going to be a flash in the pan type of moment, but he has continued to play with a high level of intensity and it is earning him top line minutes.

I can't say I'm disappointed with anyone because it's only seven games, but I was hoping for better chemistry between Mike Ribeiro and just about everyone - Mikkel Boedker, Radim Vrbata, Lauri Korpikoski, etc. I'm sure that they are going to mesh and all of these players are going to really get going (beyond Vrby's opening night hat-trick), but it's disappointing that they seem to be struggling out of the gate.

Jaime Eisner: Klinkhmmer is the obvious choice as the team's most pleasant surprise, but I'm not shocked by it. His advanced metrics indicated that his success from last season was repeatable. My choice would be Derek Morris. He has five points in as many games and has been solid going back to training camp.

It's too early to panic on any player, however my choice would be Lauri Korpikoski. Originally slotted on the second line, his one point in seven games has dropped him back to the third line.

Christopher Hair: The most pleasant surprise to me would have to be the continuing emergence of Rob Klinkhammer. He worked hard enough last season to make himself into an NHL regular and now his hard work is getting him an extended look on a line with Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette. I don't expect this to last because it flies in the face of optimal lineup construction (I doubt GMDM spent 5.5 mil a year for Mike Ribeiro to be playing on the third line with Korpikoski and Moss) but for now Klink is turning into a true feel good story.

The biggest disappointment would have to be Mike Smith. He's been making some big saves, and his defense has let down in front of him quite often, but a .905 SV% and a 3.17 GAA just isn't getting it done. It's early in the season and I fully expect him to settle down, but the early season returns have not been good.

Should it be considered showboating if someone scores a goal by shooting between their legs in a blowout (i.e. Tomas Hertl)?

Carl Pavlock: With regards to Hertl, I don't think what he did was a problem. Firstly, it has been said by Hertl playing the puck that way has the benefit of making it difficult for the goalie to poke check the puck away. In general, I don't think this instance of "showboating" is any different then celebrating after a well timed shot. I understand the reaction that it has elicited from certain people in the NHL, but I think it has more to do with the culture of the NHL and the media that covers it and less to do with how objectionable the act was.

Christopher: Honestly, I don't get what the fuss is about. I thought the point of the game was to score goals and beat the other team. Hertl did that. So what if he went between the legs to do it. Given how the Rangers have started the season defensively, he could have closed his eyes and wished the puck into the net. If you don't like how someone scores a goal, play better defense. Adam Oates saying these things is even more unbelievable. I think he has bigger worries than complaining about a goal that was scored in a game his team wasn't even involved in.

Mike: I really don't have a problem with this. Professional sports, the NHL in particular, is pretty good about policing these type of things. The fact that Hertl is a rookie might skew things a little bit, but hopefully there is someone in that locker room who can pull him aside and "save him from himself." That said, the Rangers could have knocked him on his backside and sent the message right then and there if they thought it was that bad.

Jordan: It should be considered stupid more than anything else. The problem is that it's a low percentage play and probably not the move that he would use if the game was tied in that circumstance - so in that way it seems like he was showboating. I could really care less and I think Oates and people who share his belief that the kid "disrespected the game" need to get over themselves.

If the Coyotes were to make a trade for a top-6 forward, should they make a deal earlier in the season or closer to the deadline?

Jaime: Unless a great offer comes across the desk on Don Maloney, the Coyotes may be able to acquire a better player (or players) after the Olympic break. While the cap isn't a concern, salary is. Taking on a rental at that point in the season allows for the Coyotes to give up less and pay less salary. Bringing on a $5+ million salary is not feasible at the moment, but could be at the deadline when most of that year's salary has been paid. Waiting also creates a safety net for the Coyotes if multiple defensemen get injured.

Jordan: If you are going to find the right piece to complete your line-up, you always want to make that deal as early as possible. Why wait until you only have 20 games to make a difference if you can make a deal and get 40 games of additional production. I think in baseball you see this the most when contenders make a big move a month before the trade deadline and it really propels the team forward. The deadline is a terrible time to make trades because you are working under the clock and not able to fully analyze all the moving parts. The sooner the better, if they are making a deal.

Christopher: I'd vote for getting the deal done as soon as possible. Get the new player used to the system and locker room so that by the time the trade deadline is coming around he's already 100 percent up to speed with the team. The only advantage that waiting to the deadline gives you is that the available pool of trade-able players may be larger, but you'll also have more people to bid against so the price may be higher. Don't forget that Nashville gave up a 1st round pick to acquire Paul Gaustad (Paul Gaustad!) two years ago to shore up their team for the playoff run and got beat in the second round. That's a large price to pay if you wait. Get in, get it done and move on.

Mike: The fact that we can even talk about the Coyotes making this type of trade without getting league approval is a good thing! That being said, if the front office decides that a moves need to be made, then I think earlier is better. Earlier would give the players a chance to develop chemistry and make a run for the post season.

Does Mike Smith attempt to play too many pucks?

Jordan: Oh hell yes. I know that Smitty is a great puckhandler and that skill is an asset to the team--helping the breakout, helping deal with dump-ins, etc.--but he is an awful judge of when he should not leave the crease. His two biggest weaknesses are when there is a slow dump that is coming around the boards but barely reaches the trapezoid, and the pucks that are just in front of the goal line. I know that Tippett says that more often than not, his playing the puck will benefit the team, and I agree, but if he was smart about not trying to play pucks that there is nothing effective he can do, he would be even better.

Carl: Of course not. The greatest aspect of Mike Smith's game is his ability to play the puck, and with that there are going to be missteps every so often. If he were to play the puck less often because there is a problem once in awhile, it would diminish his effectiveness as a goaltender. The important thing is to not focus on the extremely rare situations where it goes wrong and instead focus on the positives his play brings to the team.

Jaime: Piggybacking on Carl's assessment, Smith's puck-handling helps the Coyotes far more than it hurts them. No one remembers his clears on the PK or the break-out pass that leads to a goal, but everyone remembers the occasional gaffe.

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