FFH Mailbag: Ch-Ch-Changes

Christian Petersen

A new season features many changes from rules to players. The FFH editors answer your questions about these changes in this week's edition of the mailbag.

What is the biggest change in team strategy you've seen so far this season? - Jeff

Brendan Porter: The biggest change to the team's strategy I've noticed thus far is Dave Tippett's willingness to play four lines. So far the 4th line has played about 8-10 minutes a game, which is much better than years past. Even in the last game, where the Phoenix Coyotes trailed 3-0 after one period, the 4th line still took several shifts. That'll pay dividends later on in the season if the 4th liners can stay productive and give the other guys in the lineup a rest.

Carl Putnam: The power play. The big difference is the movement and passing. Players are moving without the puck instead of standing skill or gliding around in the same general area. In addition, the passing has been more accurate and much faster allowing for quicker shots which are less likely to be blocked by opposing penalty killers. The zone entries and establishment of possession in the offensive zone has been better as well.

Jaime Eisner: Power play formations and execution. Not every unconverted power play is an unsuccessful one. Pressure created on the power play can lead to even strength scoring shortly after the two-minute block expires. The change from the four corners PP formation to the 1-3-1 has allowed the Coyotes to get the puck in motion and create multiple scoring chances.

Do you like hybrid icing rule and is it here to stay? - Anne

Jordan Ellel: I do like hybrid icing and I believe it will be here to stay until the league moves to no-touch icing at some point in the future. I know the refs are still struggling with getting the call right 100% of the time, but when they get the kinks worked out, I think everyone will agree that this was a very good decision by the league.

Brendan: Yes, hybrid icing is here to stay, and yes, I like it. There's no good injury, but a season ending injury that occurs on a race to the puck is always a horrible thing, especially since winning that race is highly unlikely to change the game in a meaningful way. Better to call icing at the dot while both players are still skating and blow the play dead unless the attacking player is clearly going to win the race.

Carl: I'd prefer no-touch icing, but the hybrid rule is better than no change at all. Races for potentially iced pucks are few and far between, can be dangerous, and use clock time I'd rather see spent on exciting hockey plays. No pro sports culture moves at a more glacial pace than the National Hockey League, except maybe Major League Baseball, so I'll take change even if it's at a fairly glacial pace.

He's yet to score, but is Mike Ribeiro having any impact in his first couple games with the team? - Cody

Carl: I'd say through the first two games he's had minimal impact at best at even strength. His line is supposed to be the No. 1 line, yet they have yet to contribute offensively. He's started in the offensive zone more than 60% of the time in the first two games, so the opportunities to score have been there. There is no reason to panic about his play at this point. The season has barely started and he's playing with a notorious slow starter in Shane Doan and an inconsistent winger in Mikkel Boedker. I'd only be concerned if the trend continued for another month or so. This is based on what happened in D.C. last year at even strength and his history of not being a great possession player rather than panicking about a slow start.

Brendan: I think Ribeiro is spreading out defenses a little bit more than usual. It's hard to say for certain that he's having a major impact, as we basically have a sample size of one and a half games to look at (since the Coyotes didn't really seem to be capable of anything to start the San Jose game). I expect as the top guys settle into their positions (Doan, Boedker, Vrbata, & Hanzal), Ribeiro will start making a difference on the score sheet too.

Jordan: Hard to say. I think the team was clicking on so many cylinders in game one that it was hard to notice what wasn't working, and then it was the exact opposite in game two. I did see Tip shuffling the units a lot trying to get something to click, so I'm a bit concerned that Ribs isn't finding his spot. But it's only two games, it's not like I'd be firing my coach or anything because things weren't working... (Editor's note: Jordan follows the Flyers too.)

Do you anticipate that paying for parking will be a major issue for fans? - Mike

Jaime: I do not. Reaction to the fees on social media have been overwhelmingly positive. While there has only been one regular season home game, it sold out. Parking fees around professional sports are a given, it's amazing that the Coyotes took as long as they did to begin charging consistently.

Carl: No. Fans pay to park at every other sporting event in Phoenix (and in every other city). In addition, everyone knows the parking fees are a huge part of why the team is still here.

Jordan: I don't think so. You pay for parking at every major sports league in the world, so this was just a long time coming. The ones that will object the loudest are the ones who were never turning out in the first place.

(Editor's note: A comprehensive article regarding reaction to parking fees will be released this Wednesday)

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