How many points do the Coyotes need to earn on their four-game pre-Christmas road trip to eastern Canada (isn't Buffalo a Canadian Province?) to get back into playoff position?
Greg Isaac: If the Coyotes could earn six points on this trip that would be huge. Obviously with where they are at in the standings, in addition to the games they have in hand on the Canucks and Wild, the Coyotes aren't in a bad spot, but six points should not only enable them to keep pace with those teams, but perhaps will also put them in a better position short term as well. They obviously need to be more consistent and perhaps this trip can be the start of that. One positive with the trip is that there are no back to back games. The Canadiens are having a nice season, the Leafs have struggled without Bolland and Bozak and the Senators are a sleeping giant. The first three games of this trip should all be great hard fought games. Now you can't take the Sabres lightly to close out the trip. With it being the last game of the trip and last game before Christmas, you got to make sure to show up because looking ahead this game has all the makings for potential disappointment.
Jordan Ellel: Considering how many games the Coyotes have in hand on Vancouver and Minnesota, it's hard to consider them really behind either team in the playoff push. That being said, picking up six points over the next four games would probably put them back in the top-8. In my mind, though, it's too early to stress about where the Coyotes are in the standings--a good run (as is being had currently by Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Anaheim) will likely be met by those teams cooling off later in the year. Coyotes will have their own hot streak at some point. Right now, they need to build off of the good hockey they played during their two game home stand, even if the results weren't perfect.
Carl Pavlock (Beta): Based on their opponents the Coyotes should be able to finish the trip with eight points, Montreal may be the toughest team they face but other then that I don't expect much from the Leafs, Senators or Sabres. Worst case scenario if they finish with four points though I think they are in a pretty good position. However with the Pacific being what it is, they are going to need everything they can get.
Brendan Porter: I think the Coyotes are still in a decent spot; they've played the third fewest home games in the league and are only two points behind Minnesota for the final Wild Card spot with three games in hand. Looking at the teams they're playing on this trip, I don't think it's a stretch the say the Coyotes should be able to come away with at least five points, maybe more. So I think that would be a good number for the Coyotes to get.
With his overall body of work and a significant chunk of the season in the books, do you believe Keith Yandle has done enough to warrant inclusion on the Team USA Olympic roster that will be announced on January 1st?
Carl Putnam (Alpha): He should be a lock. I've criticized Yandle's play in his own zone in the past, but he's shored up his defensive play this season. His ability to skate, pass, and shot make him an ideal choice since the games will be played on the larger international ice surface. Add in his durability and leadership experience with the Coyotes and I can't see any reason David Poile hasn't written his name in pen already.
Greg: Yes. While I still wouldn't put full trust in Yandle in the defensive zone, he has continued to show he is a premier offensive defenseman and would be a huge asset for Team USA in that regard. I would be very surprised if Yandle is not on the roster."
Brendan: Absolutely. Keith Yandle's offensive production recently has picked up quite a bit from the beginning of the year. The open ice that's a feature of international hockey will benefit Yandle in both the offensive zone and in outlet passes. His durability has to also be a major plus, considering the injuries to other contenders like Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin. Yandle is a high-quality defenseman who's stock has only improved since the season started. I think we will see him wearing the Red, White and Blue in Sochi.
Jordan: I would have him on my list, certainly ahead of Dustin Byfuglien or Seth Jones. I think he has really improved his play in his own end to the extent that his biggest weakness doesn't make up for what he brings on the puck-moving side of things. Since the Olympics aren't about bruising hits as much as they are a speed and skill game, I'd like to think Yandle makes the cut.
Should the Coyotes recall Lessio or Miele to fill the second line LW void?
Christopher Hair: I would recall Miele, especially for however many more games the Captain may miss. With all due respect to Tim Kennedy and Rob Klinkhammer (who have both played remarkably well this year), neither of them is a top 6 NHL forward. And continuing to ask them to be isn't fair to their actual level of ability. The Yotes need production from their top units, especially since Hanzal and Vrbata have combined for only one goal and two assists in the past six games. Ribeiro can't continue to be the only forward generating offense consistently and Miele could bring a spark to the Hanzal line and the second power play unit. Plus, being the reigning AHL player of the week should count for something organizationally.
Greg: I strongly believe in the case of Lessio, that the Coyotes should let him have a full year of development in the AHL. While Lessio was strong in camp and there was nothing wrong with his short stint with the Coyotes to start the season, it will be best for his long-term development to stay the full year in the AHL. He can work on his offensive game and perhaps next season he'll earn a full time spot and never look back. As far as Miele, I still feel he is going to be an AHL lifer or will eventually go overseas to play. He is having a nice season offensively for the Pirates, but I just don't believe he can translate his game over to the NHL. The Coyotes would best be served going outside the organization to fill this void (at least in the short term). That being said, top-6 forwards don't grow on trees."
Alpha: No. Neither of them appears ready to play the kind of tough minutes Hanzal and Vrbata play. In addition, with Shane Doan and Lauri Korpikoski on the mend they would likely be right back out of the lineup. I do think both guys would be fine playing LW on the Phoenix 4th line, especially Lessio. However, it makes little sense for Phoenix to start his contract clock this year so he can play 4th line minutes. Miele is doing all he can to get called up that is for sure. He was named the AHL player of the week on Monday.
Jordan: I would like to see what Miele could do playing on the wing with Hanzal and Vrbata. I think he looked good during his last call-up and should be able to generate as much offensive spark for those guys as Kennedy has been doing (I would hope much more). I'd be fine seeing what Lessio could add as well.
Brendan: Believe it or not, I'm actually not all that concerned with the way the forwards are playing right now. I think the 4th line has stepped up its game considerably of late, which I also believe has to do with getting some consistent ice time together. I also think Tim Kennedy is playing significantly better than his stat line shows at the moment. And with Lauri Korpikoski skating again and Shane Doan feeling better than before, it doesn't make much sense to me to call up someone for a week unless they're guaranteed to get in the lineup.
Long term: which defensive prospect has higher value, Connor Murphy or Brandon Gormley?
Greg: In terms of value if you're a head coach, that would be Gormley with his extremely high hockey I.Q. and being solid during all situations. That being said, if you base it off of asset value, that would go to Murphy, as it's not everyday you find someone on the back-end with such a unique offensive skill set, mixed with a 6'3" frame. Both will be tremendous NHL players for a long time. So in short, the sexy pick is Murphy, but Gormley will be the more well-rounded player.
Brendan: This is a tough question, primarily because Gormley has yet to see NHL ice time. Murphy has good size and a nice balance between offense and defensive skills, but Gormley has been putting up equally impressive numbers in Portland. One thing that definitely concerns me about Murphy is the fact that he has already had to undergo reconstructive knee surgery twice at a very young age. Although he doesn't look any worse for wear so far in the NHL, that kind of thing tends to rear its ugly head the further along a player gets in his career. So for now I will cautiously say that Gormley has higher long-term value, but until we see him in Sedona Red that's a hard judgement to make.
Beta: Its hard to speculate because both have a lot of uncertainty surrounding them. Murphy has been great, but I think we need to see if he can go a full season at this same level of play, while Gormley may be one of our most talked about defensive prospect but he has still yet to play in the NHL. I am still going to have to give it to Gormley though, as there seems to be less speculation that he will be able to handle play at the NHL level.
Alpha: Not so long ago most folks would have said Gormley hands down given where he was picked in the draft and the expectation he'd be a better two-way player. However, Murphy has finally be able to stay healthy and it's paid off. He hasn't looked out of place during his recent stint with the club and he's showed a bit more offensively than I had expected this early. He's playing significant minutes as well. Tippett hasn't had to protect him the way he's had to protect a guy like Rundblad. Until both Gormley and Murphy get a couple of NHL seasons under their belt I'm loathe to pick between them.
Should the NHL require its teams to be more descriptive when disclosing player injuries?
Greg: No. I know it drives fans and media crazy, but you got to keep everything under wraps. If player A has an injured left foot and his team says player A has a lower body injury rather then describe it as a left foot issue, that is OK by me. If the team were to say player A has a left foot issue, then when player A returned to the lineup or perhaps is still playing through the injury then the opposition will key in on player A's left foot. (Not to injure of course, but to make player A uncomfortable). BTW, player A will be inducted into the hall of fame next year.
Beta: I do not think so. Unfortunately I'm not sure that I am comfortable with the entire hockey world knowing specific injuries that players have. Hockey is a very psychical game and I'm not sure we can stop players from unconsciously or consciously targeting the injured body part of the player. I doubt it would anything seriously like targeting the head of a recently concussed player but maybe a few extra taps on arm that needed an extra day to heal.
Brendan: As annoying as the phrases "upper-body" and "lower-body" injuries are to fans and media writers, I don't think the NHL needs to require teams to disclose player injuries. The NHL is a rough league, and detailing where exactly players get hurt is just asking for certain players within the league to start targeting those body parts as often as possible. There is a good argument to be made that the NHL should require its teams to disclose concussions/head injuries, but that has more to do with a larger problem that I have with the league's concussion protocol than it does any real benefit from telling the public about who got injured where.
Christopher: Personally, I'd like to see it happen, if only for the positive impact it would have on fantasy hockey moving forward (it's hard to get reliable info without scouring the internet for a long time when trying to determine what to do with a guy who has a lower body injury). From the sports perspective, I get why they do it though. Hockey is a violent game, it's part of the appeal, and any competitor will take advantage of a weakness that he can. The lack of info helps keep the players safer and I'm all for that in the on ice reality.
Alpha: Yes, but not for the reason many might suspect. If they were as open as the NFL as far as injuries as the NFL is there might be more fantasy play and gambling on the sport which would increase the league's popularity.