It's that time of the season when the NHL takes three days off to celebrate Christmas, giving us time to look back and reflect on the year so far or to turn forward and prepare for what we really want. With that in mind, here are five wishes for the rest of the 2013-14 Phoenix Coyotes fantasy season. Again, these wishes are strictly for fantasy purposes, so while we all may want a Stanley Cup at the end of the year, that isn't going to matter in your quest for fantasy bragging rights.
1. A Healthy Return for Shane Doan
Not to overlook the severity of the illness or underestimate the long term effects that could still plague the Captain,but Shane Doan's presence in the lineup creates a drastically different team than one without him. From a fantasy perspective, the shame of the illness striking down Shane is that he was in the middle of a career season.
|2013-14 (27 games)||12||11||23||6||15 %|
|Career Bests||31||50||78||17||13.5 %|
|2013 -14 projections pre-illness||36||33||69||18|
Those projections are probably even slightly low, given he was just getting used to skating with Ribeiro, the power play is still a work in progress and there is the potential for another improved linemate to join his wing.
We still have no idea when Doan will be healthy again, let alone skating in an NHL game. But I for one know that my number one hockey related Christmas wish is a speedy recovery to number 19. Until then, there's always visions of Doan slamming Dustin Brown to the ice to stuff your stockings.
2. A Winger for Ribeiro
Mike Ribeiro has had a pretty decent first year in the Coyotes lineup this season. He's on pace for another 60 point season and is currently second on the team in points. From a fantasy perspective, he's been slightly disappointing, although not all of it is his fault. His assist numbers are down from last season as are his power play points. He's been a huge part of the Coyotes' much improved special teams unit but hasn't always been paid off for it.
One of the major reason for Ribeiro's less than expected fantasy success this season has been the players surrounding him. Especially since Shane Doan's absence from the lineup. No one is going to confuse Rob Klinkhammer and David Moss for Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer. With this in mind, my second wish for Coyote fantasy success is to find a wingman for Mike Ribeiro.
Hope is coming over the horizon in regards to this wish already. Mikkel Boedker's play has improved in the last two weeks and with a healthy Lauri Korpikoski back in the fold, Bods could be Ribeiro's new toy under the tree. And as long as the Coyotes keep themselves in the middle of the playoff pack, a trade for a top 6 forward is among GMDM's top priorities. A productive Ribeiro should lead to a successful Coyote team and a productive Ribeiro makes passes like this.
3. Playing Time for David Rundblad
FFH Managing Editor Jaime Eisner may be the leader of the #freeRundblad movement, but I'm certainly a supporter, particularly from a fantasy angle.
The Coyote blueline has been a fantasy boon this season,and one should wish for continued good health for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle. However, Rundblad could add even more punch to the Coyotes biggest strength. He is a naturally gifted skater with a nose for the offensive zone, as displayed by his 55 points in 80 career AHL games. He led the Coyotes in points during the 2013 preseason, which doesn't mean much but shows he has a knack for production. Given that this is a fantasy hockey related wishlist, I'd much rather see that potential getting regular ice time than David Schlmeko and his 42 points in 164 NHL games.
The major argument against Rundblad getting playing time is his weakness in his own zone, but he couldn't do any worse than Michael Stone did on Tyler Ennis' game tying goal on Monday night. When the Coyotes are at full strength, this wish is moot since OEL would pair with Zbynek Michalek, Yandle with Derek Morris and Connor Murphy with a resurgent Rusty Klesla. But until Z returns and Morris consistently stays in the lineup, I'd wish for more firepower in the back-end and an improved second power play unit with David Rundblad.
4. A Time Machine for Mike Smith
2012 was an amazing year for Mike Smith as he was undefeated in February, almost single handedly stymied the Blackhawks in the playoffs and led the Coyotes within three games of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The lockout came and wiped out the chance for Smith to continue that trend in the second half of 2012, and instead put him directly into 2013, where he hasn't enjoyed the same level of success.
Hopefully, the Smith that was on display on the recent east coast road trip (1.92 GAA and a .937 sv%) means that Smith has found his own way to hit 88 mph and turn back the clock to a year and a half ago. Or maybe he just thrives in even numbered years. Hopefully the positive trends continue and we can talk about stuff like this and this and this so that we never again have to speak of the goal that shall not be named.
5. More Games Against Edmonton
In two games against the Oilers this season, the Coyotes have scored 11 goals and gone 3 for 8 (37.5 %) on the power play. That's good. Even better, the Coyotes' big guns have enjoyed success in those two games. Radim Vrbata has a goal and four assists, OEL has one goal and three assists and Ribeiro has a goal and two assists against Edmonton.
The best news is that this wish will come true because the Coyotes will see Edmonton three more times this season. Now, if only we could switch those three remaining games with Calgary to their Albertan neighbors.
That is my 2014 fantasy wishlist for the Coyotes. What's yours? Add them in the comments and share with everybody.