How much are the Coyotes missing Zbynek Michalek right now?
Carter Nacke: A TON. Z is the defenseman every team, especially the Coyotes, need. In Phoenix's defense-first system (that somehow keeps scoring goals), shot blocking and smart, simple play in their own zone is key. Z embodies all of that. He's always among the top of the NHL for shot blocks and his veteran presence could help anchor a young blue line that's giving up a lot of shots. And do I need to bring up how few dumb turnovers Z gives up?
Jordan Ellel: A lot--he really is the best shutdown defender on the team, and certainly helps anchor the PK unit as well. Nobody is going to be more excited to have Z back than Mike Smith, if only because it will mean 3-4 fewer shots making it to net per game.
Barbie4Yotes: As I'm watching the Coyotes lose to Calgary, I'm thinking that they miss Z very much right now. Heck, I'm still crying over losing Gordon. Look at some fancy schmancy stats; the PK is a 77.23 against a league average 81.84. Having a healthy Z back; blocking shots and playing hard minutes is key to raising some of these mediocre defense stats.
Brendan Porter: The Coyotes could probably overcome the absence of Zbynek Michalek were it not for the fact that Klesla is not playing either. That leaves the Coyotes awfully thin as far as shutdown defensemen go. I don't think it's fair to lay the blame for the Coyotes' defensive woes at the feet of one player, but missing both of those guys is a big part of it.
Carl Pavlock: After the game against Chicago I think they are definitely missing him. They did manage to clean things up against Edmonton, but I still think that the defense plays better with Z and that he is a necessary piece moving forward. Going forward the Coyotes need to have veteran, defensive defensemen like Z to play the tougher teams like Chicago, and San Jose, and I think they hope that his is ready before they have to play Vancouver on Friday.
What are the Coyotes to do with Rusty Klesla?
Carter: This one is tricky for me. Personally, I think Klesla is a great fit on the Coyotes, but his play has slackened as of late. In his first full year with the Coyotes, Rusty was +13. The next year he was +0 and this season he's -1, but it's about more than numbers. His play has clearly suffered after he sustained multiple injuries over the last few seasons. He's not the same stay-at-home, aggressive blue line player the Coyotes traded for back in 2011. The guy is still 31, so he should have some good years left in the tank, but he's looked beaten all season. If it's a confidence issue, a stint in Portland could help. If it's more than that, it's time to cut ties and move him out. He should have some value.
But until Michalek returns, the Coyotes are handcuffed. Without Klesla, the Coyotes only have Derek Morris in that stay-at-home role, and even he is moving more into the offensive zone. Michael Stone is starting to fill that role a bit, but he still needs time to master it. They have a couple young guys in Portland, but with how tight the Pacific Division is at the moment, it's tough to take a risk on a youngster.
Can't we just go back to Klesla being good? Sure would make our jobs easier!
Brendan: Fervently hope that he regains some of the physical edge he lost when he got concussed by Jordan Nolan in the preseason. If not, then there really isn't anything else they can do with him, as that is really the essential part of his game.
Jaime Eisner: Unless the injury bug hits their blueline hard, Klesla will play more often than not away from the NHL. He has already cleared waivers and the team will hope to trade him at some point this season. I would be surprised to see him on the Coyotes post trade deadline.
Jordan: Unfortunately, probably not much. He needs to prove he is healthy and capable of playing effectively at the NHL level for him to have any real value. The fact that no team put in a waiver claim for him suggests teams are not convinced of that fact at this time. The good news is that he's a UFA at the end of the season so it's not as if it will be a lingering issue for the team. Obviously if they can find someone to take him off of their hands in a trade (spare piece to another deal with the Coyotes retaining a portion of the salary?), then that would be ideal.
What do you think the impact does the new TV deal with Rogers have on the Coyotes and the NHL?
Carter: I love it, to a degree. It's going to be great for the NHL, but I feel for all those at TSN who may lose their jobs over this. Sucks that the little guy can pay the price.
That being said, it provides a boost for every club, including the Coyotes. We all know about the $50 million, five-year out clause. No one likes to think about it, but it's there. The new owners didn't compute the magnitude of payouts from this massive TV deal, so it's just additional money to keep the team afloat. I've heard an extra $10 million or so into the team's coffers? Sounds good to me. Maybe we can get that $1 beer night back...
Barbie4Yotes: The deal is a great benefit to the Coyotes! Increases to salary cap, an influx of money to the owners and new avenues of access for viewers in the future make this a rewarding deal. Oh and Quebec City will most likely get a team and get off our backs. It's a win-win.
Brendan: As with most business deals, there's an upside and a downside. The upside as far as fans are concerned as that extra money that helps pad the bottom line for the Coyotes and their ownership group is huge in the first five years of the lease while the out-clause is still a possibility. IceArizona gets an additional revenue stream and the City of Glendale gets another exhibit to use in court in the event IceArizona does some "creative" accounting to get to that $50M threshold (which, for the record, is something I don't think will occur). The downside is more revenue league-wide is going to accelerate the growth of both the salary cap and the salary floor. For a team like Phoenix that's scraping by as it is, reaching the minimum payroll level while competing with teams like Toronto and Boston that can shell out more money than before will be a challenge.
Jordan: Limited effect in terms of fan experience in Phoenix or the US simply because none of the Canadian networks are really airing much in the US except for their takeovers of the NHL Network occasionally. For the Coyotes, it's a heck of a lot of money and they will get a nice cut of that for many years. Anything that helps drive up the bottom line for the new ownership group right now is good.
If you could tailgate with any Coyote past or present, who would it be and why?
Carter: Let's see...to be easy or not to be easy...I'll stay away from the obvious answer of Biz Nasty, purely because I don't think I would survive. Honestly, and I know this sounds corny, but I would have to say Doaner. I grew up watching him and have always been a fan of his. I'm pretty lucky that I get to interview him and I've only come to like him more.
Jordan: I think I have to say Shane Doan. That would be the friendliest tailgate ever, with Doaner likely providing all of the food, drinks, games, etc. He'd be taking pictures with everyone and their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And I imagine that those guys from Kamloops know how to knock back more than their share of alcohol, which means the tailgate would just get increasingly fun.
Carl: Bryzgalov. He just seems like an awesome guy to crack a few beers with and kill an afternoon with. It would be a pretty chill tailgating session and since he's still collecting money from Philly he could buy the stuff instead of it just being with an 18 pack of Rolling Rock again.
Barbie4Yotes: Definitely Big Walt. I've heard so many stories about how funny and generous he was over the years. He'd probably not only pay for the tailgate but tell some fun stories from the good old days.
Brendan: This may be the hardest question to answer. I'm going to go off the beaten path and say Ryan Hollweg, because not only is the mustache awesome, but he seems like the kind of guy who would gladly go tailgating before a hockey game and start a pickup game in the parking lot.