USA TODAY Sports
In this week's edition we split time between the Phoenix Coyotes and general NHL questions. Our special guest is Mike Grose, host of the Blue Line Report and co-host of Calling All Sports Saturday with Kevin McCabe on KDUS 1060 The Fan. Joining Mike are contributor Ed Chavez and myself.
Is Keith Yandle Salvageable? Is it possible he can overcome whatever issue cause his mental lapses? Or his regression going to be the expectation moving forward? (This question came from one of our readers, TwoTon21)
Mike: I don't know that I would call his play a regression. Look Yandle is a defenseman who can scores 10-plus goals and 30 assists per year. Plus, he doesn't disappear in the playoffs like some others on the roster did. But playing like that can lead to some of the things that drive us crazy, like the turnovers at bad times. The bigger question is how long does Coach Tippett put up with it? I think his comments after the Chicago game were directed more at Yandle than anyone else.
Ed: I think Keith Yandle is still salvageable. He's shown glimpses of what made him a fan favorite this season, most noticeably in the 4-0 win over Nashville (1G,2A). Games like that aren't flukey. So he still has the talent and with Derek Morris' play this season, he has nothing holding him back as far as worrying about his partner's mistakes. The real question is, is Keith Yandle salvageable under Dave Tippett? The team's system is perfect for an offensive-minded Dman like Yandle and it still isn't clicking. Given the depth we have and the talent Yandle still possesses it's probably be time to cut the losses and start looking at trade options.
Carl: I think the word "salvageable is a bit much. I'm not a fan of his decision making and play, especially in his own zone, but he's an excellent skater and is a good shooter. He also appears to be a good leader in the locker room. As I said on Mike's radio show a couple of Saturday's ago, watching the Boston native play is like being on a roller coaster. The issues with his play are mental, not physical. He's played in more than 400 NHL games combined. The learning curve should be over by now.
Mike: There was a lot of hand wringing around town after the Blackhawks stomped the Coyotes last week in Glendale. And some of that concern was well placed. I thought Coach Tippet handled things perfectly after the game too. But here's the thing, Chicago is beating everyone like that. Two nights before they scored the six goals in Glendale, they scored five at San Jose. To no one's surprise, Chicago is second in the league in scoring right now. The surprise, at least to me is that they are also second in the league in goals against. You put those two together and it's easy to see how they are undefeated at this point. Can it continue? Yes. Will it? Mo, they will lose eventually and it will probably happen against a team that isn't expected to beat them. The much bigger question is will this impressive regular season turn into anything in the post-season? Will their stars put up the gaudy numbers in a seven game series as they did when they won the Stanley Cup a few years ago?
Ed: Sometimes teams just get hot, the Blackhawks are no different. Last season we saw the Wild, Maple Leafs, Bruins and the Capitals all heat up then witness them free fall. Something to factor in, it's the start of the season, a shorten one on top of that. It's a combination easily exaggerates numbers. The Hawks are 10-0-3 so far, the Coyotes in February last season were 11-0-2 and saw nowhere near the same amount of hype the Blackhawks are getting.
Carl: When healthy I knew they could score in bunches. The team the Coyotes faced last postseason was reintegrating Jonathan Toews back into the lineup and missed Marian Hossa for the majority of the series. I'm with Mike, what has surprised me with the Hawks so far this year is their defense. I have no clue how long their streak will last, but it will likely end sometime during their current home stand.
The NHL is about a quarter of the way through the season. Which team has surprised you the most to this point?
Mike: I was thinking about a couple of different teams here, and they were all negative. The obvious ones were Washington, Los Angeles, or even Minnesota. But, being the positive guy that I am, I am going to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the start that Toronto has gotten off to. As most of us know the Leafs have been a disaster for the better part of the past decade. All of the resources, all of the fan support has led to nothing but bad hockey. They haven't been in the post season since before the last lock out for goodness sakes. Even though we may not always appreciate the hockey fan to the north, I think the sport is better when you have the big name teams playing well.
Ed: The team that has surprised me the most are the Anaheim Ducks. I think it's more so because they got lost in the shuffle of the other 29 teams but it's been hard to ignore what Bruce Boudreau has gotten out of his team so far this season. They aren't annoying like Columbus who spoil otherwise easily winnable games. They're coming from the back of the pack and crushing teams offensively, not to mention Daniel Winnik's stellar start this season.
Carl: The Ducks. You would think someone who has followed Bruce Boudreau's career closely would know better. I picked Anaheim to finish last in the Pacific because I didn't trust their depth or defense. The only other real surprise for me is how poorly the Anaheim's rivals to the north have played. I wasn't expecting the Kings to come flying out of the gate, but I expected more than 10 points in 11 games.
The Coyotes have been outshot in each of their last three games by an average of 11+ shots a game. Should this recent trend be an area of concern?
Mike: No! McCabe and I talk about this all the time, it's about scoring chances, not shots on goal. The Coyotes outshot the Stars 40 to 26 in the season opener and lost that game. The bigger concern is when this team doesn't play the style of hockey that Dave Tippet expects. That's what they were doing to start this season and it wasn't working. They have won four of their last five by getting back to playing the style of hockey that took them to the playoffs in each of the last three years.
Ed: I wouldn't stress that too much unless we were getting lit up each game, which we haven't minus from the Hawks game. The Coyotes are known more as a low shooting, low scoring team, so that stat isn't too much of a surprise but interestingly enough the Coyotes are number four in the league in shots per game.
Carl: The stat doesn't concern me, especially because this team is not a high possession, high scoring outfit. The Yotes have gotten out shot on a regular basis and win plenty when doing so. Just think back to the five game winning streak at the end of last season which propelled them into the playoffs. The only one of the 5 games in which they had more shots than their opponent was the final game against the Wild. As Mike mentioned scoring chances is more important, as are where the shots are consistently coming from. A breakaway opportunity is a lot different than an unscreened shot from the point.