WHO/WHAT IS TO BLAME FOR THE COYOTES' CURRENT STRUGGLES BEFORE TUESDAY?!?! - Joe Q. Fan
Tyson Nash: You can look to a few different things, but you have to start with the team's inconsistent play. This is a team that, although they added skill in the offseason and other young players have taken that next step, still has to work, defend, and compete every game. That has not been the case in the first half. Secondly, goaltending. This team will rise or fall on the shoulders of Mike Smith. He has been brilliant at times but then some nights he seems to fight the puck. This is a team that relies on everyone to contribute. That's why it's such a fun team to play on. They just have not had everyone playing hard every night. That being said, with their great leadership and coaching, they will steady the ship and make a push for the playoffs, in the toughest division in hockey I might add. The NHL schedule is marathon and you need to balance the highs and lows. Every team goes through it.
Carl Putnam (Alpha): Last I checked, the Yotes were still in a playoff spot. All this with having two out of their top-4 D-men miss significant time (including their best defender that is currently sidelined), their leading goal scorer missing almost a month and a bunch of 3rd and 4th liners playing to Hanzal's left. Sure a couple of guys could step up their play a bit more and a lineup tweak here or there might help slightly, but given everything, 49 points in 41 games seems just about right. As for the goaltending, Smith is only playing slightly below his career average and Greiss has played better than expected. The 'tending has essentially been a wash.
Christopher Hair: Poor discipline in key moments, both of the physical and mental varieties. Untimely penalties and poor defensive zone positioning have been a bugaboo for the Coyotes for all of 2013. Injuries/illness to key players like OEL, Zbynek Michalek and, oh yeah, the captain and unquestioned heart and soul of the team Shane Doan, could also be reasons for the recent struggles.
I don't think the Coyotes were as good as they flashed to be during October/November nor are they as bad as they have played in December. Oh, they're still in a playoff position, even with only winning twice in their past nine games.
Jordan Ellel: I wouldn't place blame at any single player's feet, although strong play from Smith would have certainly helped to overcome what has been a recent rough patch. Untimely injuries to key cogs (Doan, Michalek, now OEL) have forced some awkward line combinations and the chemistry that we had seen from guys like Boedker and Vermette, Ribeiro and Moss, and Hanzal and Vrbata doesn't seem to be continuing right now. Whether a line shuffle would wake things up for the team offensively, or it's just a matter of reintegrating Doan into the lineup remains to be seen. It also has been a bad time for the special teams to completely get away from the Coyotes as a few power play goals would make a huge difference in the team's fortunes.
Andy Warycka: I'm going to answer this in the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
If it's because they play Rundblad too much, turn to page 45.
If it's because they don't play Rundblad enough, turn to page 53.
If it's because Doan has been sidelined for a month, turn to page 61.
If it's because our 4th line isn't "gritty," "grinding," or "tough" enough, put down the book and go watch some old Don Cherry Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Hockey videos.
It it's because OMG HOCKEY DOESN'T BELONG IN THE DESERT ROFLCOPTER, go shovel your driveway and leave me alone. I'll be having a beer while I grill some burgers in shorts this weekend.
Jaime Eisner: This will help answer that question as well.
Heading into the Olympic break, how would you distribute the starts between Mike Smith and Thomas Greiss?
Tyson: As far as starts for goaltenders go, you have to go with your No. 1 guy -- that's Mike Smith. He will find his game, it's just a matter of time. You need to give him every opportunity to do so. Give him the confidence and the support and he will eventually deliver the wins. That being said, Thomas Greiss has been a wonderful option when called upon and he may get more starts as the schedule increases before the break.
Carl Pavlock (Beta): There are 16 games between now and the Olympic break. I would start Mike Smith 12 games and start Thomas Greiss 4. Smith has looked good, not great, the past few games and I think that sitting him in favor of Greiss a few games would benefit him in the long run. He is still the guy, but I think a few games off and some extra work with Burke would make him a better in the near future. I think that right around February/March he will get hot and his game will greatly improve.
Christopher: The Coyotes will play 16 games between now and Opening Ceremonies in Sochi. I would play Smith in 10-12 games and have Greiss start the rest. My original plan would have Smitty penciled in for 10 games, but if he comes on or Greiss falters, get him two more. Smith has been better in December, and I would want him to get more rest and more time for direct work with Sean Burke instead of having him play through his "struggles." For Phoenix to reach it's peak, they need Smith, pure and simple. But they need good Smith and a rested Smith, not a burnt out Smith who's played far too much.
Alpha: Greiss and Smith would each get at least two of the remaining 16 starts as there are two back to backs during the stretch. After that, I'd go with how each is playing. Obviously, Greiss has been better lately, but I'm not a fan of riding the hot back-up hand forever. Both guys need work, especially Smith. Also, with Smith unlikely to see ice time for Canada in Sochi, there is no point in significantly reducing his workload prior to the Games.
Barbie4Yotes: I don't want to answer this question. I just want those "Greiss should be the number One goalie" fans to go away. It's nice to have a good back up for once but seriously?
Should younger skaters with upside (Rundblad, Lessio, Brown, Miele) play over more experienced, but lower ceiling players?
Tyson: I am all for giving young players opportunities and they have done a nice job filling in when called upon, but they haven't done enough yet to earn a spot above a veteran player. Internal competition has never been stronger with this club. Depth is so important now and in the future and that has not always been the case with Phoenix. You have to credit Don Maloney and Brad Treliving for the way they have built this organization back up.
Andy: The Coyotes recent strategy in fielding teams has been to acquire older, experienced (and inexpensive) not-so-household name players who seem to gel well under the Coyotes system, while the younger players grind along in the AHL. And while it's been effective, I don't think it's the path to long term health and playoff contention. Let the kids play.
Jordan: I would like to see that happen particularly if the more experienced players really aren't bringing anything to the game right now. Kyle Chipchura has been a nice plug for the Coyotes for a few seasons now and filled in on checking lines bringing some good energy, but recently he has been a bit invisible on the ice. Sitting him for a game or two in favor of a guy like Brown or Lessio makes sense. Ditto for Rundblad who really needs more ice time to develop his game.
Alpha: Depends on the situation and the player. Right now, I'd certainly be playing Rundblad. You can't expect his skills to improve sitting in the press box as much as he has. I'd like to see Miele be given a multi-game trial as LW on Hanzal/Vrbata line if the team isn't going to acquire someone. Caveat- However, I haven't seen Miele play recently so I'm not sure how he's looked defensively or along the boards. I would also like to see Lessio get some a look again. Even if on the 4th line. I'd like to see a more skilled 4th line, period.
Christopher: I want to see the younger guys get into the lineup. Phoenix has, almost from the beginning of their move to the valley, been a team that has relied on bringing in talent via free agency (Cliff Ronning, Rick Tocchet, Petr Nedved, Ray Whitney) or trade (Jeremy Roenick, Mike Comrie, Woltek Wolski) rather than cultivating their own. The downside to this practice is that far too often you pay for players past their prime years (see free agency) or give up far too much for a small return (see the Selanne trade). The Coyotes roster currently lacks in offensive upside outside of Boedker, Doan, Hanzal, Ribeiro and Vrbata. Miele would certainly add to that talent as he's proven in the AHL this season and last. Brown has the profile of a front net presence and second pp unit body a la Johan Franzen (projected). Why not give ice time to them and see what they can bring to the NHL? We already know what Kennedy and Chipchura can do and this team can use more.
Is the Winter Classic the most exciting spectacle in sports?
Tyson: The Winter Classic is definitely a spectacle, but I would say the Stanley Cup Final/Playoffs takes the cake for me personally. I am a huge hockey fan and when your team is involved, there is nothing like it. Belly up on the couch, night after night cheering your squad on. When it's over as a fan, you feel like you went through it just like the players did.
Barbie4Yotes: I like watching it, just like I like watching the Super Bowl, but it's rarely a good game. As a spectacle, it's pretty spectacular. The naming of the Canadian Olympic Roster was a close second.
Alpha: Spectacle? Yes. Game? Absolutely not. The Winter Classic has it's own TV series, amazing visuals, unique game atmosphere, and it's a chance for a sport to bring in casual fans because of all the hoopla. College basketball on a carrier was interesting, but still wasn't the same level of spectacle and NFL games in London and MLB games in Japan, etc. are routine and look just like any other regular season game. College football rivalry games are probably the one thing that approaches the Winter Classic from a spectacle standpoint and even there, they fall short. They are all played in the same conditions as any other college football game.
Jordan: I don't know if it's always going to be the most exciting, but it is certainly the biggest regular season spectacle in sports - easily topping the games that other leagues (and the NHL) play in Europe or Asia which I believe is the only really comparable spectacle for the regular season. That there is a meaningful hockey game played outside the comfy confines of modern NHL arenas in the elements with record shattering crowds in attendance is certainly a bigger deal than what any other sport is accomplishing for any single game. That being said, I'm not sure having 6-7 outdoor games every year won't quickly deflate the awesomeness that is the Winter Classic.
Beta: I'm not a fan of other sports so I can't really compare it to other spectacles in other sports. I will say that it's a game that I don't really care for. In the past, the Winter Classic has been a game with really no stakes, played by two teams that I don't really care about. All in all it doesn't add up to an interesting experience for me, which is probably the reason I wasn't upset by the announcement of the Stadium Series games this year.
Which would be better for the Phoenix/Glendale market: hosting a Stadium Series game or an All-Star game?
Tyson: All-Star games are great but it's still only 18,000 people. To get an outdoor game, your talking 60- 80,000 eye balls at your event and watching your game. That is why they are having so many more games now, because of the exposure it's giving out to this great game. All-Star games, for me at least, don't mean much because the players are not even playing. It's a showcase of skill and that's it. Hockey to me is about skill, yes, but also the compete and intensity -- that's why I love the outdoor games. Great atmosphere but also good hockey with lots to play for.
Christopher: As great as the spectacle of the Stadium Series would be for the hardcore hockey fan in the Valley (don't laugh, we exist), I'd much rather see Glendale get the All-Star Game we were robbed of in 2005. The All-Star game would bring in the attention of the hardcore and the casual fan, and more importantly, would make Glendale the center of the NHL world for three days. What better way to showcase our phenomenal home barn and fantastic new ownership group than giving them that kind of worldwide exposure with little to no competition.
Alpha: An All-Star game would be better. It creates a bigger media spotlight and more glitz in terms of star players. If it's a Winter Classic game then it's a fairly even proposition due to media, HBO, bigger spotlight playing on New Year's Day. I do think a Stadium Series game next year would be the best timing wise if they are going to host one due to the ability to create synergy on the Super Bowl week, similar to what is being done in New York this year.
Andy: Yes. Oh, I can only pick one. Okay, fine. As much as I'd go full shut-up-and-take-my-money for a stadium series game, I also have visions of it being 82F that day and Pierre McGuire whining about the ice conditions every 43 seconds. On the other hand, an All-Star game is going to bring in fans from all over, who get to enjoy some nice weather, great hockey, and funnel some dollars into the local economy. I'd vote for an All-Star game first.
Barbie4Yotes: Really? Is this a trick question? I'm not prepared for all the criticism when the ice turns to water on an unseasonably hot day so let's go with the All-Star game option. Interestingly enough, there's been talk that we are trying to land the World Junior Championships here. That would be amazing world wide exposure but we'd need several good arenas in the area to host it.