Corralling the Coyotes: a player-by-player breakdown

Christian Petersen

A look at the 2013-14 Phoenix Coyotes season through individual players.

The fall from grace was painfully long and ended with a thud.

A 14-4-3 start was washed away by a inconsistency-filled, lead-blowing 23-26-12 finish that left the Desert Dogs out in the cold for the second season in a row after falling seven wins shy of the Stanley Cup in 2012.

Phoenix is no longer the lovable underdog fighting through an ownerless journey, but a team with playoff expectations. The fanbase demands postseason play, something the Coyotes haven't given them since May 2012.

Going into the second consecutive playoff-less offseason, every player will be evaluated by the front office and coaching staff. I too will take a crack at it. The following is an evaluation of every current Coyote who played in least 20 percent of Phoenix's games this season (with one exception).

Who overachieved? Underperformed? And who is on their way out?

Forwards


GP G A P CF% Close PPP Evaluation
Radim Vrbata 80 20 31 51 50.6% 21 Widely considered the Coyotes' best goal scorer, Vrbata finished third on the team in goals and has led the team in goals only twice in the past five seasons. However, his goals per game numbers over the last three seasons are still impressive at .351, which extrapolates out to around 29 goals every 82 games. Vrbata's shooting percentage (7.6%) was lower than his career average (9.3%) which could mean a bounce-back season is on the way. In the end, Vrbata needs to be better and his down season may allow the Coyotes to retain him at a discount.
Mikkel Boedker 82 19 32 51 48.2% 16 Finally! The flashes of brilliance that fans and coaches saw from the 2008 eighth overall pick came together for a breakout season. Nineteen goals and 51 points is exactly what the Coyotes expect and need from the 24-year-old. Boedker played well in the lockout-shortened season last year as well, signaling that this year's performance is no fluke. Like Katy Perry, Boedker is a dark horse candidate to lead the Coyotes in points next season.
Shane Doan 69 23 24 47 49.7% 19 Quietly, the Captain put together his best offensive season since 2010-11 despite contracting and subsequently fighting off Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. His 23 goals were the most in a season since he scored 31 in 2008-09. Doan is not the 70-point player he once was, but 20-goal, 55-point seasons are still likely. The Captain still has plenty of juice left in the tank.
Mike Ribeiro 80 16 31 47 52.6% 15 It was a tale of two seasons for the most polarizing forward on the team. Before the Olympic break - 14 goals, 40 points in 58 games. After - two goals, seven points in 22 games and a pair of healthy scratches. Ouch. Ribeiro would have fallen a bit shy of expectations even if he continued his pre-Olympic level of play, but drew the ire of his coach and fans with an unacceptably poor finish. Ribeiro was awful in the faceoff circle, even for him, winning just 43.3 percent of his draws. There is no reason why the 34-year-old cannot be a 20-goal, 65-point player, and he will need to be next season to balance out his defensive deficiencies.
Antoine Vermette 82 24 21 45 47.7% 13 Voted unanimous MVP by Luke Lapinski and the editorial staff of FFH, Vermette put together the third best season of his career and his best as a Coyote despite playing the toughest minutes of any Phoenix forward. The 31-year-old won 56.4 percent of his faceoffs, which is not out of the ordinary for the faceoff extraordinaire. Vermette is strong defensively while showing numerous times he can hit the 20-goal plateau. Vermette touches so many aspects of the game and will continue to be a valuable second line forward.
Martin Hanzal 65 15 25 40 47.5% 13 It is hard to imagine the 6'6" center flying under the radar, but that is exactly what happened this season. The Czech had the best season of his career in 2013-14, setting new career highs in points (40), power play points (13), shots on goal (169) and faceoff percentage (54.5%). However, the injury bug caught up with Hanzal once again as he missed 17 games due to injury. In fact, Hanzal has missed 65 games (22% of games in total) due to injury over the past four seasons.
Martin Erat 70 3 26 29 51.5% 4 Acquired a day before the trade deadline, Erat joined the Coyotes late in the season, scoring a pair of goals and five points in 17 games. He was a crazy good possession player (57.8% Corsi Close) in his brief time in Arizona, albeit with favorable zone starts. The offense simply was not there this season, but this is a player who hung around or surpassed the 20-goal, 50-point mark in his eight prior full seasons (averaging 19 goals and 52 points). But, his major dip in the goal-scoring category is concerning. In his last 115 games, Erat found the back of the net only eight times.Through 2011-12, Erat had a career shooting percentage of 12.6 percent. The last two seasons it is 6.6 percent. Will Erat's luck turn around next season? The Coyotes sure hope so.
Lauri Korpikoski 64 9 16 25 44.9% 2 Korpikoski's success in Phoenix has varied since coming over from the Rangers in exchange for Enver Lisin in 2009. And underwhelming 09-10 season gave way to a pair of solid seasons for the Finnish winger in 10-11 and 11-12. But, his last two campaigns leave a lot to be desired. After accumulating 11 points in 36 games last season, Korpikoski scored 25 points in 64 games this season after signing a 4-year, $10 million in the offseason. Korpikoski is a valuable piece on the penalty kill, but needs to re-find his 40-point scoring prowess to justify his $2.5 million annual salary.
David Moss 79 8 14 22 51.8% 2 Considered a huge injury risk upon his arrival (leading one writer to refer to him as "band-aid boy"), Moss missed just six games in his two-year Coyotes career. Although Moss flashed 20-goal potential in Calgary, much like Erat, Moss' shooting percentage has taken a huge dip as of late. The Michigander is Phoenix's top penalty killing winger as well as one of the best possession players on the team. The pending UFA may be the odd man out as the Coyotes have an abundance of bottom-six forwards on the roster and in their system.
Kyle Chipchura 80 5 15 20 51.5% 0 Chipchura set new career highs in games played (80), assists (15), points (20) and shots on goal (46) last season. He was rewarded late in the season with top-six minutes after Hanzal went down with injury. While he faced subpar competition, Chipchura managed to be a positive possession player despite very unfavorable zone starts. The former first round pick is a solid fourth liner who can player either center or wing and should be a staple in the bottom-six for the next couple years.
Rob Klinkhammer 72 11 9 20 53.3% 1 The most Phoenix Coyotes player that ever was got off to a strong start, putting up nine goals and 16 points in the first 42 games of the season. Then, he hit the wall (insert hammer pun here). Klinkhammer ended the season with just a pair of goals and four points in his final 30 games, earning himself several trips to the press box as a healthy scratch. He set career highs in everything, but he had only 38 NHL games under his belt before this season. He will likely be on the team next season, but his playing time is not guaranteed as prospects may come up and relegate the Colonel to extra forward status.
Jeff Halpern 69 5 7 12 49.2% 0 Halpern did his job. The Coyotes needed a stop-gap at the bottom-six, penalty-killing center spot and they went all the way to Finland to find the American forward. Halpern gobbled up large amounts of PK time, won 52.7 percent of his faceoffs and earned himself a Masterton nomination. Halpern's future with the Coyotes, NHL and hockey in general are uncertain but he provided solid value for his $600K price tag.
Paul Bissonnette 39 2 6 8 54.6% 0 He may not play much, but he is one of the most popular players on the team; and outside of Arizona, he is the most popular Coyote. Ever the entertainer, Bissonnette is known more for his off the ice antics rather than his on-ice play. But, Bissonnette has put together back-to-back seasons in which he has elevated his play, setting a new career high in points each season. The Coyotes may free up his roster spot for a prospect, but I would not be surprised to see Biz return as an inexpensive extra forward.
Tim Kennedy 37 2 6 8 48.0% 0 On his fourth team in five years, Kennedy provided a bit of offense early in the season, scoring eight points in his first 24 games. Unfortunately for Kennedy and the Coyotes, he would not score again. After a 13-game point-less drought, the Coyotes sent the forward to Portland. Kennedy is unlikely to be re-signed as a UFA.
Brandon McMillan 22 2 4 6 55.3% 0 Speed kills and McMillan is all sorts of fast. Good possession player, relentless on the boards and some offensive touch make McMillan a prime candidate to stick around for at least one more season. He is a restricted free agent, meaning if the Coyotes want him back, he will most likely be back. Next year's fourth line could really be effective with Chipchura and McMillan on the wings.
Jordan Szwarz 26 3 0 3 47.6% 0 The 22-year-old made his NHL debut this season, scoring three goals in 26 games. The captain of Phoenix's AHL affiliate is an RFA as his entry-level contract is about to expire. It does not appear likely that the forward will surpass the NHL game total he accumulated this season in 2014-15.

Defensemen


GP G A P CF% Close PPP BKS Evaluation
Keith Yandle 82 8 45 53 50.6% 31 105 The most polarizing player award goes to...the defenseman from Boston. Yandle led the Coyotes in points for the second season in a row while setting new career highs in power play points (31) and shots (241). The 27-year-old is undoubtedly an elite offensive defenseman, putting up 52 goals and 226 points over the past five seasons, only Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber have more points in that stretch. 2013-14 marked the fifth consecutive season Yandle played every game. While he has to improve defensively, Yandle is as reliable and offensively gifted as they come.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 80 15 29 44 47.6% 22 80 The young Swede has quickly turned into a fan favorite as he dazzles opponents with his puck handling skills, wicked wrist shot and defensive prowess beyond what his age would suggest. There is no doubt Ekman-Larsson will be a mainstay on the blueline for the Coyotes (and the apparel business) for many years to come, with a Norris Trophy candidacy in his future. He has improved his play every year and 2013-14 was no different as he set new career highs across the board. OEL is already one of the best defensemen in the league and he is only getting better.
Michael Stone 70 8 13 21 48.9% 6 114 Stone took another step forward in his development this season, playing 70 games. The 23-year-old bounced around the line-up a bit, sometime paired with Yandle, other times with Schlemko and occasionally with Ekman-Larsson. The results were mixed. Some nights he looked like Morris' heir apparent to take over the RD spot next to Yandle, others he looked like a seventh defenseman. He is still young and will probably get the first crack at the second pairing RD spot next to Yandle in training camp.
Derek Morris 63 5 12 17 48.2% 1 104 The writing is on the wall for the 35-year-old, this season was Morris' last in Sedona Red. The pending UFA had a strong start to the season, putting up nine points in 12 October games. But he could not find the scoresheet in the final three months of the season, earning him a few trips to the press box. With a number of young d-men already nipping at his heels, Morris' poor late season performance sealed his fate.
Zbynek Michalek 59 2 8 10 50.0% 0 165 Michalek has played all but 157 games of his 643 game career with the Coyotes. In his second stint with Phoenix, the Czech defenseman was assigned the task of playing to Ekman-Larsson's right on the blueline. While Michalek has little offensive upside, strong, responsible play in his own end has allowed OEL to flourish and grow. The young swede plays better when paired with Michalek than he does with any other defenseman. Z is a shot-blocking machine who will remain on the Coyotes' top defensive pairing next season.
David Schlemko 48 1 8 9 55.8% 3 79 Despite missing a ton of time due to injury, Schlemko set a new career high in games played with 48. The 26-year-old has played the role of seventh defenseman for the Coyotes for the last few seasons and will likely assume that role in 2014-15. Injuries and often being forced to play out of position have hindered the undrafted defenseman's success in the past, but Schlemko needs to play more period and be more consistent when he is on the ice or next season will be his last in Sedona Red.
Connor Murphy 30 1 7 8 52.1% 0 38 The 2011 first round pick made his NHL debut this season and impressed enough to find his way into 30 games. At times he looked like a rookie, at times he was as poised as a veteran. Despite weighing in at less than 200 pounds, Murphy was not physically intimidated on the ice. Murphy is ready for full-time NHL minutes and the organizations lack of RD will help ensure that he gets that opportunity.
Chris Summers 18 2 1 3 43.8% 0 25 Everything finally clicked for Summers in his 2013-14 return to the NHL. He oozed confidence with and without the puck, made his trademark safe plays and mixed in some offensive flair along the way. Summers is a defensive defenseman who will be strong in his own end and safe in the other. The offensive upside is nil, but his solid, non-risky play may be just what coach Tippett is looking for. And after his play this season, I think the third pairing LD spot is his to lose.
Brandon Gormley 5 0 0 0 51.4% 0 8 The clear No. 1 defensive prospect in Phoenix's system since the arrival of Ekman-Larsson made his much awaited NHL debut this season. The results were mixed, but flashes of brilliance were still visible in his play. The problem is, there were not enough flashes to warrant supreme confidence that Gormley starts next season as an every game member of the top-six. Summers (LD) and Murphy (RD) have moved past Gormley (LD) on the overall depth chart. I think Gormley is the most likely of the three to start next season in the AHL. The 22-year-old has a very solid breakout pass and a high hockey IQ. He will be given every opportunity to succeed in training camp.

Goaltenders

GS W L OTL GAA SV% SO Evaluation
Mike Smith 61 27 21 10 2.64 .915 3 The curious case of Mike Smith - a bonafide high-end starter in December, February and March, a below average one in October, November and January. Inconsistent is the word of the season for the Coyotes and Smith in particular. At times Smith looked like the goalie that put the Coyotes on his back and led them to the Western Conference Final, other times he looked like the goalie Tampa Bay gave up on. The defense in front of Smith was nothing special, especially early on, which contributed to his poor start. But, the Coyotes will write the 32-year-old goalie a $6 million check next season, needing him to return to near 2011-12 form. While I don't think that Smith is ever coming back for a prolonged period, I do believe a .920+ save percentage season is more than doable. Injuries are always a concern for Smith, but he has managed to start 76 percent of Phoenix's games over the past three seasons.
Thomas Greiss 20 10 8 5 2.29 .920 2 Greiss wanted more playing time and he eventually got it after Smith was injured in late March. The German goalie was OK, but unspectacular in place of Smith. After starting the season with a .932 save percentage in 14 games (10 starts), Greiss' save percentage was just .905 over his final 11 games (10 starts). Greiss is a more than adequate back-up and fulfilled those expectations in Phoenix, but he may be tough to re-sign. If he wants more playing time and a shot to start on a regular basis, he will likely move on from the Coyotes.

Note: CF% = 5v5 Corsi for percentage Close.

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