Can the Coyotes make the playoffs if Mike Smith does not come back?
Brendan Porter: Yes they can. The problem isn't the play of Thomas Greiss, the problem is the offensive production of the team is just not consistent enough. I highly doubt Mike Smith is going to be 100 percent upon his return, so I don't anticipate there being a substantial change in the quality of goaltending from Greiss to Smith.
Christopher Hair: The Coyotes can make the playoffs without Mike Smith, but someone else, I don't even care who, will have to step up in a big way. The offense has just been too erratic and inconsistent in the last two to three weeks to really be playoff worthy. Now would be a good time for the Captain to hoist his team up or Vrbata to go streaking.
Carl Pavlock (Beta): I think the Coyotes had the ability to make the playoffs without Mike Smith, however at this point, I'm not sure they can make it even if he did come back. Thomas Greiss played extremely well down the stretch when he needed to, but he couldn't really win games if the team in front of him wasn't playing its best. The thing about Smitty was he had the ability to steal a game. The Yotes won games that they had no right winning because of Mike Smith and I think that was the one big difference.
Everyone knows the potential importance of Sunday's game against Dallas, but is there another game the Coyotes should be wary of in the meantime?
Carl Putnam (Alpha): If San Jose loses to Anaheim on Wednesday night they'll have little to play for on Saturday. If the Ducks have won the Pacific by the weekend, Sharks head coach Todd McClellan could sit a number of his star players who he feels need rest or are nursing injuries. In addition, the Coyotes have played the squad from Silicon Valley well all season. If Mike Smith returns for the game it could be even better for the Yotes since he seems to enjoy playing the Sharks. Meanwhile, Nashville has been playing well lately and playing the role of spoiler seems to suit them. I'll take the #Perds as the tougher one.
Brendan: The day before. San Jose still has a very legitimate chance of winning the Pacific Division and avoiding a first round matchup against Los Angeles, something that would be a big deal for them. They are a very potent offense that is also desperately trying to prove that they are finally a team that can win a Stanley Cup. Coupled with the fact that the Dallas game is going to loom so heavily on the calendar, the Sharks game is likely the toughest.
Beta: I think San Jose will be the toughest just because it is against the best team remaining on the schedule. Nashville has been a better team as of late, and I'm sure they aren't happy about missing the playoffs two years in a row, so they are going to play a solid game, but they lack the skill that the Sharks bring to the table. San Jose may also be looking to go into the playoffs with momentum which would include a win against their Pacific Division rival.
If the Coyotes do make the playoffs, which would be the better match-up for Phoenix - Anaheim or St. Louis?
Alpha: The Coyotes have struggled against both teams this season, so from a pure match-up perspective I wouldn't favor one over the other. In addition, the team's respective starting netminders, Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller, have nearly identical 5v5 save percentages (.924 vs. .923). Therefore I wouldn't want Phoenix to face the more intimidating team on paper which is St. Louis. They have better possession (Fenwick Close 53.1% vs. 50.1%), power play (20.4% vs. 16.5%) and penalty kill (85.9% vs. 81.5%) numbers than the Ducks.
Brendan: Anaheim. The Ducks still have significant issues with offensive depth beyond Perry, Getzlaf, and Selanne. The Ducks also have some issues in terms of goaltending between Jonas Hiller, Frederik Anderson, and now even John Gibson. They also have the highest PDO in the league at 103.7, which means their shooting and goaltending at rates above what historically has been considered sustainable. If their top lines grow cold, they're in trouble.
Christopher:The Yotes would much rather see Anaheim than St. Louis in the opening round. The Ducks have firepower galore and some of them really like playing the Coyotes (cough, Andrew Cogliano, cough), but I don't trust their blue line much and I think Hiller can be had. The Blues are solid up and down, and while I think they can be had, you need a team with a solid offensive game to do it. Right now, Phoenix isn't that team.
If the Coyotes don't make the playoffs, do you see significant changes coming to the roster this summer?
Christopher: I don't know about significant changes. There are players who won't be back like Morris and more than likely Greiss, but I can't envision this leadership group blowing everything up and starting over. The Coyotes need an influx of offensive talent, and that may just come from within as their stockpile of young forwards may be ready for NHL action. Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, Lucas Lessio, Tobias Rieder and even Andy Miele could all be in Sedona Red for all of next season. Frankly, I hope they are, but Maloney and Tippett have both been reluctant to trust younger forwards with much responsibility in Phoenix. Maybe that changes this summer.
Beta: Depends on how you define significant. Based on the beginning of this season, I think the roster will look different. I think defense has already changed a lot since the beginning of the year. Morris will likely not be back and the blue line could potentially be a lot younger. I think that even if the Coyotes do make the playoffs, there needs to be changes to the forwards, especially the top two lines, whether that comes from free agency, trades, or bringing up prospects. I hope fans get a chance to see a lot more young, skilled players next year.
Alpha: Probably nothing resembling a complete overhaul. The trade chips they do have on their blueline aren't ones they are likely to want to cash in and their forward corps isn't exactly chock full of good trade bait. I do expect a change or two at forward depending on what transpires with free agents David Moss, Jeff Halpern, Paul Bissonnette and Radim Vrbata. The penalty kill may play a role in GM Don Maloney's decision making. The other big question is how likely will it be we see Max Domi in Phoenix next season?