Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. After taking a week off, we are back with another roundtable. This week the Five for Howling staff takes a look at where things stand 10 games into the season, last week's trade, and expectations for Coyotes rookie Andy Miele.
Thoughts on the Coyotes play 10 games into the season?
Jordan: I've been pretty thoroughly pleased with the Coyotes thus far. They have had a bit of up and down, but I think the underlying play has been good. There are only 3 games where they've been beaten in regulation and those were against 3 of the probably top 5 teams in the Western Conference, and they deserved a better fate in the first game against the Kings. It sucks giving Dallas 4 points when you could have held them without any, but that's ok as well. Otherwise, they've been pretty solid in the 5 wins showing balanced scoring, solid special teams play (particularly on the PK), stout defense and better than average goaltending. I don't know that Coyotes fans have anything to be upset about this early in the season with the 5-3-2 Desert Dogs.
Carl: I have been pleasantly surprised overall. So far the penalty kill and goaltending have been better than expected. The penalty kill is a huge improvement over last season. Mike Smith has been a steady presence in net and his puck handling skills have really seemed to help the team's breakouts. I have noticed the team is struggling much less to get the puck into the offensive zone which has been a big issue for the club for what seems like the last decade. Smith's ability to get the puck moving up ice before other teams can get their defenses set is a big advantage for the club. The power play is about what I expected. I'm guessing it will likely ebb and flow all season. The offense has clicked and if they can get both the Langkow and Hanzal lines going at the same time they could really start scoring in bunches. Maybe the team can talk to scientists about cloning Ray Whitney?
My only concern is on the blueline. Specifically the Keith Yandle - Derek Morris pairing. Similar to stretches of last season, the pairing has struggled at times. Morris was on the ice for both late goals in the games against the Stars and played a part in both. When Michal Rozsival returns I would like to see him paired with Yandle. The good news is Rusty Klesla and David Schlemko have been playing extremely well together and Coach Tippett has rewarded them with increased ice time. Adrian Aucoin continues to quietly play an effective positional game and his partner Oliver Ekman-Larsson has played well given his limited experience.
Travis: They've had a couple big losses, but the team has largely stayed in games and played hard in the majority of them. The goaltending has been huge with Mike Smith playing well once the defense started gelling a bit better. The Hanzal-Whitney-Vrbata line has been amazing both offensive and defensively and while Shane Doan may be our #1 player, that's the top line on the team right now and hopefully will be for a while yet.
What is your opinion on the Cal O'Reilly trade?
Jordan: Good deal for the Coyotes who get an asset for almost nothing. It's the type of depth signing that may prove more beneficial than it looks on paper. He's a big guy that could spell Miele for a game when playing a grittier team (LA or Anaheim come to mind). In the end, a 4th round pick is a crapshoot at best, so this was pretty much something for nothing in my view.
Carl: An excellent value move. I would give up a 4th round pick for an NHL player any day. O'Reilly allows the team more flexibility and depth at center. This is going to be important as the season moves along and guys in inevitably get injured.
Travis: Good trade for center depth and a player that basically replaces Kyle Turris just in case he was hoping we, or anyone would really *need* him for anything. Cal O' Reilly has put up comparable numbers and doesn't have all the baggage even though he does get dinged up a bit.
What are your expectations for Andy Miele the rest of the season?
Jordan: I really don't have any expectations in terms of production or anything like that. I hope that Tippett keeps giving him ice time because I've been impressed with his ability to create offensive opportunities in his limited play thus far. He still needs to learn how to find the soft spots in the defense so that he is not just getting crushed in the corner or lost in the shuffle, but that will come with time (and also I think from watching Ray Whitney on a nightly basis). With the lack of significant offensive talent, I think Miele has a definite role on this team if Tip will give him a fair shake. I really enjoyed seeing him out there with Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker against Dallas - it was a really exciting unit.
Carl: I have none other than he improves his overall game. If he's a better player in March than he was in October then he will have met my expectations. This is his first year as a pro and he's not a top ten pick type of talent. He may not even stick with the big club the rest of the season. Jordan makes excellent points about what areas he needs to improve on. I have little concern about his ability to adjust. He has the right mentality for a guy coming into the league with his size. He knows he's going to have to outwork guys and learn how to fight through traffic and checks. The fans and the organization just need to be patient with him as he learns.
Travis: Just to keep working hard. He was lighting up the AHL in his short time there. Since being here though he's seen his ice time slowly decrease as he adjusts to the even bigger and faster NHL game. He's shown flashes of being a special player, but he'll need to keep plugging along and earning ice time. He's shown he's a good guy and a more humble personality and that should work in his favor in getting a regular spot down the road with the personality of this team and coaching staff.