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The Five For Howling Roundtable: The Season Builds

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Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. For this week's edition we are joined by Emmy award winner Todd Walsh . Todd is well known to Coyotes fans as the TV/Radio host of Coyotes Coverage on Fox Sports Arizona and XTRA Sports 910. In addition to Coyotes' broadcasts, you can also follow him on Twitter. If you want to know more about Todd, check out the two part interview we did with him last year. This week's Roundtable topics include the Coyotes power play struggles, Radim Vrbata's chances of being an all-star, Phoenix's two game losing streak, and NHL re-alignment.

What, if any, changes would you make to the Coyotes power play to improve it?

Todd: Ahh, the power play. The gallows humor from the Ivory Tower of the press box is simply this: Decline the man advantage! I did see that Kyle Turris got 1:13 of PP time vs the Wild. I can’t help but wonder what he would be like had he come to camp and preseason and the first 20 games. Waiting for him to "catch up" is maddening. His skill set is worth the wait, but as Tom Petty wrote and sang, "The waiting is the hardest part." I don’t presume to think that I know how to fix a power play, but I can dream. I would love to see Keith Tkachuk just skate out to the front of the net the night they put his name up in the Ring of Honor. He can stay in his "office" for 60 minutes if you ask me.

Carl: This year the power play situation is less maddening to me than in year's past even though the team's PP percentage ranks dead last in the NHL. In the past, the team had trouble with basic stuff like zone entries, puck possession, and passing. While these issues have crept in from time to time this season they don't aren't major ones this time around. If you are lookin' for a place where something needs to happen on the power play look to the crease. The Desert Dogs aren't doing enough to consistently screen the goalie. I would love to see someone like Shane Doan or Martin Hanzal moved to the front of the net on the first power play unit. The power play units also need to get shots off quicker so more pucks are making it on net instead of being blocked. Anyone who has watched the Coyotes power play wouldn't be surprised to read that the unit is No. 28 in the league in power play shots on goal. The other concern I have related to the PP is the lack of penalties the team is drawing.

Jordan: Tip has been playing with the personnel quite a bit, but I think he'll figure that out eventually. Obviously, Whitney and Yandle and OEL are essential players out there because they are quarterbacking the play. To the extent that a Pyatt, Torres or even Hanzal are seeing power play time, they should be using it to screen the goalie and create havoc, deflect shots and put in rebounds. They need to just keep making quicker passes and firing one timers on net before defense can get in the shooting lanes.

Travis: I think the biggest change is just to keep playing like they do at even strength. Once they get to the power play they turn back into a team that passes until they find the "perfect" shot that never really comes. Get a body like Martin Hanzal or Taylor Pyatt to the front and start finding openings for shots somewhere. Just like in game just get pucks on net and good things will happen.

What are the chances Radim Vrbata makes it to Ottawa (All-Star Game) in January?

Todd: Not sure about Radim, but I know if he keeps up this pace he will be hard to overlook, wouldn’t he? And if he keeps up this pace the Coyotes will be hard to overlook because they will at or near the top of the division. Personally, I hope to see Ray Whitney there, too. He is having a helluva season and if he goes, wouldn’t his "posse" of #whereswhitney have to tag along???? Jody Jackson, you in???

Carl: I believe he has the wherewithal to continue to play well for the next several weeks. If he does and is still in the top 20 in goals four weeks from now I think he makes it in.

Jordan: I think fairly good. He's in the top 10 in the league in goal scoring for the season and if he can keep up this pace, then he'll certainly be the most worthy (if not the most famous) Coyotes player to make the all star team this season.

Travis: While I think he'd make a good pick, the chances are about 50/50. At least now that only the starting rosters are picked by fans it gives him an in if he keeps playing well. He's tied at No.10 in the league in goals with 14 at the moment. I think a big part will be how long he keeps up this scoring run. As we’ve seen before he can be red hot and suddenly freeze up. If he keeps going through December and early next month the chances get a lot better of him representing the Coyotes in Ottawa.

Do you have any concerns about the Coyotes given how they have lost their last two games?

Todd: I don’t usually get too concerned around the Dave Tippett coached Coyotes. He simply doesn’t allow the lows to get too low. His team is well aware of its faults and they usually take great steps to try and throttle them on a game to game basis. In short, they are well prepared and they adjust. And, as Dave Tippett said recently of how and why his team always seems to find a way to bounce back: "Because losing sucks." I am concerned that Mike Smith has struggled of late. He fell on the sword after Saturday’s game shouldering the blame. He is still a work in progress as a "number one." I believe he is embracing that role and I think he’ll bounce back.

Carl: A season is always going to be full of ups and downs. Even championship teams have rough stretches of play. It can't be Nashville every night. I have no concerns about the last two games becoming a trend. Even if Mike Smith is coming back down to earth a bit the team has plenty of areas in which they can improve in to offset any drop off in production in goal. They can start by drawing more penalties and distributing the scoring load more evenly.

Jordan: Not really. Every season is going to have its ebbs and flows. I'm not thrilled with the defensive lapses over the past few games and Smith is starting to show that he is not quite going to win the Vezina this season, but I know that they will regroup. It does seem that every time the team fights its way to the top of the division they go through a mini-skid and that concerns me, but I'm guessing that it's not going to stay that way forever.

Travis: The biggest concern is the team not playing with the effort within the system that they know works. Mike Smith Maybe should have had 1 or 2 of those goals back, but they Coyotes were just outworked for the most part which isn’t common these days. Smitty did take the blame, but when the guys in front also can’t find the back of the opposing net until the waning minutes of the game that’s not going to be a lot of help.

What is your take on the NHL re-alignment plan approved by the Board of Governors last week?

Todd: I was delighted to see the league and their plans for realignment. I see this as the old Vulcan proverb that the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." (Wrath of Khan!) It was absurd to think that fans in some cities would only see the "Original Six" or Sidney Crosby every couple of years. It just made no sense. This set up was a no brainer for local TV markets, too. And I don’t mind seeing some teams from the East and Midwest having to suck it up and travel a bit more. And for those of us out West, than means the potential for more off days at places like Whistler, Lake Louise, Big Bear, Vail, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Winter Park, Breckenridge, A Basin, Aspen, Lake Tahoe…….

Carl: It's like Gary Bettman was a parent taking a me into a gift shop and telling me I can have anything I want. Conference rivalries, teams playing more in their own time zones, everyone gets to see every team in their town at least once a season. What's not to love?

Jordan: Until they figure out exactly what they are doing with the playoffs, it's impossible to say. At a macro level, I think it's going to be good for the league because it creates better divisional rivalries and allows you to see every team in every arena each year.

Travis: While I think it does fix a few things in the geographic and time-zone issues a few teams had, I don’t like how uneven they made the conferences. They basically helped east coast teams get into the playoffs as the format will supposedly take the top 4 teams from each and they’re in. With only 7 teams in each of those conferences their lives just got easier. I do like though that the playoffs are in conference first and then you play the others. Though with San Jose still in the conference and add in Vancouver that doesn’t make the future road for the Coyotes a simple one in the least.