Greetings Phoenix Coyotes fans. After going off on a brief tangent last week we are back our normal format this week. The topic's this week include the Coyotes's recent performance and what the team might do at the trade deadline.This week's special guest is Fox Sports Arizona host/reporter Jody Jackson. Jody has been a fixture on the Valley sports scene for over a decade. You can follow Jody on Twitter.
With the Coyotes going 7-0-1 in their last eight games, they have pushed themselves into the 7th playoff position, but still have only a marginal grasp on the spot. What, if any moves at the trade deadline do you feel will most help the Coyotes solidify their playoff berth?
Jody: Wouldn't we all love the Coyotes to nab a centerman or a winger with scoring punch? It seems that there just aren't many players being dangled out there. Don Maloney provided the example of how Lee Stempniak and the lift he provided on the run to the playoffs and in the playoffs. I have full confidence that Maloney and his eye for talent (and for knowing what type of players fit in here) will scour the market for the right additions. I'm just not sure they can get an impact player. What I've seen over the last 10 games proves that this team is capable of playing at a high level when they have that sense of urgency. And, of course, when Mike Smith plays as he has for most of the season. Maloney did mention blue line help now that Klesla is hurt and Derek Morris has taken a leave of absence due to an illness in the family. So I wouldn't be surprised if they try to find someone on defense. It looks like David Schlemko might be ready mid March which is great news, but doesn't help them right now. Maybe we will see David Rundblad who came over in the Turris trade. In general there's a sense of relief that the team has been able to put together this terrific run so that we don't have a situation where a Ray Whitney is possibly being out on the trading block. With the spot they are in now, the Coyotes can keep this team together and possibly add at the deadline. Then the challenge is to keep it going, because we all know you can be in the 3 spot one day and in 9th the next.
Jordan: Obviously, getting a sniper has to be at the top of GMDM's wishlist. Someone that can tee up a perfect one timer off of a Ray Whitney feed would improve our power play conversion by probably 5% alone. Otherwise, I think the best thing that can happen for the Coyotes is to get healthy, particularly on the blue line.
Carl: A scoring winger or a center would be great, but its highly unlikely the Yotes will get either given the trade market and maybe even more importantly their budget constraints. I think the organization has enough depth on defense that making a move for a defender, unless the price is cheap, doesn't seem wise. I realize the Coyotes have their share of blue line injuries (plus DMo's leave of absence) at the moment, but those issues are temporary and compared to most other teams the Yotes have good depth on the back end.
The Dude: I wouldn't move anyone. The team is 7-0-1 obviously the system isn't broken so why try and fix it. Right now the only reason I would suggest a trade would be to compensate for the injuries that currently
seem to be plaguing the Yotes but if those injuries are short term it may not be time to make a trade.
The Coyotes could face a third consecutive first round match-up with the Winged Wheel. Does the prospect of yet another rematch excite you or make you gag?
Jody: Agck! Pardon me while I choke on the breakfast of champions, the chocolate frosted donut (reminds me of how much I miss Tim Hortons). I think anyone in the Coyotes corner has to shutter at the thought of a playoff rematch against Detroit simply because it ended so badly the last 2 times out. If Shane Doan doesn't get hurt 2 years ago, we might have a different story to tell. I must say the excitement the Wings bring and the passion of the fan bases toward one another (ahem, hatred) does make for an intense matchup. The biggest change this year would be Mike Smith in goal. Bryzgalov never played well against Detroit and in the playoffs you must get stellar play from the goaltender. I witnessed the Buffalo Sabres going to the Eastern Conference Finals and then the next year the Stanley Cup Finals riding the play of Dominik Hasek. I'm curious how Smith would perform against any opponent. We saw last year with Tampa Bay that simply being in the playoffs did not faze him. Now can he carry the Coyotes there and beyond? We'll see.
Jordan: God, I can't believe I wrote this question...just reading it is making me gag. Please, please, please, please, please hockey gods...whatever you do, let us play another team in the first round. Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, St. Louis...I'm not picky; I just really don't want to play Detroit again this year. And not that I don't think the 'Yotes can beat them, because they can - I just don't want to deal with that fanbase before the second or third round at least.
Carl: I don't have the Wings angst much of the fanbase appears to have. If it means not playing the Canucks, I'm all for seeing the Wings again.
The Dude: I wouldn't say it would make me gag but I do not really appreciate it. I would rather see them in a later round especially since we do not have a record against them that inspires confidence. If we were to play them I do not think that it would go like it did last season but I would rather play another team in the first round.
Derek Morris has turned his season around about 180 degrees since the start of 2012. Given his improved play are you less anxious about the big contract he signed or are you still dangling his name around at the trade deadline?
Jody: With Morris you love having that leadership on the blue line with a number of young players back there. That's why Adrian Aucoin and Derek Morris are so valuable. You are right on with Morris he has played much better of late, and that is all the more reason why they will miss him for this undetermined stretch of games. Right now I think he's here to stay and of course the contract has him here another couple of years. We'll see if his level of play remains steady or shows signs that are sure to bring concern for the future. Credit to Derek for turning things around after a very rough start to the season where he seemed to make more mistakes than positive plays.
Jordan: Less anxious, yes; ready to not move him if someone wants him...probably not. I love the Derek Morris we've been seeing the last few weeks (before this illness that has him sidelined), but with the Coyotes' defensive depth if GMDM can turn DMo into a scoring winger, I'm all for that move.
Carl: As Jordan mentioned, Morris has been playing better lately. Splitting him up with Keith Yandle certainly helped. I'm fine dealing him. However, given his age, a contract with two years left at 2.75 million dollars per year, and play over the last couple of years (and his career in general) I don't see how you would get much for him.
The Dude: I try not to think about the costs of players but I think that him playing better as of late may make him more attractive for potential trade partners. D-Mo could definitely be a potential trade but I'm not really sure what we would trade him for, obviously we need more offense and maybe another person to put on the power play but I don't think that we would get a good deal for him, especially with him being out for a family illness for an undisclosed amount of time. I would see him being a potential trade later on but probably not before the deadline.
What are factors you believe are behind the Coyotes play since the All-Star Break, besides the obvious amazing play of Mike Smith?
Jody: Dave Tippett explained it best. The players are doing the little things it takes to win. The attention to detail is there and you can see it on the ice. The other difference is that now when mistakes are made they seem to be back to that resilient bunch that can find a way to bounce back from adversity.
Radim Vrbata just keeps scoring goals that matter, 10 game winners to date. His play has been so important for a team that has struggled to find an offensive player that can come up with the big play when you need it most. It seems like on our post game shows we spend a few minutes each night on the 4th line and how they affect play on the ice. Chipchura, Torres and Brule have really found some chemistry and scored some timely, significant goals. Keith Yandle has really taken his game up to another level of late. Most importantly, since the 3 days of practice after the break and the win vs. San Jose, I see a confidence that was missing earlier this season. It's the type of belief in one another and the team concept that can take this team to the playoffs, and hopefully past the first round this year.
Jordan: Not going to lie, I have no idea. Not all that much has really changed about the squad overall. They are definitely more focused and really cutting down on the bad turnovers that plagued them at times this year. The defensive unit has really started to play well together and the muckers and grinders are giving you good minutes on a nightly basis. They've just finally seemed to gel together and become that Tippett force that we've seen in each of his first two years in Phoenix. It also helps when Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata seem to be finding the score sheet every night too.
Carl: I would say three major things: health, confidence, and urgency. Health being the most important. The fact the core of this team has been through this before together certainly also helped. Add those to the stellar play all season of Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata and you get the current streak. The injuries this past week concern me, especially the ones to centers Martin Hanzal and Kyle Chipchura.
The Dude: I would say that defense is definitely better. We seem to be protecting the area in front of the goalie better and allowing fewer rebound shots which is really limiting the other teams from getting the puck in the net. Also, we were less injured than we had been in previous months, although that is definitely starting to creep up again. The momentum seems to be going the Coyotes way too in these past couple games, so I think that that probably is affecting the players and causing them to play better.