Remember when we all thought last week was as up and down as it gets? Well, this week's Arizona Coyotes roller coaster ride was pretty bumpy as well.
A 7-4 win over the Oilers and a 6-1 butt-whopping by the Blues left Coyotes fans is various states of confusion. How could a team that looked so good against the defending Stanley Cup champions look so bad against everyone else?
The Coyotes have struggled at every aspect of their game at some point in the season's first four games, but poor defense, spotty goaltending and slow starts have been a common theme.
Where are the biggest problems? Let's see as we take a look back at the week that was in Coyotes hockey:
- Four games is way too small of a sample size to make grandiose proclamations about an 82-game season, but it is all we have to work with at the moment. Mediocre teams typically lack consistency, playing very well against some teams and very poorly against others. I think that sums up the Coyotes pretty well at the moment.
- Through four games, one has to wonder whether the team's performance against the Kings is the outlier, not a harbinger for things to come. The Yotes played quite poorly in the other three games, including the win over Edmonton.
- The bright side of the situation is the fact that the team still sits at .500 (2-2) despite their rough start. There is plenty of time to fix the mental errors in their game.
- However, one area that is not as easy to fix is the actual talent level of the team. Finding scoring outside of the team's top line has and will prove to be difficult. A once rock-solid defensive corps is relying on Michael Stone for top-4 minutes and the combination of Chris Summers, Connor Murphy and David Schlemko on the third pairing. The Coyotes are one player short in their defensive top-4 and at least two players short in their offensive top-9.
- Goaltending is also a concern, but I am not ready to blame Mike Smith just yet. He certainly can (and should) be better, but I don't think many goalies would fare much better given the defensive breakdowns in front of him. How many pointblank chances does a goalie have to face in a game before he springs a leak?
- The clamoring for Devan Dubnyk after his one start is understandable yet very reactionary. Seeing some of the same fans who complained of his arrival now proclaiming him the starter is a bit humorous. There is no doubt Dubnyk played well in his only start, particularly the final two periods, but it was also the only game the Coyotes played with any defensive structure. That being said, Smith's awful first period in the opener can be blamed for the Coyotes losing structure in that game, but what about the last two? Dubnyk should get another start or two soon, but he's not the starter.
- Sam Gagner must be given time to adapt, although I fear he is being led down the Mike Ribeiro path of a no-win 5v5 situation. Putting one defensive wing on his line is more than reasonable, two -- I don't know who's going to score. In an ideal world Gagner would play between Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan, but given that top line's success as of late, there is no reason to break it up right now.
- There is a report from the Ottawa Sun that the Coyotes are trying to trade Brandon Gormley who is reportedly not happy playing in the AHL. If the report is true, it's not an ideal situation for the Coyotes who have little defense depth in the minors already and who would be looking to deal from a position of strength if they were to move a prospect.
- Some may point to this potential incident as the organization not giving a player an opportunity, causing the player to want to leave. I don't think that is the case. Gormley has been given plenty of opportunities to make the roster over the years but has failed to do so. In the meantime, players he played with in Portland like Michael Stone, Connor Murphy and Chris Summers have all graduated to NHL roles. Maybe the once-touted top-5 pick who fell to No. 13 just isn't ready for the big time right now.