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Coyotes Roundtable: What to do in net

Special guest Luke Lapinski joins us to discuss the Coyotes' goaltending situation, prospects and more.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Should coach Dave Tippett stay the course regarding his goalie situation (i.e. Smith getting 2/3rds of starts) or should the split be closer to 50/50?

Luke Lapinski: For now, I think he has to continue to lean more toward Mike Smith. That's your No. 1 goalie, he's shown in the past that he can take you far when he's on his game and you're financially committed to him through 2018-19.  Not only do you need him to get back on track, you probably need him to be your MVP if you want to make the playoffs and do some damage in the West. And, to be fair, it's only been three games. He's started slow before and he seems to perform better when his back is up against the wall, so he's more than capable of bouncing back in a big way. That said, it's been nice to see Devan Dubnyk already make considerable progress under the tutelage of Sean Burke, and he's earning more ice time. If Smith were to go through a prolonged period of struggling (I don't think he will, but let's just play around with hypotheticals because they're fun), then you'd have to re-evaluate the situation. At a certain point, you have to do what's best for the other guys in the locker room too.

Carl Pavlock: I think right now the goalie situation should be played by ear.  Smith was not great in any of his starts this season, and while the team in front of him also wasn't great it still falls on him. I actually really like the fact that their backup is getting more starts early on, it seemed to take forever for Greiss and LaBarbera to start playing games and I think that was to the determent of the team.  Right now I think the team should continue with the initial play of using Smith for most of the season but be open to a change in strategy in November.

Seth Juneac: I think Dave Tippett would be wise to not put a label on it. Devan Dubnyk has been the better goaltender thus far, but Mike Smith's struggles are so glaring that it is almost clear at this point this isn't the actual Mike Smith. When he settles in, he will be the clear frontrunner in net, and Arizona will need Smith in those games down the stretch. If nothing else, Dubnyk has shown that he can win the club some games and be a productive goaltender while we wait for Smith to iron out the kinks in his game. Whether that is 20 games or 40 games is more on Smith than it is Tippett.

Christopher Hair: If the defense in front of them doesn't improve, it won't matter which person is in goal, it's going to be a long season for everyone. While Dubnyk has been better to start the season, the constant need for miraculous saves is getting old quick. Right now, the concern needs to be focused on shoring up the porous defense then worrying about the goaltending.

Are you concerned long-term with the current play of Arizona's top defensive pairing?

Luke: I am not. I trust Michalek and Ekman-Larsson more than I trust Santa Claus himself. Their track record speaks volumes, and they play off each other very well. If you forced me to come up with something to worry about here, it would probably be Michalek's health. The guy is about as tough as they come, but he stands in front of slapshots that no normal human would ever voluntarily stand in front of. That's what makes him so valuable though, so you have to just let him do his thing and hold your breath every time he takes a Shea Weber shot to the leg. As far as OEL, he's one of the top blue line talents in the world. If anything, he's just trying to do too much right now.

Joey Versen: I'm not overly concerned. The season is young and I consider OEL to be mature enough now that he'll find a way to settle down and resume the reliable defensive play we've seen in past seasons, while continuing to generate offense as well. Michalek is a veteran who has been through this before. Once they sample size is a bit larger, I think there won't be much reason to worry about that pairing. Rather, we can worry about the rest of a shaky defensive core. Hooray.

Seth: Long-term, probably not. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has not been the same player this season as he has been the last couple years. With each passing game, it becomes a more pressing concern but I have the utmost faith he'll turn it around before too long. I think the whole unit is struggling with a rhythm right now, with the exception of maybe Keith Yandle who is playing some pretty good hockey right now.

Carl: Right now I am not too concerned.  I will say that OEL and Z have definitely not been playing up to the standards they set in prior seasons but hopefully that is just a small hiccup.  I honestly have no clue why they haven't been playing as well but I don't think there is any reason to think they won't bounce back eventually.  However if this is still a problem in a month or two, I think that is the point where fans should be concerned.

How long until the first call-up plays a game this season? Who is it?

Luke: I'm guessing we don't see that first call-up for at least a week or two, assuming the Coyotes keep plugging along at (or above) their current .500 pace. The organization likely wants to give everyone some time to settle in and see what they can do at their respective levels. That obviously goes out the window if there's an injury though. And they do finally have some significant prospects to slide in up front as needed, so they don't have to be overly patient if they feel someone on the big club isn't getting it done. Justin Hodgman, Tobias Rieder and Lucas Lessio are names to watch early on. Hodgman made the Coyotes roster out of camp, but just never got a chance to play. And Rieder is definitely someone who has caught Tippett's eye in the past. My money would be on Lessio getting the first shot, though a lot of it will depend on what the Coyotes need at that exact moment. And before you start waiving your arms and screaming the name "Henrik Samuelsson" at your computer screen, the only reason I'm leaving him off the list for now is because they want to give him some time to get acclimated to the AHL. All these other guys have professional experience already. The upside is definitely there though.

Christopher: As others have said, a lot of this depends on the health of Martin Hanzal. If Marty can't go by Saturday, I expect Hodgman or maybe even Gaudet to be called up for the east coast road trip coming up. If Marty returns rather quickly, I would like to see Lessio called up to add more talent to the top six, because Klinkhammer, Moss and Korpikoski should not be spending time there.

Carl: If Hanzal's injury is more serious than thought, I think Hodgman gets called up pretty quickly.  With the way things have been going defensively, I actually think Gormley is likely to get a call up soon.

Seth: If Hanzal's injury was a major concern, we would have already have seen Hodgman promoted. Personally, I think Arizona needs another body on the blueline moving forward, and Brandon Gormley is first in that regard. Gambling with losing Schlemko or Summers isn't in the Coyotes' best interest, so it may take an injury to make that happen.

Is Brandon Gormley being held back by a lack of production or because he is waiver exempt?

Luke: As with everything else, there's likely more than one factor at play here. He's got the talent, he's just not quite where they want him to be yet. And that waiver exempt status probably makes the decision to put him in Portland a little easier. That said, Connor Murphy's emergence has had an impact here as well. Even though he's a year younger than Gormley, he's already shown he can hang at the NHL level. So that's one more guy blocking Gormley's path at the moment.

Brendan Porter: At this point, I'm not sure. The lack of production would seem to be part of it, but I can't imagine it's a deal breaker given the other bottom pairings are not exactly point per game guys either. I do believe Gormley will get another extended look early this season if the defensive lapses continue being problematic. If nothing else, that should improve his trade stock a bit.

Christopher: I don't see how it can be a lack of production when he had 7 goals and 36 points in 54 games for Portland last season. No points in 5 NHL games isn't something to be concerned about as a defenseman making a debut. I honestly have no idea why he isn't playing. His ceiling is much higher than Summers, Schlemko and even Stone and I don't think his floor is that far away from what those guys give you on a game by game basis. It's especially odd if they have Connor Murphy skating with OEL. Why not put Gormley with Z then?

Joey: I was most surprised by the fact that Gormley didn't make the team this year, more so than any of the young forwards gunning for a spot. The idea that his waiver exempt status may have been a large factor is compelling, especially considering the alternate viable defensive options. I hope there isn't much to the rumors of his discontent and that he gets a shot to stick on the NHL roster sooner rather than later.