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Arizona Coyotes roundtable: opening night questions

The FFH crew discusses five burning questions facing the Coyotes as they start a new season.

Christian Petersen

Who should be the team's third line center: Kyle Chipchura, Justin Hodgman or Joe Vitale?

Brendan Porter: Realistically speaking, the third line center ought to be Martin Hanzal. But absent a first line center, I think Justin Hodgman is the best option at the moment. He's shown flashes of speed and skill that I'm not sure Vitale or Chipchura really have thus far. Still, the lack of center depth in the organization at the highest level is going to be a major hindrance to being competitive in the Western Conference this season.

Seth Juneac: I'm leaning heavily toward Justin Hodgman at this point, and something tells me the coaching staff feels the same way. If we take his preseason demonstration for what it is, he brings the best combination of speed, size and scoring to the position. Chipchura is better served manning a wing spot, and Vitale is such a hand-in-glove fit at the 4C that I almost don't want to move him at all. Of course, if Gagner enters the center pool instead of playing primarily 2W, then Hanzal or Gagner could realistically man the spot as well.

Jordan Ellel: I would roll the dice with Hodgman out of the gate as I think he brings more offensive ability than the other options and I think Vitale slots in comfortably as a 4th line guy. Chipchura is versatile and can work in on any line as guys get banged up, so I'd keep him out as the kind of "super sub" to start the year.

Joey Versen: I'd hope it could eventually be Hodgy. If he's not ready in the eyes of Tip and Co., give Chipchura the first few starts and if the situation starts to look bleak, then give Hodgman a shot. I don't think you can take Vitale off his current line given how well they're playing together.

Does the team trade for a defenseman before Christmas? Should they?

Carl Pavlock: Do they?  Maybe.  Do I think they should?  Not unless they get a great deal.  At this point I think the team has too many defenseman and while a guy like Klesla definitely has benefits, I don't think it is the piece that the Coyotes need at this time.

Brendan: With news that the Coyotes were attempting to sign Deryk Engelland in the offseason, I now strongly believe they will look to find another Michal Rozsival-esque player to trade for, perhaps by giving up a mid-round pick or one of their younger defensive prospects. As for whether or not they should, it depends on how well this group meshes together, so I think we'll have a good idea by the end of October as to how well this defense can protect their end of the ice.

Seth: As young and exciting as the Coyotes blue line is, there is a distinct lack of that "sandpaper" defenseman, a role previously held by Derek Morris, Rostislav Klesla and Adrian Aucoin. Ideally, a guy like Chris Summers or Michael Stone comes into that role. If not, the trade market has a couple interesting options, such as Michal Roszival or Bryce Salvador. Roszival in particular is also a right handed shot, another shortage in the Coyotes defensive core.

Jordan: When I look at the roster, I don't see it as the area of greatest need, but I understand what GMDM has said about needing a big body guy on the blue line that is solid in his own end. I think a lot depends on how guys like Murphy, Stone, and Summers look early in the season. To be honest, I think having puck moving defensemen that can skate well is more important than having big guys on the back end.

Which of the young guys is the first call up?

Brendan: Henrik Samuelsson

Seth: Lucas Lessio

Jordan: Lucas Lessio

Jaime: Lucas Lessio

Is coach Dave Tippett's job safe this season even if the Coyotes fall to the bottom of the conference?

Joey: It better be safe. I strongly believe that he's been the only thing keeping this squad from being a perennial bottom-dweller, and the main reason for any success in recent history. I know he'll be criticized for not bringing in some young players to start this season, but I don't think there was anything compelling him to do so.  We're not talking top five picks with guys like Domi and Samuelsson. First rounders, yes, but mid-to-late first rounders. Fans are impatient because of the offense has struggled but I don't think these guys resemble anything close to an immediate fix right now.

Seth: I'm not sure if is. If Dan Bylsma can lose his job, I am not sure if we can say Tippett is immune, especially if he misses the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Which also begs the question: at what point does general manager Don Maloney take some blame? I think it also depends on who is available to replace them. If the Coyotes land an Eichel or McDavid player, my biggest fear would be Tippett being Tippett and not letting the kid play. "Hockey reasons" only goes so far there.

Carl: Right now, I think Tippett is as close to being on the hot seat as he has ever been with the Coyotes, but I don't see him getting fired during the season. However, if the team finishes low in the conference, I do not think he is here next year, the job requires you to get results.

Brendan: I believe so. I think there are very low expectations for this team pretty much everywhere around the hockey community, and I also think that if the team isn't successful, it's not going to be because of how they're coached. That being said, the decision to not keep any of the younger forwards up in the NHL to start the season is a decision that rests squarely on the shoulders of Tippett and Maloney. It is extremely possible that their jobs hinge on how well the youngsters play next season in the NHL.

Is Andrew Barroway a good thing or a harbinger of doom for the Coyotes?

Joey: I don't think there's anyway to determine the nature of the situation right now. It seems like Bettman orchestrated this deal to both give the Coyotes more payroll flexibility while at the same time providing a backup plan should the franchise continue to lose money over the next few years. I'd like to think that the cash infusion will secure long-term success but that remains to be seen.

Carl: There really is no way to be sure long term. His track record seems to suggest he is good for the team, he has never talked about relocating any of the struggling teams he has sought to purchase, and an influx of cash could definitely benefit the team.  But he is a very successful business man and at the end of the day, people like him get money by making business decisions so if the team continues to lose money every season, he may want to execute the out clause.

Jordan: Way too early to tell, but I'll give the current IceArizona guys the benefit of the doubt and take their word that this is a good thing. Certainly an influx of cash and an almost doubling of the team's valuation in one year is a positive. Barroway's past dealings with NHL franchises doesn't show that he is geared up to cut and run to a new locale, but he is a convenient heel if things are shaky financially in four more years.

Brendan: Raise your hand if you know how this is going to go. Now put it down, because you're lying. Initially, bringing Barroway into the fold seems to solve a lot of the Coyotes financial problems. It could possibly lead to the alleviation of the staggeringly high interest loan IceArizona is paying to the Fortress Investment Group, and it could also give the Coyotes more salary space for trades or next year's free agency.

I would caution however that there are definite red flags too. The valuation that Barroway pegged his purchase offer for is extraordinarily high, and it's hard to figure out exactly how the franchise became so valuable so quickly, even with the changes in TV contracts, revenue sharing, naming rights, etc. And if the team is really as valuable as Barroway is making it out to be, why is IceArizona so willing to yield a controlling interest in the club? These are questions that fans need answered, but unfortunately probably won't get answers to.