If Brandon Gormley misses significant time, who should take his spot most nights: David Schlemko, Chris Summers or someone else?
Brendan Porter: I say stick with Chris Summers for the moment. Neither player has received a lot of consistent playing time over the last couple of weeks. Stick with Summers until he gives you a reason to switch.
Christopher Hair: I think Schlemko's game most closely mirrors what Gormley can do, but I'd rather see Summers get the playing time. Schlemko gives the Coyotes more options in all areas of the ice, but Summers is a better option in their own zone. Given where the Coyotes struggles have been this season, Summers' skill set is a better fit at this moment.
Carl Putnam (Alpha): Neither has played well so far this season, but I don't know who the other choice would even be? Most of the guys in Portland are either young or AHL vets who aren't on an NHL roster for a reason. In addition, I've seen zero Pirates games these season, so I don't even know who is playing well down on the farm. I'll go with Summers, if for no other reason than Schlemko doesn't appear to be in the team's long-term plans.
Carl Pavlock (Beta): I think it is going to be pretty much 50/50 unless one player really steps up. Both Schlemko and Summers are good third pairing defensemen, so I don't see either having a real advantage unless one plays a stellar game or a terrible game. I think Schlemko may have a slight advantage just because he has played longer.
Who is your Coyotes MVP so far this season?
Beta: As surprising as it may be, I think Keith Yandle may be the team's MVP so far. He, more than any other player, has been consistent and he hasn't really been plagued with as many defensive lapses this season and he has looked good offensively. All the other players you would typically look at as the MVP, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mike Smith or Antoine Vermette for some example, haven't really had the consistency that I look for in an MVP.
Christopher: I like Beta's choice of Keith Yandle. He's been every bit the offensive dynamo we have come to expect, but his improved play in his own end and his reduction of his turnovers have made his play that much more valuable. While he still doesn't see the minutes against tough competition like OEL and Z do, he has played better outside the offensive zone than I could have expected.
Antoine Vermette continues to plug along as the team's most dependable forward, Sam Gagner has fit into Tippett's system very well and been a nice addition, Shane Doan is turning it on after waking from his usual October hibernation and Ekman-Larsson and Michalek are both playing back to their regularly scheduled level of play. But all are behind the pace set by the Boston native and skating trade rumor.
Seth Juneac: Yandle is the only player on this team who can even sniff All-Star consideration, but in interest of differing opinions, I am going to go with the captain, Shane Doan. Boedker almost got my vote off that first week alone, but he has been silent ever since. Doan has been the heart and soul of this team and has done pretty much what he has done his whole career. Outside of the injured Hanzal, Doan has been the most consistent forward and that should count for something
Brendan: Maybe call it the soft bigotry of low expectations, but I would give it to Martin Erat. He has bounced back from last year's nightmare season in emphatic fashion. He has a 5.53 Fenwick For Percentage relative to his teammates, and is averaging 0.76 goals and 0.95 assists per 60 minutes of ice-time. Those are pretty darn good numbers for a guy who was almost an afterthought this offseason.
Which Coyotes offseason addition has proven to the be the best so far?
Alpha: To me it's clearly Devan Dubnyk. Minus the five goals he gave up in D.C. (in a game the Coyotes won), he has been excellent in net. He looks like the goalie we saw in Edmonton before last season and certainly not the guy we saw briefly in Nashville. This signing had GMDM value special written all over it and Dubnyk has not disappointed.
While Sam Gagner has been much better defensively than I expected, his offense game has struggled. I suspect he'll heat up soon though. No way he makes through the entire season with a 4.7 shooting percentage.
B.J. Crombeen has actually surprised me as of late. He's playing a more responsible game than I expected based on his time in Tampa. He was an obvious upgrade over Biz in terms of his hands, but he's actually been forechecking and playing well along the boards since his brief trip to the pressbox. He basically has been giving the club what they want from his role. His biggest problem may be his center. Speaking of which...
I wasn't a Joe Vitale fan before the Coyotes signed him and the 18 games he's played in Sedona Red hasn't changed my mind. He can skate and after a rough start, he's winning plenty of faceoffs. Unfortunately, there is where his value starts and ends. He's not a good possession player and I don't see him making his linemates better. As a matter of fact, I think Brandon McMillan's value has dropped in part by playing on a line with Vitale.
Brendan: Devan Dubnyk both because of how well he's played and also because of who he replaced. Thomas Greiss was invaluable in keeping the Coyotes in the hunt for as long as they were last season, and with his departure for Pittsburgh, it remained a very open question as to if the Coyotes could replace him. Thus far, Dubnyk appears to be more than up to the task.
Seth: I've gotta go with Joey Victory (Vitale). When the Coyotes initially signed him, I was excited because he was criminally underused in Pittsburgh. He has been exactly as advertised as the 4C with some great minutes on the PK. The possession numbers are still a little off, but he has been the only guy who has exceeded expectations I feel.
Christopher: I'm going to cheat slightly and say Martin Erat. (Editor's note: he cheats on podcast questions too). The Erat the Coyotes traded for last year was a shell of the player that was among the leagues' best two-way forwards in Nashville. But that Erat has re-emerged in Sedona Red this season. With four goals and five assists already this season, he's passed his goal scoring total of 2013 and is a third of the way toward the point total in a quarter of the games. The numbers don't tell the whole story though, as Erat plays very well defensively and seems to find the puck on his stick quite often. His stats don't jump off the page, but through 19 games, I would say that Erat has been the best overall Coyote forward this season. I like the new and rejuvenated Erat much more than the old beaten down one from last season.
Thoughts on ASU moving to NCAA Division I.
Alpha: I can't even describe how excited I am as alum. There are plenty of details which the school needs to hash out and are important to the program's long-term success, but this is huge step for the sport out West. My biggest hope besides ASU winning an NCAA championship in hockey, is that the Pac-12 becomes the second major conference (after the Big Ten) to sponsor the sport. At the very least, one would think if the Sun Devils are successful their Pac-12 rivals in Tucson and Boulder would look to move on up to the deluxe apartment that is Division 1.
In terms of the Coyotes, I don't expect much, if any impact, except increased exposure for the sport in the state and a possible Frozen Four in their arena down the road. Based on the experiences with the reverse happening in town, where ASU already had programs in a sport and a pro team came to town I don't expect a huge overlap in the fanbases. I'd add the population base is even bigger than when the Cardinals moved here and when the Diamondbacks became a franchise.
Beta: I think it's a great thing. I started attending ASU games during the lockout and they are a great team that doesn't get the attention they deserve because they played in the ACHA. They are going to need to develop their fanbase more, but playing in a better quality arena would certainly help that, as much as I like the cold atmosphere of Oceanside, it isn't the best place for the casual fans. I think it is definitely going to bring a lot more attention to Arizona hockey in general, which is always good, and I'm looking forward to more people discovering them.
Christopher: As a proud Arizona Wildcat, it's great to see the Sun Devils joining the top echelon of collegiate hockey. It's going to build hockey in the state and anything that makes this sport grow bigger here is a great thing for all of us.
There may not be an immediate impact for Coyotes fans or the team in general, but the fact that Gila River Arena now becomes a potential home for a Frozen Four is fantastic. The opportunity for there to be NHL players from ASU is a boon to hockey in Arizona and maybe it pushes the Wildcats to look into it down the road.
Seth: It is incredibly encouraging for the sport, especially in the Valley. Combine that with Auston Matthews -- currently projected to be the first selection in the 2016 NHL Draft -- being a Scottsdale native, and Phoenix is well on its way to becoming a "hockey town." I'd also watch around the country for similar-sized schools with thriving club hockey programs such as Arkansas, Alabama or Central Florida to start considering the jump, Title IX pending.