Should the Coyotes hurry back Mike Smith or ride the Greiss'd Lightning?
Christopher Hair: I apologize for the awful pun, but there's no way Smith should play another regular season game this season. Yes, it would be a boon to the new ownership for the Coyotes to make the postseason, but not at the expense of the future, and like it or not, that future begins and ends with a healthy, productive Smitty. There's no reason to risk furthering an injury to a goalie's precious knees just to make two more games worth of revenue in April. The Greiss is right from here on out. Ride the lightning.
Brendan Porter: Stick with the timetable. This team is a borderline playoff team that is highly unlikely to make much noise in the playoffs at any rate. There is absolutely no reason to hurry back Smith and risk aggravating an injury that occurred so close to the season's end. If he's good to go by the final weekend of the season, then play him. If he isn't, then Thomas Greiss should be the guy.
Carl Pavlock: They definitely shouldn't hurry Smith back. No matter what the results of this season are, Smith is locked up long-term and is Phoenix's long-term solution. Hurrying him back risks further complications, potentially long-term serious complications, and that should be avoided at all cost. If it takes him until the start of the next season to be ready to play without risking re-agitating his knee, then so be it.
Has Thomas Greiss lived up to your expectations and do you think it would be worth it for the Coyotes to re-sign him for more money than he is making now?
Brendan: The Coyotes should make an effort to sign Greiss to somewhere along the lines of a one- or two-year deal. I still believe Visentin needs more seasoning in the AHL before he's ready to take on an NHL role, and Greiss has played very well down the stretch. I know he's frustrated with the relative lack of playing time (which remains my number one criticism of Dave Tippett coached teams), but he's done well in the Valley and I hope Don Maloney can persuade him to come back for another year or two.
Christopher: As good as Greiss as been this season, I don't think that the Coyotes should get into a bidding war for his services. Coach Tippett likes to ride his No. 1 and Smith is up to the task of playing 60-65 games a year. Backup goalies are a lot like middle relievers in baseball. It's great to have a good one, but only teams with deep pockets should spend big money on such fungible assets. There will be plenty of decent options in the bargain bin for around $1 million who could benefit from a year at the Burke Institute for Goaltending. The Coyotes can find ways to spend the extra money they'll save on not bringing Greiss back to upgrade elsewhere.
Carl: Thomas Greiss has proved that he is a very competent backup goaltender, and considering what he is making now, the Coyotes should at least attempt to re-sign him with a bit of a raise. I'm not sure what is hoping to get, I know playtime was definitely a concern for him in addition to money, but after watching his skills, he should see a pay raise in his future. Because he has played very well though, and because he is primarily interested in more playtime, I can see him attempting to sign with a team that will make him its starter. While I don't think he is at that level, he would possibly be a good piece in a tandem.
On a scale of one to "Can't sleep, clown'll eat me," how scared should the Coyotes be of facing the Blues in the playoffs if Phoenix sneaks in?
Carl: When this question was first proposed the Coyotes were deep in the playoff hunt and had the luxury of picking their hypothetical opponents. However now with the Coyotes coming back down to Earth in the final stretch, it seems that they will be lucky to even make it in and thus should be happy about that. Each year I predict the Blues to do something in the playoffs, and each year they just get better (this year acquiring Ryan Miller and Steve Ott) so I think that this may actually be their time.
Christopher: The Coyotes should be grateful to make the playoffs, unfortunately their reward might just be Stonewall Ryan Miller. The Coyotes always seem to struggle with St. Louis anyway (the '99 playoffs still haunt my dreams) and they couldn't solve Miller playing with Buffalo's supporting cast. Make sure you buy those tickets for games 3 and 4 in droves Yotes fan, because odds are they ain't coming back for a game 6.
Brendan: Not scared at all. Getting into the playoffs in and of itself is a victory. Their chances of winning the series would probably improve somewhat if they were to face the Anaheim Ducks instead of the Blues, but not so dramatically that they go from a sure first-round exit to a guaranteed upset. Get to the playoffs first, then worry about the match-up.
Where does Mike Ribeiro fit on the Coyotes next season?
Brendan: Saved the toughest question for last I see. In Washington, Ribeiro was playing with players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Chimera. This season, Ribeiro has been seeing time with David Moss, Rob Klinkhammer and Kyle Chipchura. Although respectable in their own right, the linemates that Ribeiro has are paired with him primarily to limit Ribeiro's defensive liabilities instead of to create scoring chances. As a result, Ribeiro's play offensive numbers look pretty bad, and he has earned some time in the press box. The easiest way for the Coyotes to solve this problem is to bring in more offensive talent so their lines are filled with players playing their proper roles. Max Domi will fill a need. Ales Hemsky could potentially fill another. If guys aren't forced to play minutes they really shouldn't be playing, everybody, Ribeiro included, will be better off.
Christopher: Hopefully in the exact same spot they envisioned when they signed him this past offseason. Everyone and their mother should have known what Ribeiro's strengths and weaknesses are, and loudly complaining about them now is both annoying and extremely short sighted. The Coyotes knew what they were getting from Ribs and have spent half the season shoehorning him in on lines with players that don't fit into his skill set. Let's face it, Klinkhammer, Chipchura and Moss aren't exactly the second coming of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn or Ovechkin. The Coyotes have a top-10 power play this season. It's not all because of Ribeiro, but he's certainly done more than his share in improving that facet of the Coyotes' game. Give him actual scoring talent on his wings and I imagine he'll be thought of in a much more positive light this time next year.
Carl: At a certain point this season, before Shane Doan got sick, he was on a line with Mikkel Boedker and Doan, a line which I thought worked extremely well. However due to his poor defensive play, Ribeiro has mostly played with 3rd/4th line guys, and while they are talented at their roles, I don't see them fitting well with Ribs' style. Honestly I think the Coyotes got a major win in signing Ribeiro and locking him up for the near future, however he needs to play better in his own end and they need to put some guys with offensive skill on his line. Personally I think they should give Andy Miele a real shot at NHL playing time if he can make the transition to wing. If that is the case, then maybe that would be a good addition for Ribs. Either way, I see Ribeiro along with Smith and Keith Yandle being the Coyotes fans' scapegoats next season.
Jaime: As has already been mentioned numerous times, Ribeiro's linemates and defense are principle concerns in his game this season. I can respect Tippett's attempt to shore up the defense on his third line with Moss (a very underrated player) and Klinkhammer, but it does not make sense to do that and have Ribeiro's offensive/defensive zone starts at 70.6 percent. If the Coyotes can acquire a scoring LW in free agency or via trade, I can envision a line of that player, Ribeiro and Martin Erat having a lot of success.