clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

From the editor's desk: how much youth is too much youth?

New, comments

The Arizona Coyotes' 2015-16 roster begins to take shape. Are they striking the right balance between young and old?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Reactions around the hockey world to the Arizona Coyotes' moves at the opening of free agency have, for the most part, varied from mixed to positive. But those viewpoints are not unanimous.

One particular take in the Arizona community gave the Coyotes a "zero out of ten" for the moves they made in free agency. You can read through for the whole take if you like, but there are several parts of it that I disagree with.

My biggest disagreement with the author has to do with the number of open roster spots the Coyotes will field this season. While there is a school of thought that suggests that Arizona should open up its roster to more younger players next year, I'm fine with the number of open spots there are at this moment.

There are a few competing interests that have to be balanced when building a roster with young players. The number one priority has to be putting the younger players in a position to reach their full potential. Max Domi is not a 4th line grinder, so he should not play regular minutes on the 4th line.

What Don Maloney has done with the moves made thus far is he has filled the bottom six of the team with veterans. Players like Brad Richardson, Boyd Gordon, and Steve Downie are the ones who receive the tough assignments. There are very few veterans who are legitimate top six fowards; Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker, and maybe Shane Doan are the few who qualify.

That means that even if Dave Tippett doesn't like to play young forwards, he isn't going to have much choice. If he really wants to win games, he can't play Downie and Richardson on the top line. He's going to have to use some of those younger players in top six roles.

But at the same time as you have to give players minutes and roles that suit their skillsets, you also have to reinforce the right lessons. Sure, you could have a top line of Max Domi, Dylan Strome, and Christian Dvorak, but that line is going to make mistakes, especially in defensive coverage.

The problem here is if young players make too many mistakes, they not only affect the team's chances of winning, but they become too risk-averse in the process. They need the ability to take chances without automatically being punished every time with a goal against.

That's what bringing in players like Boyd Gordon, Antoine Vermette, and Zbynek Michalek facilitates. It allows the younger players to make decisions in the offensive or neutral zone and still have capable veterans cover for some of their mistakes.

Arizona wants to avoid the mistakes made in developing Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov, and Kyle Turris. All three were thrust into high-pressure roles without a reasonably talented veteran supporting cast. It took Boedker five years to return to the production levels he had in his rookie season. The other two are now in Chicago and Ottawa, respectively.

So there is such a thing as too much youth. Guys like Christian Dvorak and Brendan Perlini will get their chances in due time. For now, it's far less important for the Coyotes to thrust young players into the NHL than it is to put them in a position to succeed. A veteran center corps and bottom six is a good way to do that.

Thoughts

  • One area in which I agree with the above-mentioned author is his belief that there's a limit in how much Dylan Strome can learn in the OHL.
  • My guess is that the Coyotes will take a similar approach with Strome that they did with Brendan Perlini; pick a few areas of his game to improve on (skating comes to mind), and have him spend the next season working on those.
  • Strome likely won't be hurt by playing another year in the CHL, even if there's little left for him to prove. But in the NHL, he's not really going to have the opportunity to work on what he needs to work on, especially with the weight of expectations placed upon him.
  • Obviously CHL teams don't want to lose their best players en masse to the AHL, but there has to be some sort of way to allow highly skilled players the chance to play against tougher competition.
  • I think a reasonable compromise would be to allow each NHL team to designate one otherwise ineligible player as able to play for their AHL or ECHL affiliate that season. That way, teams aren't stuck between choosing to keep a young player at the NHL where they can be overwhelmed versus returning them to the CHL where the challenge is greatly reduced.
  • Brendan Shinnimin and Philip Samuelsson, along with Mikkel Boedker, elected to go to salary arbitration yesterday. Hearings aren't scheduled until late July, so there's plenty of time to get deals done.
  • Samuelsson has a fair amount of leverage as one of the few NHL-ready defensemen in the Coyotes system not currently expected to join the parent club to start the year off. It's possible he's looking for more money on a two-way deal, as he'll almost certainly play quite a few games in Springfield this year.
  • Shinnimin is a curious case. He had two decent seasons in AHL Portland (25 goals and 36 assists in 126 combined AHL games), as well as one assist in a 12 game stint with the Coyotes last year.
  • But Shinnimin is both undersized (5' 10") and a center, the one position Arizona seems to already have a full roster. Those two factors seem to be a significant constraint on his growth potential.
  • If I had to guess, I'd say there's a good chance that Samuelsson and Boedker avoid arbitration, while there are about even odds Shinnimin gets there. Arbitration hearings don't happen very often, but I don't see the Coyotes as terribly averse to letting an arbitrator hand down a figure for Shinnimin.