A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with an Arizona Coyotes fan, who asked me a question that I realize I didn't really have a good answer to:
Why aren't we talking more about Mike Smith?
The Coyotes' young prospects have dominated the headlines surrounding Arizona, and the revamped defense is getting a fair amount of attention too. But the Coyotes in the Dave Tippett era have risen and fallen on the back of their netminder, whether it was Ilya Bryzgalov or Mike Smith.
And based on last season, the Coyotes are not in a great spot when it comes to goaltending.
In 2014-15, Smith finished 37th among 43 goaltenders who played more than 1200 minutes in 5v5 adjusted save percentage, with a clip of 91.24%. Yet even that number is boosted by Smith's end of season resurgence, when he had an adjusted save percentage of 91.24% or better in 13 of his final 16 games.
It doesn't get much better when considering Smith's backup, Anders Lindback. Lindback had an adjusted 5v5 save percentage of 90.84% last year. While he did spend all of last season on a Dallas team not known for defense and a truly horrendous Buffalo team, his numbers were only good enough for 53rd out of 62 goaltenders who played 600 or more 5v5 minutes last year.
The good news I suppose is that it can't get much worse; last year Smith and Lindback posted the second worst numbers of their career, and their worst were not far off. Smith is going to get a degree of comfort in working year-round with goalie coach Jon Elkin. And he did finish the season very strong.
But if the Coyotes are going to be successful - either now or in the future - the Mike Smith of the end of the season needs to show up at the beginning of this season.
- Among the first round of roster cuts from training camp is Nick Merkley, who was injured in the team's rookie games against the Los Angeles Kings.
- The fact that he was sent back immediately is probably good news, compared to how the Coyotes handled Brendan Perlini's injury. He stuck around until the end of camp despite having a broken hand, ostensibly to get more time with the training staff. The Coyotes don't feel the need to do the same with Merkley, so that suggests the injury is not too serious.
- There aren't any particular surprises in the first round of cuts; most of the players gone are young and in need of experience, and Joey Crabb likely became expendable when Patrick Dwyer received a PTO.
- Full preseason action begins tonight when the Coyotes take on the Kings in Bakersfield. Technically, the Coyotes are the "home" team.
- I'm not really broken up about the Coyotes missing a preseason game; they were never particularly well attended anyways, so not much is lost by playing in a neutral site.
- For me, the biggest storyline to watch tonight is how well the Coyotes' youngsters do against NHL regulars. Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Dylan Strome looked darn good against the Kings' rookies; how do they stack up against guys with two rings?