Three games into the regular season The Phoenix Coyotes are 1-2-0 and have managed 4 total goals while allowing 8. They have yet to score a power play goal and the top line of Doan Kapanen Vrbata has generated 5 points in three games 1-4-5 so where are the signs of progress and optimism moving forward? Perhaps the best sign is the surprising line of Winnik Hanzal Weller who connected on opening night for a goal and has been progressively more aggressive as each game passes. We have been told about Mueller Hanzal, Wheeler, Porter and Turris and how they are the great young players coming up but Weller and Winnik have been surprising additions out of camp. Weller was a draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2000 and Winnik was a 9th round draft pick in 2004 signed with the Yotes this off season forgoing his senior season at New Hampshire.
While Mueller seems to be struggling to find chemistry of the fourth line and is receiving limited ice time averaging just over 12:30 a game, Hanzal seems to be ready to step up now, playing almost 15:30 a game. Mueller has shown flashes of readiness, his eyes and hands seem to be his biggest assets, while he still needs to work on his foot work as he seems to be reaching for the puck rather than skating towards it. I for one would like to see Mueller get some time playing between Doan and Vrbata and see what playing with better talent will do to motivate this kid into becoming what I think is a top flight NHL centerman.
Goaltending has been decent to this point with Mikael Tellqvist posting a 1-1-0 record in 2 starts with a 2.52 GAA and a .896 SV% and newly signed David Aebischer getting his first start of the season against Columbus taking the loss in a 3-0 game he stopped 30 of 33 shots. As was the case last year, our defense and goaltending will be subject to criticism and it all may not be warranted, with so many young forwards there will be added pressure on the defense and goaltending as the ice in most games will be tilted towards our backstops. The team is preaching a forward, forward, forward philosophy very aggressive fast attacking style. To this point the team has improved their power play aggressiveness and still has nothing to show for it. We are shooting the puck more than any Coyotes team in recent memory which only good things can come from.
Is this team better than last year? Talent wise probably not, Owen Nolan, Mike Comrie, Ladislav Nagy, Jeremy Roenick, an emerging Oleg Saprykin and Yanic Perrault all had realized talent, even though most were inconsistent in showing this talent. Will this team be more exciting to watch than last year? I think so, properly motivated the youth will give maximum effort on a more consistent basis. I would much rather go to The Job and watch young kids work hard and put out maximum effort and even if they struggle, they learn and when they arise victorious they victory is that much sweeter. We have witnessed Weller, Winnik and Hanzal getting their first NHL points, I look forward to many more firsts and with the group of kids in the system that have yet to make it to the show I expect to see several firsts in the coming years, the first White Out in Glendale, the first playoff series win in Arizona, and the first Staley Cup banner hoisted to the rafters.
So is this more of the same, is it, to borrow a phrase from Bob Kemp, the same old sorry assed Coyotes? I say no, Maloney has a plan, he is sticking to it and this team will only get better as the season progresses. It’s going to be a roller coaster ride, but would you prefer a rickety old favorite like wooden roller coaster, not very exciting, but it is safe you know it because you have seen it before or would you prefer a newer sleeker unknown roller coaster, with double loops and corkscrews? They both have ups and downs but then newer coaster will bring people in and keep them coming back for more.