The greatest strength of the Phoenix Coyotes is two of the best young defensemen in the game today, Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (both signed long term). That's the kind of blue line you can build a team around. Pundits continue to speculate that Yandle is available, but it makes no sense why the Coyotes would want to trade one of their best assets (and team leading scorer) under contract at a very fair price. Needless to say, this team has had serious cash flow problems for several seasons now, so once again the cheapness required of management means there are no truly bad contracts on the roster.
Much of their future will depend on what happens with goaltender Mike Smith, who took a step backwards this season. He missed some time due to injury, but wasn't quite as sharp when he was between the pipes (0.37 rise in GAA and a 0.2 drop in SvPct). If he can manage to find a big pay day on the free agent market, his days in the desert may soon be at an end. Can he replicate his success in Phoenix if he parts company with Dave Tippett and goalie coach Sean Burke? The decline in Smith's play was probably the difference between making the playoffs and missing altogether. This team needs 2012 Mike Smith to have a chance at replicating 2012, but even worse if he leaves, nobody is looking forward to the Jason LaBarbera era.
Preseason Rank: 19
Midseason Rank: 15
Final Rank: 19
GM Grade: D
1st Star: Keith Yandle
2nd Star: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
3rd Star: Mike Smith
UFAs: Mike Smith, Boyd Gordon, Kyle Chipchura, Alex Bolduc, Chris Connor, Jason Labarbara
RFAs: Lauri Korpikoski, Mikkel Boedker, Michael Stone
Best Contract: Keith Yandle 3 more years at $5.25M
Worst Contract: Shane Doan 3 more years at $5.3M
What I said about them in preseason: They advanced to the conference finals last season before losing to Los Angeles. Some would say that they over-achieved making it that far, and I am one of those people. May this team move to Hamilton already!
Given their success last year in the playoffs, the 2013 season has to be considered a profound disappointment. Gary Bettman continues to dump loads of money into this black hole unable to sustain a franchise. Give up, move on. Go to Quebec, Kansas, Portland, Seattle, Vegas, I don't care. Just end it already. This story has jumped the shark, so to speak. At least if they move the team to Vegas, they could potentially lure some Colorado Avalanche players via free agency, or other gambling enthusiasts like Jaromir Jagr. Shane Doan looks like a fool for buying into the stability of team ownership before turning down more money to play elsewhere. He should have just taken the money. He could find himself moving to Quebec sooner rather than later, and I don't think he'll find that to be a pleasant experience based on his past tribulations.