3 Weaknesses Phoenix Coyotes Must Address During 2013 Season
The Phoenix Coyotes are beginning to play their style of hockey, and that bodes well for the beleaguered franchise. After a brutal start, they have captured five points in their last four games and moved into 11th coming into the day in the Western Conference. But, if the Coyotes are going to recapture their form from last season, three things need to happen.
A new owner, a more productive power play and limiting the turnovers in their own zone are the three ways in which the Coyotes can get better quicker on and off the ice. If they are able to accomplish these three things, look for a return trip to the playoffs and a team who could make some waves this season.
Resolve the Ownership Situation
Enough is enough with this saga. Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison tried to purchase the team but could not secure the capital necessary to finish the transaction.
This is the third attempt by groups to try to purchase the team in the last three years. Ice Edge Holdings, Matthew Hulsizer and now Jamison have all failed to secure the team and left it in limbo in regards to its future in Phoenix.
This has a definite effect on the team's players. It is difficult to recruit people to the desert to play if they do not think they are going to be in that city next season. Some of the Coyotes, including Captain Shane Doan, were guaranteed by Jamison that he would keep the team in the Valley of the Sun. This led Doan to spurn many lucrative offers and re-sign with Phoenix.
The players are fed up with the ownership saga, the fans aren't willing to invest in the team if they don't know if it is going to be here, and the NHL continues to take losses while keeping the team in the Valley.
This is a difficult situation for all involved, and the sooner that a buyer can be found, the more the players can relax and focus on playing hockey.
Eliminate Turnovers in the Neutral Zone
The Coyotes are at their best when they keep it simple. When they clear pucks from the zone and dump and chase into the opponent's zone, they become extremely effective.
If the Coyotes are going to be successful, they must not lose focus if they plan to carry the puck through the neutral zone on their sticks.
Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dave Schlemko all like to get forward and carry the puck through the center ice area. While they are good puck-handlers and have vast skill sets, they should worry about dumping the puck and securing the point.
If the Coyotes can limit their turnovers, they will also limit the odd man rushes against them. This will benefit everyone involved, including goaltender Mike Smith. Smith was in net against the Stars last night and picked up his first shootout of the season as he looked like the Smith of last year.
No lazy passes can be attempted. Yandle is guilty of this quite often. Crisp, sharp passes that help clear the zone allow the offense to get started and switches the pressure to the other end of the ice.
Last year, the Coyotes were tied for dead last in power-play productivity. Their power play has always been an issue. But, this year, they are off to a good start on the power play, and the hope is that they can stay consistent and finish in the top half of the league in power-play percentage.
This year, the Coyotes rank 12th in the league at 22 percent. Last season, they scored 13.5 percent of the time. If they can finish somewhere in the middle of the league and maintain a quality penalty kill, this will only help the team win games down the road.
Radim Vrbata (six PP points), Mikkel Boedker (four PP points) and Steve Sullivan (three PP points) have been stellar on the power play so far and will need to continue to cash in with the man advantage.
If the Coyotes keep it simple and focus on getting traffic in front of opposing goaltenders, the three defenseman that get the most time on the power play (Yandle, Ekman-Larsson, Derek Morris) can all be effective shooting from the point.
Better production out of the power play will help the Coyotes improve quickly.