With the trade deadline looming Wednesday, the Phoenix Coyotes should be in the market for help at any position.
Against the deadline, it's a buyers market and the Coyotes have little to sell.
Coming off a stellar postseason a year ago, in which Phoenix overachieved to reach the Western Conference finals, this time around is a different story.
Right now, the Coyotes are on life support and any impending trade will not likely address a plethora of issues.
Injuries to key personnel, including forwards Radim Vrbata, Matthew Lombardi, goal keeper Mike Smith and defenseman Zbynek Michalek have all made the road to the playoffs precarious at best.
Starting a three-game home stand Tuesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the Coyotes not only need wins, but they also possess the ability to leap-frog over several clubs and gain the eighth and final Western Conference playoff slot.
That’s just to qualify for postseason play, and survival is another challenge. To get there, pundits believe the Coyotes need to make significant acquisitions by the trade deadline.
For two reasons, that will not happen.
First, the team is still owned by the NHL and the budget is beyond slight. Plus, there’s not an abundance of talent which would significantly boast the Coyotes’ fortunes.
Over the past two seasons, general manager Don Maloney made a few minor deals, which, at the time, appeared as another trade in the transaction column. Acquisitions of Lombardi and Antoine Vermette bore limited dividends.
Then again, Vermette flourished during postseason play and rose as the Coyotes’ leading scorer in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. During the current season, Vermette has all but disappeared and through 35 games has scored eight goals and assisted on seven others.
Last week, and in advance of the trade deadline, the Coyotes made one minor deal that involved a swap of junior prospects.
Here, Maloney sent forward Kale Kessy to Edmonton for German native forward Tobias Rieder. Both finished their season at the junior hockey level, and Rieder was the Oilers’ fourth pick, the 114th selection overall in the 2011 draft.
If the Coyotes are to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, a minor trade here or there will not make a considerable difference.
The Coyotes’ maladies this season have resulted from a blatant inconsistency. Now at the most critical portion of the season, Phoenix has difficulty piecing wins together and no transaction, how significant, will likely change fortunes.
Entering their current three-game home stand, the Coyotes have dropped seven of their last eight games. The only standings points earned came in a 7-4 win in Nashville on March 28 and a shootout loss at Columbus on March 16.
Time is of the essence and has been since Opening Night.
After defeating the Kings 5-2 on March 12, the Coyotes have slid into an abyss. From that encounter, they have only one win in regulation time among nine played.
With Smith out for the past four games after a hit behind the net against Vancouver on March 21, backup Jason LaBarbera has played well, but the Coyotes lack of scoring, suspect play in the slot and lack of aggressive forechecking have all plagued the team over the recent past.
At this point, players need to recharge their batteries, take a close look in the mirror and decide how bad they want to quality for the playoffs.
Their physical and mental approach will decide the Coyotes postseason fate, not minor deals which Maloney might be able to execute.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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