NHL: Without Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes Won't Even Sniff Playoffs

Robert DemmettCorrespondent IIIJuly 30, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 20:  (L-R) Radim Vrbata #17, Shane Doan #19 and Keith Yandle #3 of the Phoenix Coyotes react after being defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 20, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 6-3 to win the series 4-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Coyotes lost their biggest player this off-season, a move that undoubtedly made them a weaker team. By trading Ilya Bryzgalov to the Flyers, the Coyotes have a big hole to fill.

The Coyotes are nowhere near as good as their record showed them to be for the past two seasons. Bryzgalov was that team. He kept them in games and stole games for them that Phoenix had no business winning.

With him, they were a Cinderella story. The team succeeded with little fan support, no big stars and constant rumors that they were packing up and leaving for Canada. Without him, this is just an average team.

The Coyotes tried their best to fill holes. They signed Boyd Gordon and Raffi Torres, and re-signed Keith Yandle to a long-term contract. Most notably, they replaced Bryzgalov with Mike Smith (let me just say how ridiculous it is that Mike Smith is being paid more than Vokoun, although it was Vokoun's choice).

Let's be honest, Mike Smith is a good goalie. He makes the saves you expect him to make, but he's not spectacular and won't save a game for you. Look at the game he played in the playoffs—was he ever great? No, he kept his team in the game. He doesn't have the ability Bryzgalov has to take control of a game.

Phoenix had the 22nd best power play and 26th ranked penalty kill last year. Special teams aren't doing what they're supposed to for a team that made the playoffs last year. They ranked 26th on the penalty kill with Bryzgalov, and now the team's best penalty killer is gone.

Phoenix's goals against average last season was 2.68 and goals for average was 2.76. Without Bryzgalov, can't you see the goals against average going way up?

I'm not taking into account the Western Conference either. San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Detroit are all playoff locks. Then Nashville, who is always in a game with Pekka Rinne and Anaheim, if Jonas Hiller is healthy. Chicago, Calgary, Minnesota and Columbus are also all contenders.

Are the Coyotes that good when compared to these teams?

Mike Smith was supposed to be the goalie for Tampa's future, and they gave up on him. Yes, he had good playoff performances this year against the Stanley Cup Champions, but that's not the average Mike Smith.

The average Mike Smith is an average NHL goaltender. You can look at those playoff games all you want, but over an 82-game schedule he is not a suitable NHL goalie.

Remember when Tampa had to trade for Dewayne Roloson on New Years Day to take over for Smith? People just remember his playoff performances. Mike Smith played well in his biggest game of his career, on the biggest stage.

But there won't be many more big games in Phoenix in the coming future.