The Arizona Coyotes finally have a solid home … oh but wait, they are still the Phoenix Coyotes for now. Does it even matter what they are called since they will be gone in five years anyway? The Coyotes will try to become relevant in the next five years, and they’ve started by picking up known whiner/diver Mike Ribeiro. They also re-signed defensive coaching expert Dave Tippet for five more years. They have over 7 million in cap space with only Mikkel Boedker to re-sign and a number of forward positions to fill. They are in a decent position cap-wise and will be looking to start off next season strong.
The Play Maker – Mike Ribeiro (5.5 mill): Ribeiro will fit in perfectly with the Coyotes’ style of diving and whining forged by Mike Smith and company. Despite his bad reputation, Ribeiro is still a great play maker. Last season on the Capitals team, he was second in points, and 36 of those points were assists. His quickness and vision will be a huge asset to the Yotes who were lacking front end offensive talent. To put that into perspective, Ribeiro had more assists than the top Coyote (Yandle) had points. While there is no guarantee that his play making ability will be utilized properly in Phoenix, it would be hard to imagine it having no impact.
The Stopper – Mike Smith (5.6 mill): Smith will be forever remembered in Chicago for his amazing diving skills. A simple glance of his leg pad or a brush of a shoulder sent him flying. He was brought in to stop pucks when Bryzgalov left, and instead he broke physics with his dives. Last season was not a good season for Smith, and the Blackhawks really made sure that was the case. He ended the year with a .910 SV% and a 2.58 GAA. Both were a drop from the previous season where he put up a .930 SV% and a 2.21 GAA. His SV% against the Hawks was a pathetic .826%. To say the least, the Coyotes will be expecting a lot more from their hot headed academy award winning goalie.
The Norris Candidate – Oliver Ekman-Larsson (5.5 mill): One of the few Yotes that doesn’t disgust me is Ekman-Larsson. He had 3 less points than Duncan Keith last year on a team that isn’t remotely as offensively deep. He earned his huge contract by playing a strong game no matter where he was on the ice. He was a player that got more dangerous as the game went on. Last year he scored half of his points in the third period, and 8 of his points were on the PP. This guy will be an impact player for the Coyotes for a long time (until they move to Seattle in five years).
Prognosis: The Yotes would really have to try to be more disappointing than they were last year. With the acquisition of Ribeiro, the claim of ownership to the team, and the rise of Ekmon-Larsson, this team should be a threat in their division next year. The main concern will be a familiar one: will they have anyone that will be able to reap the benefits of Ribeiro’s playmaking ability and put the puck in the back of the net consistently?