The Phoenix Coyotes seem to linger in the shadows of the NHL, never garnering any attention until the off-season. Now that the Coyotes’ ownership problems are dealt with, it is time to focus on hockey. With the Chicago Blackhawks taking on the Coyotes today, Blackhawk Up presents the Five-Point Inspection, where we assess the Coyotes in five categories: Management, Goaltending, Offense, Defense, and Leadership.
Although the Coyotes are under new ownership, they were privileged to retain many of their front office staff, most notably, GM Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippet. Maloney, entering his seventh year in the GM position, has tried a holistic approach to building the club, focusing on draft picks, and bringing in support staff. The club has steadily increased their performance under his regime, but there is still work left to be done, as the Coyotes lack elite talent in either the offensive or defensive position. Tippet’s coaching style is similar to that of the Blackhawks’ own Joel Quenneville, (they were teammates with the Hartford Whalers), and his old-fashioned, complete 200-foot, physical game style has done well in today’s game. Tippett’s consistency has kept the Coyotes competitive in the extremely strong Western Conference. The Coyotes can rest assured that the right personnel are in place in the office.
On the ice, the Coyotes’ goaltending situation is the least worrisome, with all-star Mike Smith between the pipes for the majority of the season. Smith’s .930 Save % in 2011-12 was the main reason the club won it’s first division championship, and he is the player on the ice that the team can rally around. Smith’s game is much more than just stopping the puck, as he is physical, offensive-minded, and a leader in the dressing room. Smith also can generate offense of his own, scoring his first career goal just this season. Behind Smith, is young goaltender Thomas Greiss. Greiss is still a vastly unproven specimen, as he was in the back-up role with his former team, San Jose, until the Coyotes acquired him in 2013. Greiss is the stereotypical back-up for a strong starting goalie: youthful, mistake-prone, but full of potential. With a little help from the Coyotes’ Player Development programs, Greiss can turn into a prime NHL goaltender. As a pair, the two work well, and Greiss has shown he is ready to go when Smith needs a night off.