There comes a time in life when all good things come to an end.
An ice cold beer. “How I Met Your Mother.” A playoff run.
The Phoenix Coyotes were officially eliminated from the playoffs Friday courtesy of a 3-0 win by the Dallas Stars over the St. Louis Blues. But let’s face it: The Coyotes playoff run was over long before.
The Desert Dogs picked a pretty crappy time to go on a season-worst losing streak. With just one win in April, the team managed to tally 11 goals while giving up a whopping 22. On March 29, they could have overtaken the Minnesota Wild for the seventh spot. By April 11, they had fallen out of contention.
So what went wrong? If Twitter is to be believed, everything from the loss of Mike Smith to a complete failure on the part of head coach Dave Tippett. Was that part of it? Sure. The loss of a starting goaltender in a playoff hunt never bodes well and Tippett did make some questionable lineup calls.
The team’s failure to make the postseason can’t be pinned on one person or event. It does, however, show the Coyotes are in need of change. For too long, the team has tried to ride the core of players that took it to the Western Conference Final. Since that run, the team hasn’t made the postseason. Coincidence? I think not.
The Coyotes have the staff in place to be a great team. Tippett and general manager Don Maloney know how to get the most out of grit players. The problem isn’t with them no matter what you think. The problem is with the players.
I’m just going to get this out of the way now: The Coyotes need to keep Mike Ribeiro. He’s one of the best centers in the game and can work in Tippett’s system. He’s been lambasted and benched this season, but he’s got mounds of talent. If you think he should be shipped off, do me a favor and watch a little more hockey.
That being said, the Coyotes need to find a scorer to pair with him. Not a finesse guy, but a player in the style of Alex Ovechkin. Someone who can play physically and take the shots Ribeiro is so reluctant to take. He won’t come cheap and the Coyotes shouldn’t skimp.
The team will also need to take a long, hard look at re-signing Derek Morris. With a slew of young defensemen ready to come up, I would only bring him back if he came at a good price. The Coyotes have been in need of a big D-man since Rostislav Klesla’s drop in play. There’s some blue line talent in the market this offseason. Pair that with some young blood and the Coyotes’ defensive issues should be adequately addressed.
Another question mark is Radim Vrbata. Once the team’s go-to sniper, Vrbata has become an oddity. He’s posted 50 points this season but is streaky. He always has been and always will be. If he’s willing to take a deal around his current price of $3 million, he’s worth keeping. If he pushes for more, I think it’s time for the Coyotes to cut ties and bring in another player. Someone along the lines of Jussi Jokinen could fill his role, possibly for cheaper.
The final move that is key to the changes is getting rid of Martin Erat. He was good several years ago but is no longer the same player he was in Nashville. He’s not meshing into the system. He was brought in to play with Vrbata and Martin Hanzal, with whom he has zero chemistry. I can’t fault Maloney on the trade, as it got Klesla off the books and experiments sometimes don’t work. Ship Erat out for a low-level pick and admit things didn’t click. No harm, no foul.
These are just a few of the changes the Coyotes need to make. It’s time. The owners want to be successful. The fan base wants wins and if they don’t get those, well, we all remember the Blackhawks before they became a championship team again.
Hopefully the woeful playoff run motivates Maloney to work the phones as soon as he can. If he doesn’t, the Coyotes shouldn’t expect to make the playoffs next season.