The Phoenix Coyotes have been rather inconsistent this season, but much of their issues can probably be traced back to health.
Or, rather, a lack of.
Just seven players have appeared in all 42 of the team’s games this season, meaning coach Dave Tippett has had to mix and match his lineups nearly every night.
No team can expect to make it through an entire season healthy, but it seems as though the Coyotes have dealt with more than their share of injuries. Even still, they’ve battled their way to a 21-12-9 record, and if the playoffs started now they’d be in them, albeit barely.
So, there may be reason for optimism, provided of course the team can keep its players on the ice.
“I’m certainly hopeful,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney told Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “If you look at our team, the first 20 games when we were healthy, we certainly got off to a good start and were one of the top teams in the conference.”
The problem with his team sustaining injuries, Maloney said, is that the Coyotes are more about the sum of their parts rather than the individuals. So, when one player goes down — no matter their role — it has a very negative impact on the team.
So, you can only imagine what happens when multiple players are sidelined at the same time.
“Shane (Doan) goes down for 10 of our last 20, Zbynek Michalek is out for half, and Lauri Korpikoski,” he said. “They’re all good players. Are they superstars? Well, no, but they’re really good, important players to the group.
“So consequently, the last 20 games the results are mixed. We haven’t won as many games as we need to win.”
Maloney added that the way he sees it, a return to health will lead to a return of the team’s winning ways.
“I do have strong hopes for a good second half and certainly move up in the standings,” he said, pointing out that there are a handful of teams he thinks the team could surpass in the Western Conference.
That said, Maloney noted he wouldn’t mind adding a piece or two to the team, specifically a “top-six forward.”
“That’s what I’d like to get,” the GM said. “We’ve been looking all year for that fit for (Martin) Hanzal and (Radim) Vrbata.”
Maloney noted that Korpikoski stepped up in that role Tuesday night with one goal and two assists in a win over Calgary, but knows more depth wouldn’t hurt.
“Up front is where I really feel we could use another good NHL player,” he said. “If we got that, it just slides everybody down maybe a notch in position.”
Moving people around because of additions, not subtractions, is ideal. Because ultimately, Maloney said staying healthy could be the key to the rest of this season.
“If we stay healthy and our key players stay healthy then we’re a good team and we can play with anybody in this conference,” he said. “If we get banged up and we lose a couple key pieces, then it’s going to be tough for us.”