After the first month of the NHL season, the Phoenix Coyotes looked like one of the better teams in the league.
Following their 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 5, the Coyotes were 11-3-2 and their 24 points were tied for the second-most in the entire league.
Fast forward to mid-April, and the ‘Yotes are watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs unfold on television for the second consecutive season.
“You’re not going to be in the playoffs if your best players are not great,” ESPN NHL insider Barry Melrose told Burns and Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Melrose singled out young players in Colorado and Dallas being responsible for elevating their teams to a playoff level, while that didn’t happen in the desert.
“Yeah, you had periods where everybody played well and it looked like Phoenix had got their game back together, but (Keith) Yandle with a plus-minus (-23) like that, (Mike) Smith in and out of the lineup, (Mike) Ribeiro looked like it would have been a good fit — it should have been a good fit — more offense to a team that needed some offense but had a great defensive mindset,” Melrose said.
“Phoenix sort of became in-between, they weren’t good at anything anymore. In the old days, they were a great defensive team. Now, they weren’t unbelievable defensively and they weren’t good offensively.”
To Melrose’s point, the Coyotes ranked 20th in the NHL in goals scored (210) and 18th in the league in goals against (224).
The former Los Angeles and Tampa Bay head coach has some advice for the Coyotes if they want to get back to where they were in 2011-12, when they advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
“They’ve really got to look at their team and decide what type of team they want to be,” he said. “They’ve got some great young players there, they’ve drafted well. Phoenix could easily get things turned around very, very quickly and get back in the playoffs next year.
“It’s very surprising that they didn’t make the playoffs because they really looked like a team on the rise the last couple years in the NHL.”