SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Either Dave Tippett has a terrific poker face or the Coyotes coach still has no idea who his final roster cuts will be as Arizona takes the ice for its final preseason game Friday against the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena.
The Coyotes have 26 players on the roster and one of those is third-string goalie Louis Domingue, who will eventually be re-assigned. Barring a trade, two forwards on the current roster won’t be here next week as the team prepares for its season opener on Oct. 9 in Los Angeles against the Kings. Tippett insists he is still mulling his potential lines.
“I think about it in the morning, I think about it in afternoon … If I knew exact ones it would be easy,” he said. “Then I wouldn’t have to stay awake all night.”
Tippett hopes to play as many regulars as possible against the Sharks. Captain Shane Doan and forward Brad Richardson will play and Tippett hopes goalie Mike Smith will, too, with final word coming at Friday morning’s skate at the Ice Den. A couple unidentified players could sit out due to minor injuries, with final word also coming at the morning skate.
“We’re not going to risk complicating an injury,” Tippett said.
There probably aren’t as many forwards on the fence as Tippett The Motivator would have you believe, but the Coyotes coach would not even confirm that forward Max Domi has made the team so here is our extended list of bubble boys as decision day arrives for the Coyotes roster.
LW MAX DOMI
Here’s what Tippett said Thursday: “He continues to work on his game. There are some things we’re talking about with him to get him more time with the puck. He hasn’t done anything to hurt himself but if you look at where we are: How many goals (have we) scored? That’s kind of one of his roles, isn’t it?”
Our take: The Coyotes need Domi’s creativity among their top nine forwards so they will accept some of his growing pains with the understanding that they are in fact growing by including him in their lineup.
RW ANTHONY DUCLAIR
Here’s what Tippett said Thursday: “He’ll play (Friday) night. He’s back healthy and we’ll see where he is. It’s a big opportunity for him. He’s put good work in. All the assets you see in practice are top notch. His attitude, everything is great. We just have to see how it transcends into a game. He’s played two games. He left the one game for 10 or 15 minutes then came back. Not enough read yet.”
Our take: Duclair carries an incomplete grade into the final game because the Coyotes simply haven’t seen him enough. We still believe he will make the opening-night roster because, again, the Coyotes need speed, skill and scoring potential among their top-nine forwards. The fact that Tippett has moved past concerns about Duclair’s attitude is a good sign.
C DYLAN STROME
Here’s what Tippett said Thursday: “He’s smart, reads the plays really well and he’s really trying to dig in on how we want to play. He’s really engaged in being a hockey player. He is all hockey, all the time. You love kids with that attitude.”
Our take: We have no idea which way the Coyotes are leaning, or if the staff is under pressure to give Strome a look, even if it means playing him on a nine-game trial before the Coyotes would have to burn the first year of his entry-level contract. That said, nobody is uttering a negative word about this kid. It appears Strome has surprised the Coyotes with how well he has adapted to NHL play. We have concerns about his physical strength and how that will hold up over the 82-game grind, but there are far more qualified people making that assessment.
LW MATTHIAS PLACHTA
Here’s what Tippett said recently: “I would venture to guess he has the hardest wrist shot of anybody in camp.” The Coyotes like Plachta’s size but he still needs work on some details in his defensive and puck management games.
Our take: We still think Plachta will end up going back to Springfield of the American Hockey league, but he is giving the veterans a run for their money and if Tippett is truly not sold yet on Domi, maybe Plachta can find a way into this lineup.
LW/C KYLE CHIPCHURA
Tippett did not address Chipchura’s situation directly on Thursday, only noting that he is in the same boat as a number of players fighting for their jobs. The Coyotes waived Chipchura last December so he’s no stranger to professional instability.
Our take: If the Coyotes go young, they wouldn’t save much money since Chipchura only makes $875,000. Tippett will only go young if he feels the player replacing Chipchura is better. Chipchura is a versatile player and universally liked in the locker room, but he also represents the old guard of a team that is trying to move forward with youth.
RW/C JOE VITALE
Here’s what Tippett said Thursday: “Joe and I talked before the season started. He’s been in this battle every year of his career. He comes in and he’s battling for his job. Sometimes, guys at the bottom end, they don’t have the stature of a draft pick or the stature of just being traded for. They have to earn their positions and those guys recognize that. I thought Vitale played well the other night in Edmonton. He was one of the few bright spots; worked hard.”
Our take: It may work in Vitale’s favor that he is a right shot when so many of the position battles seem to be for the left side, but Chipchura can play all over the ice so Vitale’s roster spot is not set in cement and he will make $1.117 million this season. We are curious to see how he can adapt to the wing after playing center last season. We think his game is better suited to that north-south, in your face style.
Tippett said the staff will convene on Saturday with roster decisions likely, but not definitely being made by then. He also offered this final thought on the cuts.
“Nobody’s naïve to the situation. They know where the pieces fit and how many places are here. Our job is to bring all these players together and find an equation that makes us the best possible team we can have but with the caveat this year of making sure we have upside; we have growth throughout our organization.
“Your youth has to be able to do the job. They’re not just getting put in the lineup because they’re young. That’s not going to happen. You’re going to put a lineup in there that you think you can win with. We’re not in a situation where we’re just going to throw kids to the wolves and hopefully it turns out.
“There will be some serious discussions on Saturday to see where we’re at.”
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