Off the Ice: Taking a look at the 2013 Phoenix Coyotes

Jan 14, 2013, 8:22 PM | Updated: Jan 17, 2013, 12:27 am

The ridiculous lockout is over and the Phoenix Coyotes are set to take the ice to begin a truncated season on Jan. 19.

Basically, the Coyotes are facing their traditional difficulties. The offseason didn’t see too many moves, but the loss of a couple of veterans, especially Ray Whitney, could weigh heavily on the team. The ownership situation is on-going, but is reportedly edging towards a resolution.

The 2013 season, a mere 48 games, will not afford any opportunity for mistakes. Due to the shortened season, the Coyotes will not play any Eastern Conference teams (meaning no Penguins, Capitals, Flyers). Basically, there is no room for error as every point will have a direct impact on the playoff hunt. That could suit a disciplined Coyotes team, who have been an overall consistent performer under head coach Dave Tippett.

Here are some things to watch for — along with my predictions — for the Coyotes’ 2013 season.

Player to watch: Mikkel Boedker

Mikkel Boedker is quietly becoming one of the most intriguing young wingers in the NHL. He’s not the largest of players, but his skill and speed allow him to work around defenders. He really came into his own last season when playing the second line with captain Shane Doan and veteran center Daymond Langkow and still haunts the dreams of Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. I’m not predicting a massive season for Boedker, but if he keeps his confidence levels high, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as a regular in the Coyotes’ top six forwards.

Top trade bait: Keith Yandle

Keith Yandle, the Coyotes’ offensively-minded D-man, has been a constant source of trade rumors over the years. Not because he’s not adored by the club, but because he’s a skilled defenseman who has a ton of points potential. Immediately after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement became official, the Yandle rumor mill was already rolling on various social media channels. I would be shocked if the Coyotes moved Yandle, mainly because it would take an enormous offer to pry him from general manager Don Maloney’s hands, but the Coyotes can likely expect their phone to ring several times. On a semi-related note, expect a few young D-men to pack their bags this season.

Scoring leader: Radim Vrbata

It shouldn’t come as a shock when Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes in points this season. The first line will be looking to replace Ray Whitney, last year’s points leader, who took off for Dallas in free agency. While Vrbata will still be primarily a shooter, I would look for him to pass a bit more this season, especially with new Coyote Steve Sullivan likely being paired with him and Martin Hanzal.

Storyline to follow: Can Mike Smith do it again?

Last season, the Coyotes’ playoff run was supported by netminder Mike Smith. Coming off of a season where he spent a majority of time injured or in the AHL, Smith was clearly influenced by Coyotes goalie guru Sean Burke. Smith’s record-setting play will be hard to repeat, but his game has come a long way, along with his hair. The Coyotes season will depend a lot on his play and he’ll have to rise to the occasion again if there is going to be playoff hockey again in Glendale.

Best rehashed nickname: The Bash Brothers

I’m a Mighty Ducks (the movies, not the team) fan. Everyone remembers Fulton Reed and Dean Portman, the Bash Brothers, committing hundreds of interference penalties crashing into any available player. We all cheered like maniacs, but the Coyotes have a real life set: Paul Bissonnette and Raffi Torres. Already the bad boys of the team, Biz Nasty and Torres are known for tough physical play and dropping the gloves if necessary. Neither will step down from a challenge and both will see slightly more playing time after lockout fatigue and/or injuries hit. The fans are behind both of these players, their very own Bash Brothers.

Bold prediction: Steve Sullivan outplays the Wizard

When Ray Whitney (a.k.a. the Wizard) left for Dallas, many in the Valley bemoaned his loss and rightfully so. A team-leading 77-point season is going to be difficult to replace. Enter former Pittsburgh Penguins winger Steve Sullivan. A veteran, Sullivan has played with some of the biggest names in the game. Some saw his signing as a cheap effort to replace the Wizard, but I see it as yet another deft move by Maloney, the Coyotes general manager who has a reputation for doing a lot with a little. Fans can expect Wizard-level production numbers out of Sullivan, especially if he’s paired with Vrbata and Hanzal on the first line.

Season outcome: Another year of May hockey in the desert

The Coyotes may have lost some veterans in free agency, but those skates have been filled. As I said before, the shortened season will benefit the disciplined teams of the league, meaning the time is ripe for the Coyotes to continue their playoff run. I think the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings take the Pacific Division, but the Coyotes will finish a close second. In the Western Conference, I expect the Coyotes to be a lower finisher, probably around the six spot. Also, I have a trip planned for mid-May, and I plan on watching Doan and company in their second round series.

It’s going to be a great season. See you at the Job on Jan. 20.

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes center Travis Boyd (72) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the ...
Associated Press

Coyotes win 2nd straight game; defeat Devils to open road trip

Karel Vejmelka made 35 saves to help lead the Arizona Coyotes to a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
1 day ago
Goaltender Karel Vejmelka #70 of the Arizona Coyotes is congratulated by Phil Kessel #81 after defe...
Jake Anderson

Coyotes announce 5 rescheduled games in February due to COVID-19

The Coyotes will play five rescheduled games during the month of February, three of which will take place at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
1 day ago
Ryan Dzingel #10 of the Arizona Coyotes warms up before the NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jack...
Jake Anderson

Coyotes put Dzingel in COVID-19 protocols; Chychrun activated

The Arizona Coyotes have placed forward Ryan Dzingel in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, the team announced on Wednesday.
1 day ago
Antoine Roussel #26 of the Arizona Coyotes skates with the puck during the NHL game at Gila River A...
Arizona Sports

Coyotes place forward Antoine Roussel in COVID-19 protocol

The Arizona Coyotes placed veteran forward Antoine Roussel in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday among a series of roster moves.
2 days ago
Arizona Coyotes' Clayton Keller (9) left, celebrates with Travis Boyd (72) and Nick Schmaltz (8) ri...
Associated Press

5 different Coyotes score in blowout win over Canadiens

Nick Schmaltz and Johan Larsson each had a goal and an assist in the Arizona Coyotes' 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
3 days ago
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) makes a save against Arizona Coyotes center Nick ...
Associated Press

Coyotes shut out by former goalie Darcy Kuemper in loss to Avalanche

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals each, Darcy Kuemper had 20 saves for his first shutout of the season, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-0 on Saturday night. Nazem Kadri also scored as Colorado had three goals in a 3:41 span of the second period to […]
5 days ago
Off the Ice: Taking a look at the 2013 Phoenix Coyotes