Off the Ice: Taking a look back at the 2013-14 Phoenix Coyotes
I hate writing this piece.
Not only because this means the Phoenix Coyotes’ season is done for the year, but writing it for the second time in a row in mid-April makes it all the more painful.
Also, this is your chance to laugh at how wrong I was.
After such a promising start, the Coyotes crashed out of the playoffs in the final month of the season. Once a contender for the highest point total in the NHL, the team will now take in the playoffs from their respective couches and golf courses.
So what went wrong? The question is, what didn’t?
Between injuries, poor play and a lack of consistency, the Coyotes aren’t the same team they were two seasons ago. I’ve already made my arguments for change. Here’s hoping it happens.
But let’s move to a more fun topic — my preseason predictions. Some of them were right, others, well, don’t be too harsh in the comments.
Player to watch: Mike Ribeiro
To be fair, he was the player to watch…get lambasted on Twitter for the entire season. After a hot start that made it seem as if he was going to live up to his big free agency deal, Ribeiro was in and out of the scoring column for the remainder of the season. The fans, and head coach Dave Tippett, noticed. He was benched for a few games and was still struggling at the end of the season. Ribeiro’s even called it “one of the worst” seasons in his career. I think next year will be better for him.
Top trade bait: Young defensemen
I was sort of right, so there’s that. The Coyotes moved two young defensemen, David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois, to Chicago in exchange for a second-round pick. Most hoped that would turn into a talented winger coming in, but that didn’t happen. Instead, a trade was made to get injured D-man Rostislav Klesla off the payroll and bring in Martin Erat, who continued a poor run of play after his time in Washington.
Scoring leader: Mike Ribeiro
Through the first part of the season, I looked like a genius with this pick. Most mocked my decision, saying Ribz would need time to adjust. At the end of the season, I was wrong. Defenseman Keith Yandle took the title with 53 points, though Ribeiro finished a few spots below him at 47. Again, watch this guy next year.
Storyline to follow: The battle at left wing
Guess what? This is still going on and has been since Ray Whitney left! I’m over writing about this. Here’s hoping the team pursues a few talented wingers in the summer and stops the continuing rotation next to Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal. It was quite the talking point this year though!
Best nickname: Sniper
No one called him this, but I’m bestowing the title on goalie Mike Smith. After all, only 11 goaltenders have scored in an NHL game. Smitty became one of them after sneaking one in during the closing seconds of a game against the hated Red Wings. At least it made up for the dreaded “Buttgoal.”
Bold prediction: OEL involved in Norris talk
I was wrong on this one, though I feel that Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still one of the most overlooked players in the league. He led the Coyotes in ice time and somehow keeps becoming a better and better defenseman, but people are still too busy obsessing over Yandle to pay him any attention. A few more years, kids, and you’ll see.
Season outcome: Playoffs
Damn you, April. If the season would have ended in March, the Coyotes would be enjoying the postseason on the ice instead of the greens. On March 29, Phoenix was poised to overtake Minnesota for the seventh playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, April did happen, the Coyotes lost seven of their last eight and were sent home after missing out by just two points. So close, yet so far.
I’m off to enjoy my summer. I hope you guys do the same.