A Time for Change in Phoenix

The rough road for the Phoenix Coyotes has begun.

At one point they were one of the top teams in the Western Conference, racking up wins with their offense that would come alive late. Mike Smith and company would hold their ground when they regained leads, whereas Mike Ribeiro began to flourish and prove that snagging him from free agency seemed to be a steal.

Then the month of November hit where the free fall began. Sure wins had come and gone, but only two were earned in regulation. Each loss its opposition blew out into huge leads, leaving Dave Tippett to wonder what would be the right personnel for his team.

“You can push back after 3-0, but let’s start the game on time,” Tippet said. “That’s frustrating. It’s so foreign from how you want to play if you’re going to be able to compete with a team like that. It’s almost inconceivable we could do it, but we did.”

“I don’t know what it is,” Martin Hanzal said after a loss to Chicago. “It’s not acceptable though, and we’ve got to get it turned around. Once in a while we come out strong and keep it going, but it seems like we have to battle back too much, and you’re not going to win against good teams. That’s exactly what happened.”

In Chicago, the Coyotes began to learn their identity. A team that looked lost from start to finish, a 3-0 deficit early led to mounds of frustration. Tippett began to experiment after such a sluggish. Derek Morris and Keith Yandle were removed from the starting defensive lines. Instead rookie Connor Murphy and Yandle have unified along with Morris with David Schlemko. Oliver Ekmann-Larrson and Michael Stone have also unified. The pairs are now switched with the lines that contain Ribeiro, Shane Doan, and David Ross. The same goes when Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal on the ice.

Things began to turn the same game. Rob Klinkhammer scores in the second with Ekman-Larsonn and Stone on the ice, setting up the assists. Then Martin Hanzal knocks one in to cut the lead to one with Vrbata and Ribeiro helping out. Phoenix did lose the game 5-2, but momentum carried with a new look heading into Edmonton.

After a 1-1 tie with the Oilers heading into the second, the formation of Tippett’s line began to mold. Vrbata and Doan score with their respective lines in the second, while in the third three goals in a span of 10 minutes fell into pace with the likes of Ribeiro, Yandle, and David Moss. A 5-2 win gave Phoenix only their third regulation win in 14 tries.

Not only did they began to switch their personnel, lightening the load came in order, sending Rostislav Klesla to the minors. A slow, rough start was to blame scoring only one goal, 10 assists, and 15 penalty minutes. This forced Tippet to change his lineups. A surprise move for a long-time Coyote, the team, being quiet as of late put the team into a difficult decision.

With the team sitting at eighth in the conference, Phoenix still knows that playing defense and knowing how to control their emotions can put them back into contention. Only seven points behind first place Chicago, the Coyotes want to be elite, but it will take a while before they can be back in the talks.

News and Notes

Former Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky will be repaid money he was owed by former team owner Jerry Moyes. Gretzky had left the Coyotes four seasons ago, and he will be owed at least $7 million from his time with the team.

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