A Rough, Scary December

If you are reading this article, then you may be considering a few things. The first of which is how it has been a month since there has been an article posted. Well, you really have not missed much. Up until about a week ago, the Coyotes fell to nearly last in the penalty kill, struggled to keep up with shot selections, and fall behind very early and fail to recover. December did not start kind for the squad, losing seven of their first eight games, and nearly all of their losses were by two or more goals. OK so they have won three in a row. But with how much they dug themselves a hole, thinking about progress is an afterthought until they can gain more ground.

“We have let our goalies hang out to dry game after game,” head coach Dave Tippett said after the loss to Vancouver. “Mike Smith makes one big save, we fail to score on our end, and then we give up a two-on-one. It has been a microcosm to what we have done all season.”

Frustration has surrounded the team throughout the month. Even general manager Don Maloney reportedly had threatened the players on trading anyone in order to shed payroll. Well, only Rob Klinkhammer took off in exchange for defenseman Philip Samuelson. While it seemed to be a salary dump, its defense did not seem to get any better.

“I want to see players that don’t quit,” Tippett said. “Game after game, with whoever we have we learn about players who don’t quit. We need to grab the adversity and push back a little bit.”

Maybe you have been a Coyote fan since the move from Winnepeg to Arizona and are trying to find another source, or even another die-hard fan that is expressing their opinion. You have suffered through months just like the team has dealt with before, watching solid goalies come and go (Brian Boucher and Ilya Bryzgolov to name a few). Well, speaking of that, it seems as if we have a new standout to help ease the pain of Mike Smith, or possibly take over the helm in front of the goal. After Dave Tippett had enough of Smith against Vancouver, allowing four goals in 11 shots over the first 25 minutes, Devan Dubnyk came in and at the very least did all he could to stop the bleeding. The Coyotes did lose 7-1, but Dubnyk was able to make 26 saves. That momentum has slightly carried over for Dubnyk in the last three games, all resulting in victories, but now the debate is whether how much time does the six year, $34 million dollar Smith sit out before you see some sort of disgruntle. The Coyotes have expressed they are “married” to Smith, who is on his second year of his contract. But they have loudly expressed they are willing to change tactics within the roster in order to win games.

We’re just trying to win games,” Maloney said. “It’s like anything else, if we think Devan gives us a better chance, he’ll play. With Mike, we know we need to get Mike back to the level that he’s capable of. That’s the job, assignment, goal we all have: How do we do that? That’s what we’ve been searching for, quite frankly, a while now.”

Compared to Dubnyk, Smith is by far having his worst season of his career, with a 5-15-2 record and has a 3.48 goals against average. Dubnyk on the other hand, who has seen far less games, is eighth in save percentages at .925 and has stopped 91 of the last 95 shots he has faced. Statistically, he has performed much better than in his times with Edmonton.

Now with looking at the half glass full, many people have asked me what the situation is regarding the ownership of the team. Even I cannot answer that question, but the numbers do indicate that things have not gone according to plan in their second year. They are third to last in attendance, and Glendale has not been to happy about how little change has made the team any better. There were rumors that spread about potential new owner Andrew Barroway was posied to put down over $150 million to become 51% owner of the team and eventually stand as the governor. Instability throughout the last few months also surfaced the idea that Barroway may have thought twice about the idea. This also yet again brought fear of relocation, something this team has been plagued by for nearly a decade. Recently the Coyotes were able to put down all those rumors and are planning to announce Barroway as majority owner sometime this week. Even he was in attendance for the Coyotes victory on Monday night against Philadelphia.

Arizona closes out December just how they started the month: down 11 points from the last wild card spot. It has been so far an imbalance of what they have been capable of doing from the start, where inconsistency has been their main story. While a team like this would expect to change their roster and hope for a big spark soon, they need to worry about working with what they have right now.