Corey Abbott

Experts Analysis

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What Went Wrong: Yotes, Nucks

Friday, June 20, 2014


Next stop on our series of teams that failed to make the 2014 playoffs takes us to the Pacific Division, where four clubs didn't make it to the NHL's second season.  We'll go over two of those squads this week and take a glimpse of what could await them in 2014-15. 

 

Also don't forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's up to the minute coverage on Player News, as well as follow @Rotoworld_HK and @CoreAbbott on Twitter. 

 

Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes

 

The Coyotes were out of the playoff picture for a second straight year after their run to Western Conference Final in 2011-12.  Phoenix finished just two points behind Dallas in the standings for the last Wild Card spot in the West. 

 

Missing number one goaltender Mike Smith for the final 10 games of the regular season with a sprained MCL certainly didn't help, but Thomas Greiss played admirably in his absence.  The Coyotes also gave prospect Mark Visentin a chance to make his NHL debut in the second-to-last game of the season.  He could enter the 2014-15 campaign as the team's backup if Greiss tests the market as an unrestricted free agent and a veteran isn't added via free agency.

 

The success and failure of the Coyotes often rests on the play of Smith because the team's offense isn't reliable.  He endured an up and down season, while sporting a 2.64 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage, which he believes he can bounce back from.  Phoenix enjoyed stretches of good fortune in the attacking zone, especially early in the year, but it fizzled out at the wrong moments over the course of the season. 

 

For a second consecutive time, the club's leading scorer was defenseman Keith Yandle, who picked up 53 points in 82 contests.  However, his minus-23 rating worked against his contributions.  The team also played without captain Shane Doan for 12 games from the middle of December to early January because of a bout with Rocky Mountain fever. 

 

The Phoenix Coyotes will be known as the Arizona Coyotes by the end of next week and the team could have a different look if some of their prospects can claim roster spots.  Max Domi, Tyler Gaudet and  Tobias Rieder are forwards to watch out for, while Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley are expected to be in the running for positions on the blueline. 

   

Mike Ribeiro - Ribeiro was supposed to be the skilled playmaker center who the Coyotes desperately needed, but his first season in the desert left a lot to be desired.  He was a healthy scratch for two straight games in March and ended up posting 16 goals and 47 points in 80 outings.  His disappearance down the stretch was especially concerning, as he registered just two markers and five assists in 22 contests after the Olympic break.  The highest-paid forward on Arizona will have to be much better and according to Ribeiro, "I don't believe it can get worse."  He carries a salary cap hit of $5.5 million over the next three years.  Reclaiming a spot on the top line and the first power-play unit should help him get back to the 50-point mark in 2014-15. 

 

Shane Doan - As previously mentioned, Doan was forced to miss 12 games because of a bacterial disease known as Rocky Mountain fever.  The illness ruined what was a terrific start for the heart and soul winger, as he notched 12 goals and 11 assists in his first 27 games of the year.  Doan wasn't quite 100 percent when he was finally able to return and it was revealed earlier this month that he was continuing to make progress in his recovery.  The 37-year-old forward can still flirt with the 50-60 point range and that's where he'll probably end up again next season. 

 

Mike Smith - Smith was superb when the NHL resumed play after the Olympic break.  He had seven wins and a .924 save percentage in 12 appearances during the month of March before he got injured.  He was having an inconsistent season prior to his late flurry, but he's a good candidate to bounce back in 2014-15. 

 

Martin Hanzal - Hanzal is an important player for the Coyotes and he's a versatile skater in fantasy hockey because he can contribute in several categories.  He's excellent on faceoffs (54.5 winning percentage), plays a gritty game (200 hits and 73 penalty minutes) and can contribute offensively (15 goals and a career high 40 points), but injuries have cost him significant playing time.  Hanzal hasn't played over 65 games in each of his past four seasons.  His edginess can also lead to some undisciplined play at times.  The big center provides good overall value, especially in leagues that count faceoffs, but his propensity to get injured makes him a bit of a risky selection. 

 

 Vancouver Canucks

 

After two first-round playoff exits, where the Canucks won just one game, the team underachieved in 2013-14 and finished 25th overall in the league.  Playing in a much tougher division, featuring the likes of Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose, was a factor, but Vancouver's star players simply didn't perform close to their past standards. 

 

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin didn't surpass the 50-point mark, while Ryan Kesler led the team with just 25 goals.  Alex Burrows had a terrible time trying to produce offense and Chris Higgins as well as Zack Kassian couldn't pick up the slack in secondary roles.  The once high-flying Canucks finished the season with 2.33 goals per game, which was good enough for 28th place in the NHL.

 

The way the team handled their goaltending situation was also baffling.  The much-talked about goalie controversy between Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo appeared to be settled when Schneider was shipped to New Jersey at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  However, the team's struggles and a questionable decision to start backup Eddie Lack at the Heritage Classic paved the way for Luongo's return to Florida in a trade that was years in the making.  Vancouver went from having two NHL-caliber netminders to relying on a pair of keepers who don't appear to be ready to be starters in Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom

 

Vancouver fired head coach John Tortorella after just one season behind the bench and they let go of General Manager Mike Gillis as well.  The team is still searching for a new coach as of this moment and former first-round draft pick (sixth overall in 1981 by Toronto) Jim Benning is the club's new GM. 

 

Benning faces a potentially roster shifting off-season, where Ryan Kesler is projected to be traded at some point.  According to multiple sources, he wants out of Vancouver and there's plenty of interest for his services.  His no-trade clause could handcuff the Canucks and complicate the process, though.  Vancouver could also use a youthful injection of talent, so Nicklas Jensen, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk could be in the running for roster spots.  The team may decide to address their crease at some point too, as the tandem of Lack and Markstrom doesn't really inspire confidence. 

 

Henrik and Daniel Sedin - They both get lumped together because of how well they tend to feed off each other.  Henrik led the team with 50 points in 70 games, but he recorded just 11 goals and went through a 12-game pointless drought from mid-January to early March.  In the midst of that slump, he also went 23 contests without scoring a goal.  Daniel has topped the 30-goal mark four times and he's surpassed 40 once, so netting a total of 16 over 73 appearances in 2013-14 is a major decline.  He amassed 224 shots and finished with a career-low 7.1 shooting percentage.  Daniel accounted for 47 points on the year and he suffered through a 13-game span without a point from January to March.  Both of their slumps were mixed with injuries and they were separated by the Olympics break, but it's surprising to see skids last that long for the talented twosome.  However, the twins have the tools to rebound in 2014-15, so don't give up on them just yet. 

 

Ryan Kesler - Kesler was shifted from the team's second-line center to the wing alongside the Sedin twins early in the year and the move paid off for a while.  It didn't last though and it sapped away too much of the team's already limited depth up front.  Kesler managed to stay relatively healthy in 2013-14 (77 games), but he had a hard time scoring late in the year.  He finished the regular season with six goals and no assists in his last 21 matches.  Trade rumors were circulating around him at that time and they may have played a role in his struggles.  A change of scenery may do him some good. 

 

Alex Burrows - Burrows missed 20 games after the regular season opener with a broken jaw and he had a great deal of trouble trying to develop a rhythm afterward.  He concluded the season with a mere five goals and 15 points in 49 contests.  Burrows picked up all of those goals and nine points during a five-game span in March.  Being reunited with the Sedin twins could help create more chances for him next season.  He won't be the only player looking for a bounce back campaign in Vancouver and his blend of scoring and penalty minutes may prove to helpful for potential fantasy owners. 

 

Alexander Edler - Edler received a vote of confidence from Vancouver president of hockey operations Trevor Linden earlier this month.  The interview with Linden attempted to put the kibosh on trade speculation for the blueliner after he struggled mightily in 2013-14.  His minus-39 rating was the worst in the league and he collected only 22 points in 63 games.  Edler sat out 16 games from early December to mid-January with a knee injury.  The good news is that, much like Ribeiro, his performance probably can't get any worse and he has the skill set to get back on track.  He was a highly-regarded defender just a couple of seasons ago, so there's optimism that he can regain that form.  If he gets a head coach who likes to activate his defense then it could help Edler rebound as well.        

 

 



Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
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