August 22, 2013 6:11 pm

Hello Neighbors: Phoenix Coyotes

To kick off our Hello Neighbors series, LAKI took a quick glance at the realigned Pacific Division and how the new playoff format could impact teams destined for the cusp of the playoff bubble. Clearly, the Phoenix Coyotes are right there on that precipice.

A season after reaching the Western Conference Final, Phoenix did not make the playoffs in 2012-13 as they dealt with the departure of Ray Whitney and the mid-season foot fracture of Radim Vrbata, who scored 35 goals in red dark red maroon Sedona Red (!?) the season prior. Zbynek Michalek, Martin Hanzal, Steve Sullivan, Lauri Korpikoski and Mike Smith also missed time when the Coyotes would have been expected to make a playoff push, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the team dealt with inconsistency – not to mention abysmal special teams. Phoenix’s power play (14.8%) and penalty kill (79.9%) in 2012-13 both ranked last amongst the seven teams that now make up the realigned Pacific.

As a result, the Coyotes missed the playoffs for the first time under Dave Tippett, who for the first time in his head coaching career guided a team to below a third-place divisional finish.

But…things are looking up, perhaps? The Coyotes are no longer in a state of ownership limbo, which certainly doesn’t hurt the thrust of the team’s hockey operations. The team retains among the league’s most mobile blue lines with soon-to-be American Olympian (and frequent trade rumor magnet) Keith Yandle and blossoming phenom Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who signed a lucrative six-year extension in March. Mike Ribeiro was signed to a four-year contract, which solidifies the team down the middle and complements Martin Hanzal and faceoff artist Antoine Vermette with good center depth.

Mike Smith re-upped for six more years of tending net and providing dubious player safety verdicts.

On the downside, shutdown center Boyd Gordon signed with Edmonton, while Mikkel Boedker, who turns 24 in December, remains a restricted free agent after accounting for a career-high 26 points (7-19=26) over 48 games a season ago.

You know this team. They’re the Coyotes. You know the Coyotes well.

To break things down even further, we brought in FOXSportsArizona.com Coyotes beat writer Craig Morgan to provide additional insight. Morgan’s thorough reporting and balanced analysis during the club’s ownership transition represented some of the best hockey reporting undertaken throughout the summer. He’s an excellent follow on Twitter.


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