GLENDALE, Ariz – Another year, another off-season and another round of unknowns off the ice for the Phoenix Coyotes. The franchise remains somewhat in limbo with ownership still an unresolved issue and the National Hockey League continuing to guide the process. The club missed the playoffs this year, one season after winning the division and going to the Western Conference finals.
But the 2013 abbreviated season was not kind to Phoenix which collected 21 wins on the season and watched other clubs surpass them in the standings.
On offense, the Coyotes mustered 2.52 goals per game on 121 goals over the 48-game season. That was good for 21st in the league.
The club surrendered 125 goals for an average of 2.50 per game and ranked in the bottom half of the league.
On the not-so-special, special teams were ranked 25th on the power play at just over 14%. Face it; the Coyotes were worse than the much-maligned New York Rangers in power play efficiency. They scored 25 goals with the man advantage and yielded two short-handed markers.
The penalty kill was equally languid with an 80% efficiency with 34 goals scored against and two short-handed goals scored. The numbers were good for 21st in the league.
The team’s leading point-getter was Keith Yandle with 30 points on 10 goals. He was a +4 on the season. The top goal scorers were Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette with 13 goals each. Yandle also led the club in PIM with 54.
With the lack of offense and the ineffective defense, Mike Smith had real trouble in the Coyotes’ net this past season. He was 15-12-5 with a goals against average of 2.58 and save percentage of .910. Left out to dry by the skaters in front of him, Smith had difficulties repeating his performance of the previous season. Despite that Smith recorded five shutouts on the season.
From the season’s outcomes, the Phoenix Coyotes are another team that needs an infusion of talent somewhere, anywhere, and everywhere. Ranking in the lower third of the league in most categories will not ice a competitive roster and the Western Conference is getting more and more difficult to compete. On paper, the ‘Yotes have drafted well in the past but the progress from the minors to the big club has been problematic. No one has moved up recently to bolster the NHL side.
A quick note of the Stanley Cup playoffs this season will tell any observer that size, speed and strength are going to be important going forward. Boston and Chicago have muscled their competition out of the post season. And teams coming into the 2013-14 season will need to bulk up and speed up to finish in the top eight slots for next post season.
Phoenix’ path to the Promised Land is through tough western conference. They need to build size and speed to take pressure off captain Doan who has carried this team for years. He needs help, now.
The Coyotes will not get immediate help from this class but they may be able to build for the near future.
Valentin Zykov is a young, strong winger out Russia. The 18-year old St Petersburg native currently plays in the Quebec Major Juniors and has been reported to have a nose for the net and a propensity to drive the slot looking for rebounds. He has size to battle in the corners and in the crease and seems willing to pay the price.
During his U17 stint, Zykov scored 50 goals and 89 points in 55 games. Needless to say offense is not an issue. In his North America experience, he has iced for Baie-Comeau and was the second-leading scorer for the Drakkar, scoring 40 goals with 35 assists in 67 games, and was a plus-29.
Zykov is not the immediate answer to the problems in Glendale. Scouting assessments suggest he has talent but needs more work on his skating. He may be a long-term response to the offensive efforts of the Coyotes.
Fans and players on the Coyotes bench deserve some support and Zykov may provide just that in two to three years. Will it be in Glendale? In the mean time, expect to hear the following announcement come draft day.
“With the 12th pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Phoenix Coyotes select from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, winger Valentin Zykov.”