During this offseason, there is plenty of time available as we await training camp and the 2009-10 season to actually begin. Plenty of time to reflect, to analyze, and to learn. Among the SB Nation hockey blog network, we have decided to ask questions of a team in the opposite conference. Given that the Devils don't play too many Western conference opponents, we may not know much about them. And the only way to find answers is to seek them out (I think that's from a book, but whatever). Call it, a Summer Fill, if you will. It's taking place across the network even as you read this (example: Tampa Bay and Detroit.)
In any case, I had a conversation with Odin Mercer of Five for Howling - a Phoenix Coyotes blog - to learn more about each other's teams. We split up the questions and posted up the our respective responses. Odin has the questions he had about the Devils and my response already up at Five for Howling. What follows after the jump are my questions about the Phoenix Coyotes and his responses.
I encourage you to check out Five for Howling and engage in the discussion there, perhaps you have something to add that I missed about the Devils. I also encourage you to comment on any other questions or thoughts you have about the Coyotes. I'll pass on any interesting questions to Odin and if there's enough, we could have a follow-up to this post.
John Fischer: OK. First question, and it's the obligatory and ONLY one regarding this situation: How long will the Coyotes stay in Phoenix?
Odin Mercer: For the foreseeable future. If the court accepts the Reinsdorf bid, the only official bid that keeps the team in phoenix, then there's no way that the Glendale lease gets broken in the near future. Everyone talks about them bailing after a couple years but Glendale will still be there and won't be putting any out clauses into the lease.
John Fischer: Most recently, Devils fans saw the Coyotes come to the Rock last season and saw a guy by the name of Josh Tordjman get lit up pretty well. [Here's my recap of that game, a 5-2 Devils win.] Not exactly a fair representation of the team, perhaps. So let's start there. Who are the netminders for the Coyotes and how are confident are you in them for this coming season?
Odin Mercer: Well, Ilya Bryzgalov will be the starter the majority of the time. He's solid when the team can play D in front of him, but if teams get to him early he can get in his head and then implode. We also signed Jason LaBarbera in the offseason to back him up. I don't think there's too much danger of him stealing the starting role, but he can at least step up for a game or two if we need him. Al Montoya is the young guy to keep watching. He came in for the last 4 games of the season and went 3-1 with a shutout. They weren't pressure filled games, but he could be in the NHL in the not too distant future. So long as Bryz stays healthy we should be okay in goal though.
John Fischer: Now, speaking of the Islanders, the Coyotes are at least a little similar in that younger players have significant roles on the team. Which of those younger players have been doing well with Phoenix so far?
Odin Mercer: We do have a lot of young guys on the team. I think depending on who was on the roster from game to game we went back and forth with the Hawks on being the youngest in the league. I think Martin Hanzal has been huge for us. He's not scoring tons of goals, but he's a big kid and can be the 2nd or 3rd center. He's very good on the defensive end as well. Mikkel Boedker is probably my favorite of last year's rookies, he wasn't super consistent in his first year, but he's great with the puck and makes some incredible moves.
|2008 - Mikkel Boedker||78||11||17||28||-6||18||2||0||3||0||116||9.5|
John Fischer: Let's talk a little more about Boedker. He's entering his second season of hockey. Do you think he'll hit the sophomore slump hard, or do you think he'll rise above?
Odin Mercer: It's always hard to tell with young guys. Peter Mueller is an example of one of our kids that really hit that slump in year two. The thing is though, to everyone watching you can tell what the problem is but no one was fixing it. So I think a lot of it will have to do with who's there to help when he hits an inevitable rough patch or two. The other thing he has going for him is that while he played well, he wasn't this massive producer that's going to be leaned on to win the game. With all the young guys that pressure kind of gets spread around so hopefully it won't have too much of an effect.
John Fischer: Fair enough. The Devils got a big taste of that with Zajac, who had an excellent third season which was parlayed into a nice contract for him and a lot of love for him here. Maybe the Coyotes' third year players will have the same effect?
Odin Mercer: They could. Hopefully they don't do too well though so we can sign them to reasonable deals.
John Fischer: Speaking of third year players, how's Kyle Turris?
Odin Mercer: Kyle is small.
John Fischer: Seriously.
Odin Mercer: He's a good player, but I think he got rushed a bit. He just wasn't ready to be in the NHL full time. His size doesn't help. He's got little chicken legs and especially at the beginning of the year was getting shoved all over the place. He got better about shrugging off the checks as the year went on. He may have to fight for his spot in camp this year - which may not be a bad thing. He'll be a great player at some point, but we'll have to see what shape he is come camp time. If he puts on a little more muscle, then that will help his game a ton.
John Fischer: Now, what do you make of the current Coyote's defense? What would you say their overall style would be (e.g. physically-inclined, etc.)
Odin Mercer: It's hard to say. Every pairing seems to bring something different. The Zbynek Michalek - Kurt Sauer tandem led the league in blocked shots. Keith Yandle is a little more offensive minded and has started to find his Game. Ed Jovanovski just needs to decide who he wants to be again. Does he want to lay the other team out with the hits he can make? Or try and be the scoring defenseman? Last year he couldn't decide and ended up not being either one. We added Adrian Aucoin and Jim Vandermeer who aren't exactly offensive forces in the off season but can eat up minutes. I think if I had to go with a "style" I'd say they're going to prevent a lot of shots from the beginning. Not necessarily from checks, but from blocks and other methods.
John Fischer: What do you expect out of Ed Jovanovski next season?
Odin Mercer: I expect nothing except for him to eat salary at this point. Seriously. I find that it's better to not expect much from him and be surprised. I was so frustrated with him last year. There were times he literally assisted on other team's goals. Not just turned it over or the neutral zone or something, but stick to stick to the other team for a goal. It's aggravating to pay 6 million for that. If he can just get back to hitting and denying the puck and not even thinking about scoring, that will make me happy.
|2008 - Ed Jovanovski||82||9||27||36||-15||106||6||0||3||0||194||4.6|
John Fischer: Let's talk about the fans. What is the general atmosphere at a Coyotes game?
Odin Mercer: It depends. At the beginning of the year it's pretty good, people are at the games, the arena is mostly full, but once we hit rough spots it becomes harder to fill. The other problem is that I think the casual fan doesn't really know what to do at a hockey game. They don't know what to cheer for or when to do what. I've had friends shushed at the games for cheering by people that don't really get it. I think there's some fan education that needs to happen there. But mainly when the team does well the crowds show up. We had it going pretty well until we tanked after the break last year. We just need some sort of success and the fans will come and make the arena rock. Which it needs to. It's a beautiful arena and one of the best hockey venues in the league, but it needs to be full of fans.
John Fischer: What is Wayne Gretzky's style of coaching? Other than, not good enough?
Odin Mercer: It's hard to say. There are times when he's not even at the practices and lets the assistants do it. On the bench he can be fiery, but like too many coaches these days, he often starts blending up the lines after the first shift. It's hard to keep track of who's playing with whom. The blender gets old really fast. It would be one thing if there wasn't chemistry between guys, but if a line has one or two of games but was previously successful it gets blown up.
John Fischer: That sounds like Brent Sutter in '07-'08.
Odin Mercer: Yeah. It's even hard to tell what style of play he's going for from night to night. Makes me wonder if he even knows what it is. If there's one good thing to come out of this mess it's that if Reinsdorf wins Gretz is done coaching us and we can see if it was him or our guys.
John Fischer: Who would you want coaching the Coyotes?
Odin Mercer: That's a good question. I'm not really sure who would work for us. Dave Tippett is a name I've heard mentioned a few times. He's played against us enough to know what works/doesn't on our team too. He got a raw deal in Dallas for last year too. How much was he supposed to do with half the team on the IR? He might want to pound the Stars 6 times a year.
John Fischer: I would have liked him in NJ, but my understanding is that he wanted some time off?
Odin Mercer: I'm not sure. There have been plenty of other issues to deal with before the looking for a new coach phase.
John Fischer: Of course.
I hope you got plenty of information out that as much as I did. I would like to give a big thanks to Odin at Five for Howling for responding to my questions and for taking part in this effort to fill the summer time up. Again, leave any comments and questions about the Coyotes here.