Coyotes Deserve More Respect


Supposedly, the Coyotes were the “surprise” team of the year in the NHL last year. But quite frankly, I always expected the Coyotes to be a very good team. It appears that at the start of this year, the Desert Dogs still don’t have enough respect from the so-called “experts.” had six “experts” predict the winners in all six divisions in the NHL. In the Pacific Division, half chose the Sharks and half chose the Kings. Not one picked the Coyotes. This is puzzling to me as the Coyotes were better than the Kings last year, and Phoenix also improved just as much, if not more, than Los Angeles in the offseason.

The Kings made two major changes to their roster in the offseason. They added Alexei Ponikarovsky and Willie Mitchell. Veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell will add some depth to their D. Ponikarovsky is a bit of an upgrade from Alexander Frolov, who signed with the New York Rangers this offseason. The Kings will also have more depth in net with prospect Jonathan Bernier beating out Erik Ersberg for the backup goaltender job. If Kings starting goalie Jonathan Quick struggles, look for Bernier to step in and do a good job in goal for the Kings.

The Coyotes made quite a few changes to the forwards on their roster. The ‘Yotes lost speedster centerman Matthew Lombardi, but replaced him with veteran winger Ray Whitney. Whitney is known for his skills on the power play, which should help improve the Coyotes on the man-advantage, which was 28th in the league last year. Also, the Coyotes will have Scottie Upshall back again, healthy this year. He scored a career high, 18 goals last year before getting a season-ending injury in January. The loss of Robert Lang will be offset by the acquisition of Eric Belanger. As a good penalty killer, Belanger can also replace last year’s role of Dan Winnik on the PK. The Coyotes also have 3rd overall pick from the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Kyle Turris. Turris beat our Former Canucks center Kyle Wellwood for the final spot on the roster. With all these changes, if they can all work well together as a team, the Coyotes are better on offense this year.

On the defensive end, the Coyotes only made one major change in the offseason. Zbynek Michalek signed with Pittsburgh on the first day of free agency. General Manager Don Maloney said the ‘Yotes came close to re-signing Michalek, and that he wanted to stay in Phoenix. But the ownership situation bugged him. The uncertainty of the franchise’s future in Phoenix was the ultimate factor in his decision to leave. Michalek’s replacement will most likely be filled by young prospect, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Don Maloney said that he will watch Ekman-Larsson closely early in the season and determine if he needs to pursue adding another veteran defenseman. The Coyotes will probably be slightly worse on defense this year. But depending on the way Oliver plays this year, they might be even better.

Both the Coyotes and the Kings got better in the offseason. It will be tough to answer the question who is better, but both teams are pretty equal. These two teams will be very similar in terms of both offensive and defensive depth. As the season draws near, this question will become an answer.