Arizona Coyotes 2014-2015 Season Preview: The Chicago Blackhawks

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Arizona Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Year-to-Year Changes

Feb 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) skates with the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the third period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

For today, we welcome Skylar Peters, who is a staff writer over at FanSided NHL’s Chicago site, Blackhawk Up. Here to harass him and give some marginally accurate information on the Arizona Coyotes, as per usual, is Howlin’ Hockey’s editor, Catherine Silverman. 

Howlin Hockey: So… let’s keep this consistent. To get started, tell us about your team’s offense. Are we looking better or worse than last year? What’s changed? 

Skylar Peters: Better, for sure. Michal Handzus skated away from the Blackhawks (slowly, we might add), and he was replaced by Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards. Having Patrick Kane alongside a center who can actually keep up with him will make our second line just as dangerous as our first, if not better. If that wasn’t enough, now we don’t have to watch Marcus Kruger babysit Brandon Bollig anymore, as he’s off to the Flames. Bollig’s trade frees up a roster spot for a hungry forward at training camp, likely Jeremy Morin. Add in a couple of contracts, and this offense looks set to be the best in the league once again this season.

” Better, for sure. Michal Handzus skated away from the Blackhawks (slowly, we might add), and he was replaced by Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards.”

Catherine Silverman: Well… we didn’t manage to lure Patrick Kane into deferring to the desert, so I can’t give us an A+. We also didn’t manage to lock up Radim Vrbata for another couple of seasons, and he drifted away to Vancouver. I think we were good to buy out Mike Ribeiro, though, and while our acquisitions- Sam Gagner, BJ Crombeen, and Joe Vitale– aren’t going to make up for the goal deficit, I think that the team is going to look more cohesive up front as a whole. We’ve got a ton of great prospects in the system right now, and it’s only a matter of time before they start to fill in the cracks left by the players that departed this summer. Plus, Mikkel Boedker is still only 24… in my opinion, he’s still got room to grow, and a whole season to do it. 

HH: How about defense? Both teams have some star power there… but do they look better or worse than they did back in the spring?

SP: No changes on the blue line this summer, but Duncan Keith had to free up another spot in his trophy case. We could see some changes here before the season begins to take care of the salary cap issue, but otherwise, another off-season of hard work should pay dividends for the young guys like Nick Leddy, while Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brent Seabrook look to do what they do best for yet another year. 

CS: Well, I don’t know if it counts as an off-season change, but the Coyotes finally let go of Rusty Klesla. Hard to do, but kind of necessary. The team also let go of Derek Morris, but other than that, Arizona has something in common with Chicago- they didn’t really mess with their blue line, either. Hopefully, OEL and Yandle will be able to continue improving and step it up for the upcoming season. 

What about in the net? Any changes there?

SP: No changes here, although Antti Raanta has been signed to a nice contract. It will be nice to have some stability in the net behind Corey Crawford, after Nikolai Khabibulin went down early in 2013 and was replaced by Raanta in his first year in North America. Both goaltenders should be up to handle whatever is thrown at them this season, and simply allow the Blackhawks’ offense to be better than the guys skating the other way. 

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CS: Thomas Greiss is out, and Devan Dubnyk is in. I can’t say I’m overly surprised by this lateral, if consistent, movement- there’s no way that Don Maloney is going to try and find a permanent, successful backup for Mike Smith with Mark Visentin clawing his way up the system. In an article yesterday, Five For Howling’s writer Carl Pavlock suggested that Visentin looks like a lock to become an eventual NHL regular- and he’s right. Till then, though, Dubnyk isn’t a bad substitute- and should either he or Smith get injured, Visentin will be more than happy to step in with the team.