Arizona Coyotes 2014-2015 Season Preview: The Montreal Canadiens

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Desert Dogs et Les Habitants- Looking at Roster Changes

March 6, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) moves the puck against Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller (81) and left wing Rene Bourque (17) during the third period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Howlin’ Hockey: All right- let’s get down to business and talk roster changes. How did your offense change between last season and now? Do things look better, or worse? 

Kate Cimini: This is a subject of hot debate over at A Winning Habit, I’ll have you know. Our offense has the potential to be better, as long as there are some line changes made- such as putting Galchenyuk at center, his natural position.

Last season, our point production was not as high as it could have been. While we took some steps to overhaul our defense during the summer months, we don’t seem to have done the same with our offense. Right now, I’d have to say it looks pretty much the same. I look forward to seeing what Therrien does to shake them up. 

Catherine Silverman: Well, things are sort of dangling on a cliff. We took what some consider a nosedive by letting Radim Vrbata head to Vancouver, and lost scoring power with the buyout of Mike Ribeiro. Maloney and Tippett brought in Sam Gagner, BJ Crombeen, and Joe Vitale as (kind of) solid third and fourth line players- not an even trade, but an even trade might not have been necessary. If Lauri Korpikoski can step it up, Max Domi makes his entrance in the NHL, and Boedker continues on his upward trend, the team should be just fine. I’m going to give us a tentative “things got better”, because the talent is lurking around in the current roster- the only thing the team surely lost was Ribeiro’s poor attitude. 

HH: Moving right along, let’s look at defense. How does the roster look this year on the blue line? Any changes? Are these changes good or bad? 

KC: So many changes have been made to our defense- it’s a completely new ball game. I definitely think they will be stronger on D than they were last year, since Bergevin was clearly going for a certain type of defenseman and he and Therrien clearly have a plan for how the new dynamics will play out. 

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  • CS: Hmmm… not a whole lot of changes, really. Rusty Klesla won’t be back, which we knew by the end of last season. Derek Morris is moving on out, as well- whether from age or off-ice issues, it’s slightly irrelevant. The team’s defensive roster is now looking fast, young, and dangerous- with the exclusion of Zbynek Michalek, the team’s top-four pairing defensemen will all be under thirty (barring any last-minute additions). The team should expect to see Connor Murphy or Michael Stone holding down the home ice end in a pairing with Keith Yandle, and Brandon Gormley will probaby round out the team’s top six roster players. Chris Summers could also make an appearance- I think that through stability, the team’s defense looks better than last years. Expect to see them really pose a threat in 2014-2015. 

    HH: How about in net? Any changes there? 

    KC: The Habs seem to be sticking with Carey Price in goal, with either Peter Budaj or Dustin Tokarski as backup. I’d be fine if we sold Budaj for a third-round pick and a carton of cigarettes, but if we lose Tokarski, I think we lose a real shot at the Cup. 

    CS: Mike Smith remains, Thomas Greiss is out, and Devan Dubnyk is in. If our goaltending coach, Sean Burke, can help Dubnyk find some consistency, things will be fine. If he can’t, and if Smith either starts to fall off or gets injured, we’ll have to rely on Portland prospect Mark Visentin to step up and play his part. 

    HH: Did the Arizona Coyotes have a winning record against Montreal, or did things go poorly? Do you think things will go the same way this year? Why, or why not? 

    KC: Arizona lost one to Montreal and picked up one as well. The first seemed to be a mash of defensive problems, whereas the second swung the Coyotes’ way thanks to some high-powered scoring by Vrbata. Who is no longer a Coyote. Do you see where I’m going with this? 

    Montreal is younger and larger this year. While that can spell disaster if your players are untested, Bergevin has retained some incredible talent in Subban, Price, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, and Gallagher. The Coyotes made some roster moves over the summer that I agreed with- and some non-moves that had me scratching my head. I do think Montreal will walk away with the win this year from Arizona, but I’m not going to write the Coyotes off completely.

    CS: Trash talk, and we aren’t even at a game yet! I see. I don’t think it’ll be an easy fight for the Coyotes, but I do think they’ll pull off at least one victory- the Desert Dogs fight their hardest in the toughest battles. If they could beat the Stanley Cup Champions last year, then the Habs should be cake. 

    I kid. I do think that the season-series will end in a split again, though- while I think the Coyotes have a stronger overall defense, there’s no ignoring that imposing Canadian fellow on your blue line. What’s his name? Oh, right- PK Subban. Between him and Price, I anticipate the Coyotes won’t be able to pull off a sweep.