[In an effort to cross-promote our blogs and generate some content at a slow time of year, SB Nation's hockey blogs have been running a "Summer Fill" series in which we ask questions of another team's writer and let you go to school on the answers. We're paired with Five For Howling, the best Coyotes blog out there, so read on to see what's what in The Desert, and be sure to head over there to see what they asked of us.]
1) Last season: fluke or a sign of good things to come for the 'Yotes? How much credit do you give (former Cap) Dave Tippett for the turn-around?
I think this is a sign of things to come. I give Tippett all the credit in the world. He took a team that had no system and turned it into a machine. The question is can he get a team past the first round or two of the playoffs. If some of the youth can chip in I don’t see why the Coyotes couldn’t make the playoffs and advance this time.
2) Can you provide us with a Reader's Digest version of where things stand in terms of the Coyotes and their future in Arizona?
Well we’re still in ownership limbo, but it’s basically the same two groups trying to hammer things out. Those groups are Ice Edge, the investment group led by Daryl Jones and Anthony LeBlanc and Jerry Reinsdorf the White Sox/Bulls owner. There are reports that the NHL is kind of dragging things out a little to see who buys the Stars and have which ever groups don’t purchase them then try and get the Coyotes. In terms of the Team staying, it’s what’s in the best interest of the league to have them stay because they don’t want to leave a city that built them a shiny new arena out to dry. That would be a terrible precedent to set.
3) Last summer, the Caps sent Sami Lepisto to Phoenix for a late-round pick. By most accounts, he had a solid year. Can you tell us a bit about his development and what you see as his upside going forward?
Sami had a solid year playing in the bottom pairing. He wasn’t much of an offensive producer, but he held the line defensively and was the only Olympic Medalist on our team. He’s shown some flashes of getting the offence going, but seems to break a stick or just have something go wrong. He’s also played very well with the puck, keeping possession in the Offensive zone while the team changes etc. He should be starting regularly unless he really eats it in camp. He was in and out of the lineup at times last year, but with the Coyotes thin on the blueline he’s a 5 on the depth chart at the moment.
4) Zbynek Michalek and Matthew Lombardi split town earlier this summer and Lee Stempniak might be the next to go. That's a lot of minutes and offense that the team will be looking to replace. Can they do it?
Michalek is the big loss, he was the prototypical shutdown defenseman that just chewed up minutes and made big plays. Lombardi was disappointing because he was a great fit here and reportedly took about the same payday as we were offering from Nashville. As for Stempniak, I think his agent thinks he’s worth a lot more than the market does. The longer he sits out there, the more likely he signs with a team he was actually able to produce for. There are a lot of holes to fill for sure and the Coyotes will be filling those holes with youth. Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker will have every chance to make the team out of camp as will Brandon Gormley. David Schlemko is another young defenseman that had a cup of coffee with the team last year but with Kurt Sauer still out indefinitely we’ve only got 5 returning D men so he’ll have a chance as well. I don’t know that any will play up to the levels of those that departed, we’ll need better years out of some of the top lines to replace the goals.
5) Will there be any snake-throwing in 2010-11?
I certainly hope so. Though if we don’t play Detroit what’s the purpose really? Mostly it was a slap at the dumb octopus throwing, but hey, if this becomes real tradition they better recognize who started it and that’s ME! (Not Chemmy from PensionPlanPuppets, nope.)
6) Can Ilya Bryzgalov repeat his Vezina-caliber season?
I certainly hope so. He’s one of the main reasons we got as far as we did last year. It doesn’t hurt that he’s in the last year of his 3 year contract and is going to want to be paid after this season. Having another top notch season will only pad that number. So long as the team plays the same system they did this past year and minimizes their own mistakes (Looking at you Ed Jovanovski) I don’t see why he couldn’t.
7) How crushing was the playoff loss to the fanbase and what does it mean to the prospects of expanding that base going forward?
I don’t think it was all that crushing. For fans that dealt with all the offseason BS the past summer just having a team compete would have been great, the playoffs were icing on the cake, especially as a 4 seed. Game 7 was certainly disappointing, but to have the arena still mostly full after it was over and everyone chanting "Let’s go Coyotes!" was something to behold. The fans got a taste of what playoff hockey was and they’re just more hungry for it. This year if they make it in though fans are going to want more than a 1st round exit. The team has got to build on that success and do so quickly. Supporters have said that the people will show up for a winner, so we have to prove it.
8) Since we're at #8... remember when Alex Ovechkin scored "The Goal" in your building? That was pretty awesome. (I suppose that's not really a question.)
I have no idea what goal you’re talking about. Nope. Lalalalala I can’t hear you. (It was alright I guess…)
9) Keith Yandle had a real breakout season last year. Tell us a bit about him.
At 23 he’s turned into a heck of a defenseman. We had to watch him go through his growing pains while playing in the NHL rather than where he should have been at the time in the AHL. It wasn’t very pretty at times but he’s become one of the best young American defensemen around. The only reason he wasn’t considered for the Team USA roster when injuries happened is he wasn’t invited to the initial camp for drug testing. His vision of the ice has just gotten better and better. He finds open guys next to the net and at times will take the puck coast to coast for scoring chances. He has to pick up on defense a little, but even there he’s grown by leaps and bounds. He’s a special player who’s name is going to be known around the league very soon.
10) Finally, go out on a limb and make a bold prediction on the Coyotes season.
I think the Coyotes repeat last year’s success and push for the Pacific Title. The Sharks are weaker than last year, but the Kings just keep getting better and better so it won’t be easy. I suppose that’s really not out on a limb, but saying we’ll get the cup might be pushing it a little. Though with a little help from Uncle Gary… who knows.