1. I've read a couple pieces at FFH about how the Coyotes lack a top-six left winger. Ideally, who would you target in a trade or during the off-season through free agency to fill that hole?
Our own Carl Pavlock wrote a piece on LW trade possibilities and determined Tomas Fleischmann made the most sense considering his current contract, play and cost to acquire. There were rumors circulating about the possibility of Martin Erat being traded to Phoenix, but he is a RW. A quick look at the impending UFAs the Coyotes could go after in the off-season reveals a few interesting names. Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, Jussi Jokinen, MilanMichalek, etc. are all wings who could fit on a line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, something the Yotes have lacked since Ray Whitney’s departure.
2. Zbynek Michalek returned to the Coyotes lineup after missing time due to injury on two occasions this season. As someone who doesn't catch too many 'Yotes games, what does he bring to the lineup when healthy?
Blocked shots, lots of them. Michalek leads all Coyotes in blocked shots (76) by a healthy margin despite playing only 27 games. Michalek, when healthy, plays on Phoenix’s top pairing with young Swedish sensation Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s also the team’s top penalty killer. He doesn’t take a lot of penalties, but when he does the Coyotes’ PK seems helpless. On Monday against Toronto, the Coyotes’ PK percentage was a solid 0.0 percent with "Z" in the penalty box.
3. Have there been any young prospects or other players who have surprised you this season in the absence of some of the Coyotes injured regulars?
For a season that started out as a possible year of youthful infusion into the Coyotes’ line-up, none of the top prospects have made significant long-term impact. First round pick Max Domi was sent back to the London Knights before the season began. Lucas Lessio made the opening night roster, played three games, was sent down and is yet to return. Chris Brown (no, no that Chris Brown) and Andy Miele had a cup of coffee in the NHL. Brandon Gormley was called up for a day and never played.
Two players made unanticipated impacts this season. Defenseman Connor Murphy played solid in his first 21 games (1-7-8) as a pro before being sent down for some more seasoning. Forward Jordan Szwarz has made a name for himself playing a bottom-six role in 25 games this season, scoring three goals. Szwarz is the only player mentioned previously that is still on the NHL roster.
4. Speaking of prospects, who are Coyotes fans keeping an eye on in the system these days?
Coyotes fans have fallen in love with 2013 first round pick Max Domi. His skill and poise with the puck dazzled fans during prospect and training camps. Domi was one of the final cuts from camp and will have a real shot to make the main roster as a 19-year-old next season. Fans anticipate Domi can be moved from center to left wing to fill that void, next to Hanzal and Vrbata, mentioned above.
On the blue line, Brandon Gormley has been the team’s top defensive prospect for a few years now. The soon-to-be 22-year-old Gormley has played a lot in the QMJHL and AHL over the last few years, but has been unable to make the jump to the NHL. Part of that is due to the logjam on the blue line the Coyotes have, part of that is due to slower development than anticipated. Gormley will be given an opportunity in the offseason to earn a full-time role as a LD on Phoenix’s third pairing for the 2014-15 season.
5. The Coyotes currently sit just outside of the playoff picture with 49 games played, and have struggled over the course of the past month. What do you think the consequences will be if the club misses the playoffs for the second consecutive season?
The consequence of missing the playoffs this season would simply be missed opportunity. With new ownership in place and making changes, the main goal is to grow the fanbase. Nothing helps grow a fanbase like winning, especially in Phoenix. A strong playoff run like 2012 would be even more beneficial this time around. However, I highly doubt any major changes come about if the end of the season doesn’t go the Coyotes’ way. After all, their goaltender, captain, All-Stars, coach and GM are locked up for multiple years to come.
Thanks Jaime! Check out Five For Howling for more great Coyotes content!