In anticipation of the Leafs' game against the Winni...Phoenix Coyotes PB from One Fan's Perspective was kind enough to answer a few questions, 5 of them to be exact, and he provides an excellent amount of insight on a team that I'll admit I do not follow very closely. Thanks to PB for participating and hopefully his prediction is absolutely wrong.
1. The mittenstringers in Toronto (read: sports columnists) seem convinced that the Leafs are better off just dismantling the team and rebuilding (like Chicago and Pittsburgh) through the draft as if that was a 100% foolproof plan. Mike Burnett and the Coyotes have shown how fraught with peril that path can be. How would you rate the team's position and the future for the squad?
I take the same side the mittenstringers take. The Coyotes have learned how difficult renting a player can be. For the past two seasons, they have plugged holes and leaks through veterans that never quite shook out. Granted, they weren't the Brieres or Drurys of the world, but the prevailing consensus was these guys should have helped. Instead, they wouldn't listen when the coaching staff told them they weren't playing up to snuff.
Look at the teams that have been incredibly successful pre and post lockout. Lightning - built through draft, Ducks - built through draft, Hurricanes - hybrid team to win the Cup, but pieces were put together through the draft and now they have been skating well. The problem here was with Barnett giving contracts to players clearly past their prime or players not listening to what the game plan was going to be. I think there should be a stop system in place when an organization needs to figure out their future moves and just go with it. Easier in a place like Phoenix, much more difficult in a place like Toronto. [Ed.'s Note: King Mittenstringer has changed tack again! Tomorrow he will call Leaf fans idiots for suggesting that sometimes rebuild are not all that they are cracked up to be or that Chicago and Philly can hardly be considered successes yet. Even Pittsburgh has yet to win a playoff series.]
Speaking of Gretz and his buddy, how has Don Maloney done since stepping in as GM and how do you feel about the Great One's coaching competence? Most people in Canada assume that he'll never get fired because, well, he's Wayne. Have you seen any improvement/changes in the club's philosophy?
At first, I didn't really know what Maloney was doing (i.e. releasing Nick Boynton and Kevyn Adams through waivers) because I thought these two were the quality veterans to build the team. When he pulled the trigger for the Radim Vrbata - Adams trade with Chicago, I got the idea. He's very patient and very willing to stick to a specific kind of vision for the long term, which is very good in my mind. His patience has paid off. Again, in the past, the Coyotes changed directions so often no one could keep track of the team's identity. Slowly, Maloney is trying to change that perspective. I've been impressed (even though I was very critical at the outset of the season).
I have noticed a change of direction in Gretzky's coaching style. He is much more involved and the team is truly his now for better or for worse (to me, it's for the better). He can teach players who truly want to be there and with young players fighting for their NHL careers, thanks to our current depth in our development systems (like Kyle Turris, and Blake Wheeler), he's got their pulse very well.
Instead of sulking when scratched like Roenick did last year, the guys that get scratched work their tails off to get back in the lineup. The proof? How can anyone explain a near .500 record with a team that many thought were going nowhere? Good coaching? Good luck? Both? If people are apt to criticize when things are going badly, taking the same logic when things are going well works too. Locally, the fans have not clamored for Gretzky's head - they were after Mike Barnett and the Coyotes addressed that.
3. I noticed that you mentioned Lowetide's conspiracy theory about the timing of Bryzgalov's waiving. How much credence do you give the idea? Especially considering that Maloney said that the assets that Burke wanted were too much for the Coyotes.
If the assets were too much for the Coyotes to get the deal in the summer, and throughout the year, why did Brian Burke release Bryzgalov now? Why not later until someone bit at the opportunity for a trade? It's clear that the Coyotes got lucky, but it could have been another team and I would still follow the same theory as Lowetide. Bruke did his goaltender a solid and Bryzgalov will get his shot here in Phoenix. But the timing of it all raised interesting questions that Lowetide asked, and I agree...Just like the X-Files, the Truth is Out There. :-)
4. The team tried to go the low-rent approach to goaltending (Tellqvist, Auld, Aebischer) and now have a potential # 1 (talent is there, workload hasn't been) fall into their lap. I read your post (I'll link to it here) but where does this leave the team's prospects considering Bryz is only 27.
With the arrival of Bryzgalov, the goalie prospects like David LeNeveu and Josh Tordjman become a different problem to solve. They get to develop at their own pace instead of being fed to the wolves like LeNeveu was two seasons ago. However, there will come a time when important decisions are made with the length of Bryzgalov's contract next season. They are all waiting to see what he does now. [Ed.'s Note: What is this patience concept of which you speak? Why hasn't he been signed to an extension already?] I think they are evaluating Bryzgalov's performance with the increased workload to see if he can carry the team. If so, Mikael Tellqvist, LeNeveu, and Tordjman have their work cut out for them. They may be important assets down the road. So, it's too early to tell, but a good problem to have.
5. Finally, a four-parter: Does it get lonely being the only Coyotes blog? Were you a fan of the Jets or did your fandom begin in the desert? Any special memories of previous matchups between the two teams? and finally, care to make a prediction for the game?
Being the lone voice for while was tough because of the lack of local conversations about the Coyotes. More established blogs have more a following to their team and the Coyotes just don't. Plus, I enjoy reading the potshots people take against the Coyotes and our region. :-) [Ed.'s Note: The desert is no place for hockey. Bring the team back to Canada. Maybe if the play stopped every 5 seconds you guys could follow it. This fulfills my requirement to trash southern hockey.] Respect is earned, I suppose. However, other blogs about the Coyotes have popped up since I started writing about them, all with a unique voice: True Coyote Love, Hip Shot Blog, and Coyotes Corner.
I became a Coyotes fan after moving here from Florida two years ago. I followed a woeful team while in Florida called the Tampa Bay Lightning. I still keep tabs on them but I firmly believe that one has to support the local home team whenever possible. Therefore, my wife and I became Coyotes fans and we have found we are in the minority among those that transplant from elsewhere. It doesn't help that the Coyotes have been losing because people don't want to follow a loser [Ed.'s Note: Chicago Cubs fans respectfully disagree.] but that is a rant for another day.
However, I do see some eerie similarities between the two franchises in terms of overall development so that has been encouraging. Plus, Gretzky's involvement doesn't hurt either. [Ed.'s Note: It certainly hurt in 1993. Damn you Wayne! DAMN YOU KERRY FRASER!]
Prediction: Leafs 2 Coyotes 3 (OT) :-)