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Monday, September 21, 2009

OGA SPR: The Phoenix Coyotes - by Frozen Pill

This is On Goal Analysis' 2009/10 Season Preview Report (SPR) for the Phoenix Coyotes - the 23rd installment of our daily previews leading to the start of the new season!

Fantasy Players - be sure to read the Frozen Pill's Fantasy Dose at the conclusion of the post.

The Phoenix Coyotes as Measured against the OGA Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC)

Last Season VS the PQC: The Phoenix Coyotes ended last season with a PQC rating of 3.95 which was just above their four-year average. However, a couple of bursts of hot play on the ice during the course of the previous season was not enough to crack the bottom of the playoff pairings and OGA was able to correctly call the Coyotes at 'Tee Time' (OUT of the playoffs) at Game 56 on Feb 12th, 2009 based on a close evaluation of the team performance as measured against the PQC.

The ride last year was a harrowing one. For the first 50 games of the season, the Coyotes played very close to, albeit just under, the Curve. But by Game 60, they found themselves 3 points below and sunk to a -3.5 by Game 70. A bit of spoiler-fun for the 'Yotes then commenced as they toyed with other teams playoff positioning and won eight of their final thirteen games to cap off the season. The rally actually brought them into positive territory above the PQC for only the second time in the entire season. The Coyotes finished the regular season 13th in the Western Conference.

Post-Lockout Average VS the PQC: The Coyotes post-lockout average score as measured against the PQC is at 3.875. It is well below the NHL average. However, the Coyotes average has inched upwards after the previous two seasons which is a positive trend. This season's Desert Dogs will hope to take it up even further.

The key to improving their overall performance is to find ways to win games in the winter. Each season, right around Christmas time, the Coyotes begin dropping games like the temperature drops after sundown during the desert winter - fast. And they drop games all the way through February each season. Out of eight demarcation points measured against their PQC performance, the Coyotes are at a downward trend seven times during this time-frame. The key to Phoenix lengthening their season is to find ways to win games between Game 40 and Game 60, where their season is typically lost.

  • Wow. What a summer it's been for hockey in the desert. Or the potential vanishing of the same. If you have yet to hear/read about the current bankruptcy hearings in court for the Phoenix Coyotes, all you really need to know at this point is the Phoenix (Glendale) Coyotes are staying put. For now. For a brief history, there's this: New arena built far from fan-base and team does not win enough games to convince locals to drive to Glendale. Guy from Canada wants to buy the team and park it near Toronto. NHL doesn't want to move/close/admit defeat/whatever with the club in Phoenix and now, temporarily, owns the franchise. It's a nasty affair and is still unsettled, but an emergency meeting for the parties involved has been called for by the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case. For more on this recent development, see the Coyotes site here.
  • Everything typed above could change with the stroke of a pen from a judge. Everything typed above could change if this team comes out of the gates strong this season, wins and the fans remember where they put their car keys. The area is a tough market for a 'fourth' sport and this may be a case of sports-saturation. But considering this part of the southwestern US houses what are lovingly referred to as 'Snow Birds', you would think some of these Canadian and Michigan ex-pats would get their butts in the seats and enjoy some hockey. I'm just saying...
  • Bridging the gap between management maneuvers and player moves, is the coach. In short, Wayne Gretzky may or may not still be the coach of the Coyotes. With his ties in ownership of the team and part of the bankruptcy filing, Gretzky is low-profile these days (read:AWOL) and the Coyotes are working through camp and the pre-season without him. Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson is acting as head coach while the true status of Gretzky is unknown. He is still listed as the coach but is not coaching and the local media and fans are thinking a fresh start (no Great Big Salary behind the bench) might be the right skate forward.
  • In ice-related summer moves, players who moved on and OUT are: Steven Reinprecht, Enver Lisin, Nigel Dawes, Todd Fedoruk, Steven Goertzen, David Hale, Dmitri Kalinin, Ryan Lannon, Brandon Prust, Brian McGrattan and Garth Murray. This entire group of 11 players accounted for a whopping 51 of the Coyotes goals last season and the organization believes the veteran leadership and skill obtained during last season's trade deadline and during the off-season will more than compensate.
  • New Names: Adrian Aucoin, Radim Vrbata, Jim Vandermeer, Lauri Korpikoski, Vernon Fiddler and Jason LaBarbera will join the other recent arrivals at the end of the 08-09 season, Matthew Lombardi, Scottie Upshall and Petr Prucha to compliment the rise of the Phoenix Phuture.


The Sure Thing: Shane Doan (LW). Doan led the Coyotes with 73 points (31/42) last season. Second in scoring for the team was Matthew Lombardi with 46 points - 30 of which were scored in Calgary before the trade deadline. That's almost a 30-point gap between the first and second leading scorers. And if your pool awards points for shots on goal, the Coyotes captain put 230 of of those on net last season. Step aside! Shane Doan as the Sure Thing is also the Thing of Obvious.

TrustyRusty: Matthew Lombardi (C). Actually, this slot could go to Shane Doan again as the true, tested and measured Coyote for point production. But on a team with few offensively-gifted veterans, Lombardi performed wonderfully after coming to Phoenix in the Olli Jokinen trade with Calgary at the trade deadline last season. He put up 16 points in 19 games with the
Coyotes and will most likely see an increase in his ice time and a greater leadership role.

Up and Coming: Peter Mueller (RW/C?). Mueller, a first round pick in the 2006 entry draft, struggled last season and also dealt with a concussion-related injury, affecting his point totals. He posted only 36 points - a let down from expectations created by his 54-point effort the prior season, his rookie campaign in 07-08. Some reports have Mueller moving from the wing to center ice. If so, his point totals could go up easily as this very talented 21-year old begins play in his third NHL season. Don't be fooled by his sophomore numbers - he's talented and will play big minutes with big expectations.

Under the Radar: Phoenix Coyotes (all). Sorry...couldn't resist. Most fantasy GMs are going to grab Doan, if anybody, from the Coyotes. Minor point production from many of the youngsters being thrust into NHL action (some say too early) is going to be the norm for a couple of seasons. But Phoenix has a lot of guys coming back this season for their second or third stints - and we may see several of these hopefuls break out and surprise this season.

Names to get familiar with because they may not be on your fantasy team this season, but will be on your competitor's teams next year. Keith Yandle (D), Mikkel Boedker (RW), Zbynek Michalek (D), Viktor Tikhonov (RW), Martin Hanzal (C)

The Watchful Eye: Kyle Turris (C). Another youngster thrust into the spotlight, Turris' rookie campaign last season was an up and down affair picking up 20 points in 63 games. But the promise this player brings was seen a few times last season and is one to keep an eye on. As of September 21st, it appears Kyle will begin this season with the Coyotes affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. But if he gets a call-up to the big house, he may make a great acquisition from your fantasy 'free agent' market.

The Watchful Eye Honorable Mention: Kevin Porter (C). He won the 2008 Hobey Baker Award and had 10 points (5/5) in a 34-game stint with the Coyotes last season. With Phoenix trying to slow down on the push to get their young talent on the NHL ice and focusing more on development,Porter may start the season in San Antonio. But he is going to make it a hard decision for management having posted 4 assists in the first two pre-season games.

The Crease: Ilya Bryzgalov. He is a 'bottom of the list choice' for a goalie on your fantasy team. Although he has played very well at times in the past, his performance in Phoenix last season, after being announced as 'the man' between the pipes for Phoenix, was dismal. But he has the skill for a bounce-back and if still available mid-season, could be a great replacement goalie for an injured starter or a good free agent acquisition if he turns his play around and retains the starting position after Phoenix brought in Jason LaBarbera during the summer for backup duties.

Mad Scientist: Petr Prucha (RW). After an amazing rookie year in 05-06 playing for the New York Rangers, Prucha fell out of favor with the 'Organ-i-zation'. In that rookie campaign, he posted 47 points in 68 games. By contrast, in 07-08 he scored only 17 points (7/10) in 62 games. Little trust was placed in Prucha and the Rangers were happy to deal him at the trade deadline last season. So why is he the 'Mad Scientist' pick? Because he has shown flashes of brilliance and now has the opportunity in Phoenix to restart his career anew. Besides, Big Tex thinks he is teh awesomeness. Scottie Upshall is also a good choice for the 'MS' pick coming off of a career year split between Philadelphia and Phoenix and nobody questions his bravado.


Will the Phoenix Coyotes sophomores help propel their team into the playoffs this season for the first time since 2002? Well, they have to start playing the games before anyone knows. But give us ten games and we might be able to tell you. OGA knows. And you can, too.

Make sure to sign up for the daily, bargain-priced analytical tool for your NHL analysis and fantasy needs by ordering the OGA Daily Tip-In Report (DTIR). For only $10.00, the season-long subscription to the DTIR is delivered to you each morning via email (minus the Olympics, of course). With OGA's Daily Tip-In, you will have insight to the teams' chances of qualifying for the playoffs - potentially well before the mathematical call is made - in addition to important team notes as their play is measured each night against the PQC. See a teaser and read about the DTIR here.

And remember, the OGA 2008/09 Report Card (how accurate are our calls?) will be posted at the conclusion of the SPRs on September 30th.

Tomorrow, the Frozen Pill rolls out another Season Preview Report - the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Hair of the dog, anyone?

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