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PHNX Coyotes monthly mailbag: You asked, I tried to answer

Craig Morgan Avatar
November 23, 2021

I’m going to keep this lede brief because I’m prepping for the PHNX Friendsgiving event tonight at an undisclosed location (Petey’s paparazzi are getting brazen).

I didn’t even know that Friendsgiving was a thing until two weeks ago, as we discussed on a podcast that will air Wednesday morning. We’ve got this sign-up sheet of food items to bring and the list is impressive so Tara and I had to up our game.

There’s an apple pie in the oven. There’s a sweet potato pie in the oven and we still have an hors d’oeuvre to make. As you might have guessed, I have contributed very little to this menu, other than cleaning the dishes.

Illustration by Bea Wyatt

With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to thank all of you for sticking with me in this latest venture. I hope it comes through on the shows (sometimes, Petey goes all Eeyore on us), but we are having a lot of fun and so far, Leah Merrall and Erin Slinde haven’t grown tired of the two old guys on set.

I admit, I have been wanting to embed this video for a while. Shout out to my old pal Dave Vest, who can impersonate Krusty the Clown like nobody I know.

Alright, let’s get to your questions.

From Twitter

I think it’s too early to make any judgments. We are only 19 games into the season. Lawson Crouse will be a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. He is on pace for career highs in ice time, goals, assists and points. That will be an interesting one to watch.

Clayton Keller doesn’t have the points to show for it, but I think this is the most complete he has looked as a player. That added seven pounds of muscle that he told me he added in the offseason really seems to be making a difference. He has been more aggressive in getting to the hard areas and his expected goals for is the second highest on the team.

I don’t think there is any interest in Vitali Kravtsov. The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman hinted that the Coyotes could be a landing spot for Gabe Vilardi if the Kings decide to move him (such talk may be premature), but I have not heard of any such interest on the Coyotes’ part at this point. Per a source in Los Angeles, Vilardi’s trade value is too low right now. It would be like trying to sell a stock that has plummeted. The Kings are hoping that he can get back on track in Ontario.

I think that they will experiment for as long as they can/must, but Ryan Dzingel will be the first to tell you (coach André Tourigny will be the second) that he is better suited to playing the wing. With Beagle out, and with the Coyotes already missing Johan Larsson (COVID-19 protocols), that presents a real matchup problem against the Oilers with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on Wednesday. The last time these teams played, Edmonton coach Dave Tippett split the two up to take advantage of the Coyotes’ lack of center depth.

My money is on Shayne Gostisbehere leading the team in points (unless he gets traded). He is producing at 5-on-5 and on the power play. This would not be the first time that a defenseman led the Coyotes in points. Keith Yandle did it twice (2012-2013, 2013-14) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Larsson did it in 2014-15. 

I discuss Tourigny three questions below in this mailbag. Somebody else basically asked the same question.

Just spitballing here. Of the true roster regulars, I’ll go with RFAs Lawson Crouse, Christian Fischer, Kyle Capobianco and UFAs Ilya Lyubushkin, Liam O’Brien and Alex Galchenyuk. I could be way off base.

If we open this up to all possibilities, I’d say that Shayne Gostisbehere, Johan Larsson, Phil Kessel and Lawson Crouse have the most value. Alex Galchenyuk, Jay Beagle, Ryan Dzingel and Antoine Roussel could prove to be decent depth pieces, although the return on them would be minimal.

It is, as you say, hard to judge. Early on, it looked like the Coyotes were struggling to grasp those systems and there was external criticism from analysts that the Coyotes weren’t being coached well. I think such criticism was premature and we have seen progress recently in the team’s four-game point streak. Credit the coaching staff with making some tweaks in all three zones to suit the current personnel. 

I found myself watching that Ottawa-Colorado game on Monday night far more closely than I expected. 

Here are my top three U.S. national parks that I have visited, in no particular order: Olympic, Grand Teton and Redwood. I am hoping to see Denali one day.

I have not heard heard any talk of a women’s team but the west is wide open for the taking. If Phoenix were to add a team, however, it would have to be in conjunction with other teams in the west. The existing Premier Hockey Federation does not have any teams in the west so travel would be a major concern/cost. 

I don’t know how management will approach that, but I doubt that they will make rash changes with pieces that they consider important to their future, just to ensure losing. 

The first two names are among the safest bets on this team. I would add Barrett Hayton to that mix.

It’s an interesting question that does not have an answer at this point. If Wedgewood sustains this level of play, he is going to make it very hard on the Coyotes to waive him or even trade him. Keep in mind that Karel Vejmelka can return to Tucson without having to clear waivers and even if the Coyotes were to waive Hutton, it is unlikely that he would be claimed so they have good flexibility when making this decision.

I asked André Tourigny if that was the case or if the two-goal game in St. Louis simply made people take notice. In truth, Hayton has been pretty consistent in all three zones most of the season. He just hasn’t been able to add the consistent production to his game that the Coyotes would obviously need to see for him to be a top-six center. He has also had more opportunity in the past week.

No. I do not speak with Flyers’ or other teams’ sources regularly enough to know that, but the Gostisbehere deal (if you can even call it a deal) has worked out ridiculously well for the Coyotes and Shayne.

I think Capobianco has looked more assertive with the puck (as he was for a long time in the AHL). He has also looked much better in his own end, which was as great a concern, coming into this season. It’s a small sample but he has looked like he belongs. He’ll be an RFA after the season with arbitration rights. It’s important that he sustains this level of play.

GM Bill Armstrong told me this offseason that Farinacci always finds a way to make an impact, no matter where he is playing. That said, Farinacci is off to a slow start with Harvard (two goals, three points in seven games). I’m sure all of that time off (Harvard did not play last season due to Covid) took its toll. I’ll check in on him soon. 

I’ll be honest: It’s really hard to gauge the dressing room when I am not allowed in the dressing room (NHL COVID-19 protocols). There are so many new faces that I’m not sure it’s even time to assess this with only 19 games under their belts. I think that middle core of players was really looking forward to a fresh start with a new staff and Crouse in particular is getting much greater opportunity, which is fueling his rise. Let’s give this question a little more time.

1. I don’t know. My crystal ball is broken, but the schedule is about to turn tough again.

2. They are playing much better defensively. Combine that with excellent goaltending and they are hanging around games with a chance to win, and then making a play when they need to.

You would think. It’s not like the Coyotes have a lot of local arena options that the league would actually approve; options that would also work logistically for the players and the staff. I outlined the only two real possibilities three months ago

I’m not in the room due to NHL Covid guidelines this season, but the last few games suggest that they are very much engaged.

Johan Larsson went into the COVID-19 protocols. Somebody had to fill those minutes. 

It’s in the works. 

How could I not take notice of what Ben McCartney and Matias Maccelli are doing in Tucson? Maccelli is making an impact in every game.

No. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly basically shut that one down already. Remember, 2022 is election season in the province of Quebec. Seems to me like Quebec Premier Francois Legault is campaigning.

Maybe. He has been terrific in Tucson. It would be good to get something out of that class, even if it comes from the seventh round.

I just see him playing more consistently in all three zones, and attacking the net more frequently. Keller is always going to be a playmaker first, but that added seven pounds of muscle seems to have made him more confident and more willing to go to the hard areas. I know he does not have the points to show for it, but remember that even more so than in previous seasons, he is playing without an elite center. How much would that change his production level?

Nothing new; just a lot of politicking and airport nonsense. I do not think that the airport will be an insurmountable hurdle. The Coyotes hired an FAA consultant when they first began this process. I do not believe the airport is a legitimate concern. 

It’s an interesting question. The way that Gostisbehere is producing, he will be very attractive to other teams if he keeps it up. If the offer is right, GM Bill Armstrong may not be able to resist. Gostisbehere will be 29 in April. Can you realistically expect him to be a part of the plan when the team finally emerges from this rebuild? 

The premise is flawed. The Coyotes will not make a strong playoff push. They are 11 points off the pace already. Even in that far-fetched scenario, Garland and Dvorak are not coming back to Arizona.

I’ll be checking in on that soon (I actually spoke to Oil Kings coach Brad Lauer on Tuesday), but after a slow start, he has 19 points in his past 13 games.

See above. I discussed Hayton in another question.

As I mentioned three months ago, it’s a possibility. A lot of work needs to be done to make it happen. 

I think I could have done it for all three outlets. There were predictable reactions on both sides, but numerous editors whom I consulted all agreed that it was newsworthy and the approach was correct. I obviously could not predict Miller’s answers, but I asked the right questions. The hardest part of that story was all of the information I received off the record from sources who were not permitted to speak on the record. Nothing excuses what Miller did to Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. It was deplorableAll I can tell you is that the widespread portrayal of what happened afterward has been inaccurate and the narrative has been controlled because key figures in the story cannot speak on the record. 

I don’t know. I asked Bill Armstrong about it recently and he could not put a timeline on it.

I don’t know. There have not been any credible offers for Kessel thus far. Maybe a team will have a need due to injury or scoring woes, but it may take until the trade deadline to move Kessel.

From Discord

Are you talking about shows or events specific to the Coyotes? PHNX has already held some events and there is a Cardinals event on tap. Our general manager also tells me that he would love to do a Coyotes game-watch party. We just have to find a location to do so.

I have seen proof that the Coyotes did not pay ASM Global on time, but there is no public record that would show that they “could not pay rent on time.” That would require an objective and largely unattainable look at the Meruelo Group’s financial situation. The Coyotes dispute Glendale’s assertion. I have heard from sources that this money was supposed to go toward arena upgrades. I have heard from others that this was merely a contract squabble. I have heard from still others that this is the way the Meruelo Group has done business elsewhere, by squeezing people. I’m not sure we know the truth.

The traveling team pays for all of its expenses. And yes, travel costs have increased this season due to the move to the Central Division.

No clue, but this team is not constructed to win via routs. Its formula for winning is a tight-checking, low-scoring game.

I discussed this above. Here is what I said: If Wedgewood sustains this level of play, he is going to make it very hard on the Coyotes to waive him or even trade him. Keep in mind that Karel Vejmelka can return to Tucson without having to clear waivers and even if the Coyotes were to waive Hutton, it is unlikely that he would be claimed so they have good flexibility when making this decision.

As far as trades, if one of their goalies (most likely Wedgewood) builds some value on the market, sure, I could see a trade as a possibility.

My go-tos are my world-class chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin bread and éclairs.

Maybe, but let me answer your question with a question. Do you think anybody would claim Carter Hutton off waivers?

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