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

Craig Morgan Avatar
February 24, 2022

Five-plus months into this PHNX Sports experiment, I decided to look back on some of the content we have created on the Coyotes beat.

We had Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind in studio for a fascinating interview. We had four French bulldogs in studio for an hour of chaos. We had former Coyotes coach and player Rick Tocchet on the show for some great storytelling. We had an incredible tribute show for Petey’s dad, Bob Peters. We caught up with Stars coach Rick Bowness. We’ve had Coyotes executives and players on the show. We’ve had ASU coaches and players on the show and we even did a Halloween episode in costumes.

On the writing side, we toured Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Arizona State’s new multi-purpose arena. We started a prospect report while importing my past staples like the Neutral Zone, mailbags, in-depth features and breaking major news.

We’re not even half a year old and PHNX Sports has already provided me with more opportunities and more latitude to cover the Coyotes than any outlet for which I have previously worked.

This is why I left Substack to pursue this venture. To create original content. To create more content than anybody else is creating on the Coyotes beat (it’s not even close) across more platforms. To work alongside old pal Steve Peters and new pal Leah Merrall. To boldly go where Coyotes coverage has never gone before with our live chats, our Discord channel, our video, audio and written content.

We know we have to grow more. We know that there are things that we need to do better. But PHNX is providing the space and the willingness to pursue all of that and more. I can’t wait to see what we’ll do in the next six months, year or two years. I’m having a lot of fun. I hope that you are, too.

Let’s get to your questions in the February edition of the PHNX Coyotes monthly mailbag.

Via Discord

I have not seen either in a long time but I do know that Alex Sr. hosted a party in Las Vegas after the All-Star Game. I do not think Alex Sr. wants to be in the media spotlight. I have stopped asking for interviews because I don’t think that it is going to happen. Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez is the spokesperson for ownership. That’s the way they want it.

I would never say never. ASU seems open to anything that helps the multi-purpose arena generate revenue and the Roadrunners could also use the Coyotes new arena if it gets approved and built. The San Jose Sharks have a similar set-up.

I have wondered if three hockey teams in the Valley would be too much hockey in the Valley. It might saturate the market and hurt all three teams. Somebody would have to conduct that market analysis to be certain. It is clear from Gutierrez’s comments in our recent, exclusive Q&A, that Gutierrez wants more from the city of Tucson, but I still think that market makes a lot of sense if the Coyotes want to grow the game throughout the state.

I won’t apologize for telling the truth. Just because I drank a better IPA doesn’t mean I like IPAs. I still prefer stouts or Hefeweizens or ales.

Luke, Jaime and I do stay in touch. Usually, it’s to poke fun at one another.

Ray Whitney for his playmaking ability and his quotes.

Yes. Matias Maccelli, Jan Jeník, Ben McCartney and Victor Söderström (when he gets healthy) could get looks. I’d also like to see Michael Carcone and Boko Imama rewarded when the rosters expand after the trade deadline.

I don’t know yet. I don’t think that he knows yet.

I honestly have no idea. They are usually tight-lipped abut those sorts of reveals. We’ll just have to wait and see.

To me, it’s all about the Tempe City Council’s assessment of the economic benefits, the perceived financial risk, airport and traffic impact and gambling impact. There is also a primary coming on March 8 and a general election on May 17 at which three city council seats are available.

I discussed it in my trade deadline piece which you can read right here.

I have no idea why the Team Canada page says that. He was born in Halkirk, Alberta.

If I could choose one it would be Christian Fischer. Mr. Personality.

Via Twitter

I wish I had thought of that. It would make for a good graphic.

Éclairs. Every time.

Kevin Bahl is only 21. Defensemen take longer to develop so the jury is still out on him.

Also, remember that the Devils got the Coyotes first-round pick in 2020. That turned into center Dawson Mercer, who was seventh among rookies in goals (11) and points (28) heading into Thursday’s games.

I understood at the time why they did it. They were in first place and GM John Chayka wanted to reward the team for its play. In hindsight, they didn’t have nearly enough strength up the middle to believe that they were going to make any kind of playoff run. And Hall was a square peg in a round hole on that team.

I checked in on him in a recent prospect report. Here is player development coach Alex Henry’s take. You can read more by following the link.

“Ilya has been in and out of the lineup a little bit, but more in lately, and playing more and more minutes and trying to stabilize his game at the KHL level,” Henry said. “He’s better than the U20 league, but he still has some things to learn as a pro at the KHL level.”

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I asked two agents about that but I plan to ask more. Here’s my current take. Top-tier or even mid-level free agents won’t sign here, but it’s more about concerns of franchise stability than the arena. That level of free agent is not a concern for the Coyotes anyway because they won’t be looking to sign that level of free agent for the next couple of seasons. They are in rebuild mode. Free agency is for filling in the cracks when you think you are close.

Lower-tier free agents are just looking for a job and can’t be so picky. The Coyotes should be able to sign those guys.

I get tips from players, coaches, executives, media members and friends. I actually have family, friends from school or old colleagues in most NHL cities, too, so it’s pretty easy to find dining and tourist recs.

No. The Western Hockey League playoffs begin on April 22. The Coyotes’ season ends on April 29. The Edmonton Oil Kings, Guenther’s team, are poised for a deep WHL playoff run.

No. The Sun Devils’ season ends on March 12 at home against Long Island University. Rules prohibit Doan from being loaned to a pro team. That is a violation of NCAA eligibility rules.

I discussed him in a recent prospect report. I would say another year of impressive stats is required, based on player development coach Alex Henry’s comments. You can read more by following the link.

“Consistency is the major thing now,” Henry said. “To earn a contract and position with the team, you have to be consistent and show some promise at the same time. We’ve seen the promise, but it would be great to see to make his case on a consistent basis.”

Liam Kirk’s rehab is progressing well. He’s back home in the UK right now but he will be back in Tucson in mid-March. He won’t even begin skating until the end of April so it’s doubtful he is going to see any game action this summer.

I hear they are relocating to Stockholm. Some team owner made an offhand comment one time about wanting an NHL team and now everybody assumes (without bothering to do the research and reporting) that Stockholm will be an easy fit (sarcasm font for that entire response).

I don’t want to lay it all on goaltending but that was a major issue and one that the Sun Devils will probably look to address this offseason. Cole Brady did not follow up the promising end to his 2020-21 season. He struggled, backup Ben Kraws was inconsistent and the Sun Devils came up a little short in their bid to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

I also think the Sun Devils can defend better. I charted seam passes (the so-called royal road passes across the slot that lead to Grade-A scoring chances) in two games and ASU gave up a lot of them. That’s putting your goaltender in a bad spot.

I will wait until we get closer to the end of the fiscal year and the expiration of some contracts (June 30) to ask those questions. As for Daccord, GM Bill Armstrong told me previously that Daccord was a unique opportunity, given his background and abilities. I don’t see them replicating that any time soon.

A really tough ticket to get? I don’t think there is any danger of that happening in the next two seasons. After that, we’ll see.

I won’t be able to answer that until after the March 21 NHL trade deadline, but I doubt many. The Coyotes want to take on more bad contracts for assets. I doubt they’ll be looking to re-sign veteran free agents.

Galchenyuk is an interesting one, though. He has a house here, he said during training camp that he wanted to be here, and he may not have many offers to stay in the NHL. He’ll come cheap and the Coyotes need bodies to fill out a roster that is looking pretty thin right now.

I posted this so that others will see it and respond, Sheryl. Good luck back in Pittsburgh.

The Coliseum is nothing more than a temporary solution and I was told that renovations there would cost at least $50 million. It cannot be a permanent home. It does not have luxury suites, club areas and so many other amenities that modern-day arenas need for revenue.

I’ll give you the same answer that I provided above to somebody from our Discord channel.

Yes. Matias Maccelli, Jan Jeník, Ben McCartney and Victor Söderström (when he gets healthy) could get looks. I’d also like to see Michael Carcone and Boko Imama rewarded when the rosters expand after the trade deadline.

I do wonder about the relationship and how much it has been impacting him. Jakob Chychrun was very open with the media in previous years. He has been somewhat closed off this season. I don’t think he’s happy with playing for a team that has no chance of winning. I don’t think he was happy with his role earlier this season. I’m sure he was frustrated earlier this season with his own play (he has been much better of late), and I’m sure the trade rumors are weighing on him. They have been constant for two months.

As for leverage, I don’t agree with you at all. The Coyotes do not have to trade him. He is under contract for three more years. They are not going to unload him for less than what they feel is market value, even if he is having a down year. GM Bill Armstrong holds all of the cards here. He will hold them until he feels there is an offer worthy of Chychrun’s value. If he doesn’t get that offer, he won’t trade him.

I don’t really think that Tendeck factors in their future. He’s been stuck in the ECHL almost all of his pro career. He does have another year left on his contract. Maybe they’ll find another opportunity for him. I suspect that he is frustrated with the current situation.

Yes and yes. Next year will look a lot like this year. Other teams’ bloated contracts, acquired assets and cheap free agents looking to extend or revive their NHL careers. Rebuilds are ugly, dirty and altogether unpleasant when executed correctly.

I haven’t delved into that yet but I’d be surprised to see Josef Kořenář return and I would not be surprised if they move on from Kyle Capobianco, although I’d be cautious with that one because he is still an RFA (arbitration rights) and has shown such offensive ability at the AHL level.

I have not requested further comment. I spoke to COG officials after the city decided to terminate the lease at the end of this year and I spoke to them again after the bill payment fiasco. To be honest, I don’t see any further need to solicit their opinion. They have made it clear how they feel about the Coyotes in my past stories and I don’t think that they have anything more to say on Tempe that is relevant.

I think it’s pretty clear, however, that Glendale is actively working to kill the potential deal with Tempe. If you want further proof of that, just read Glendale City councilmember Joyce Clark’s take.

I would say that Phil Kessel and Johan Larsson are the most likely Coyotes to be traded. I’m not going to construct a likelihood scale beyond that. If you want to read more about who I think could be moved, and who I think is staying, follow this link.

I would have said Chychrun before this season but given the tenor of this season and the way that he has reacted to this tough situation vs. how Keller has reacted to it, I’d now give the nod to Keller if choosing between the two of them.

That said, I could also see a guy like Lawson Crouse earning the C.

In hindsight, it was clear that they did not want Dzingel at all. I think that was a throw in to help the Coyotes unload a contract that they no longer wanted. The same may be true of goalie Carter Hutton, although I have been told that Hutton was a separate deal; unrelated to the Lyubushkin-Dzingel trade. It’s hard to figure out why Toronto would want Hutton in any capacity.

My guess is ASU. Construction timelines are difficult to peg and I think that is why the Coyotes added single-year options beyond the three years in the deal. That said, all of this is predicated on the Tempe City Council approving the arena deal. If it does not, I have no idea what the plan would be. Commissioner Gary Bettman made it crystal clear that the Coyotes need a path forward with a permanent arena in order to continue playing at ASU.

I was told that there is no limit. I was also told that the Coyotes had to check on that to be sure because they were the first team to acquire a 2025 draft pick.

By the way, if you think the Coyotes are taking Toronto’s 2023 third-round pick I have some Chernobyl real estate I’d like to sell you. They will be taking that 2025 second-round pick or using it as an asset to acquire a good player if the timing is right for them to make that move.

The condition on getting the third-round pick is that he doesn’t play in a game in 2022-23.

You do you. Maybe you can start a movement that captures international attention, thereby capturing Matthews’ attention.

Yep. I just spoke to player development coach Alex Henry about how Stempniak is assisting him in player development. I think he’s wearing a couple of hats.

I don’t think so. They still need center depth and they don’t want to give up on him yet, given his disjointed development path and all of the trials that he keeps powering through with a positive attitude and a tireless work ethic.

I don’t know about worse, but I do expect next season to look a lot like this season.

I don’t know. I have not heard of any Plan B. They are entirely focused on the Tempe proposal.

He said in training camp that this was the reason that he signed here. He also said that he turned down more money to do so.

Nothing beyond what I wrote in my trade deadline primer on Tuesday.

No, but I have not asked. I do wonder how they parse that with the fact that he wa snot competing against the best talent in the world.

On a related note, how cool was this scene?

It’s moments like that this remind you what the Olympics are all about.

Nothing concrete to report but I have heard that the Dallas Stars and the Coyotes are both pursuing it vigorously. To me, that matchup makes so much sense, especially now that they are in the same division and represent two of the NHLs’ four closest cities to Mexico.

Beyond that, if you stage a game in Mexico and you do not invite the team with the first majority Latino owner and the first Latino president/CEO, you’re out of your mind. The Coyotes are a no-brainer for such an event. It would also be a way of tossing them a bone without awarding them an All-Star Game or a Winter Classic, two high-profile events that might make league executives bristle if they were to be held in Arizona, given the current state of the franchise.

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I would be down for either of those locations, but I have not been to Switzerland and I would really like to see it.

Also, about 70 percent of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster landed in Belarus, heavily contaminating one-fourth of the country, one-fifth of its agricultural land and affecting at least 7 million people. So…

My wife got her PhD at ASU (political theory) and now teaches there. She had the opportunity to go to ASU, UCLA or Rutgers. We were tired of the cold after living in Chicago, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Boston and Connecticut, so it was down to L.A. and Phoenix. Phoenix had a much lower cost of living and I had family out here.

We always planned to leave Arizona after her degree, but her parents moved here, my parents moved here and my sister moved here. That’s when it started to feel like home. Then we had kids and it was home.

There are things that I miss about my previous stops: I love the city of Chicago and the lakefront (but not the suburbs, which I find dull). I love the greenery, the incredible fan support for all of the teams, Wrigley Field, Pequod’s Pizza and extended family.

I miss the summers on the lakes in Madison and I miss Owen Park. I miss the fall and the seafood in New England and I have a ton of friends there from school.

I just don’t miss the weather and that trumps more than I ever dreamed it would. I have lived for a long time in all three regions. The weather in New England and in the Midwest stinks most of the year. Summers are hot and humid. Springs are rainy and cold. Winters are brutally cold and then there are the swarms of mosquitoes that eat you alive for half of the year. I’m never going back, bud. Never.

Other than California, Arizona has the best climate in the country and its physical beauty (Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the White Mountains, Saguaro National Park, the Chiricahua Mountains, Monument Valley, etc.) is hard to match.

I’m not even going to tell you what that looks like to me.

As for Vrbata and Hanzal, they sent a joint, prepared statement: “No comment.”

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