Phoenix Coyotes preview

It’s usually not a good thing when a head coach is more well-known than any player.

But that’s the situation that faces the Phoenix Coyotes. Everyone knows about the head coach, Wayne Gretzky. But only a couple of players are well-known to the casual NHL fan, but that is soon going to change.

While they don’t have that top superstar player, they have a couple of young players that have the talent to become top NHL players.

Forwards: Olli Jokinen brings a dynamic to Phoenix that they haven’t had for a while. Despite not having a lot of help in Florida, Jokinen still scored at least 34 goals in four of the last five seasons, and his 71 points last year was his worst in three years. With a better supporting cast in Phoenix, Jokinen should be able to get 90 points or more.

Shane Doan has a lot of history with this team. He has been there since the team was known as the Winnipeg Jets. Despite being the focus of the other team’s defences, Doan has scored at least 20 goals in the last eight seasons, and had a career-high 78 last year.

Daniel Carcillo is a player who’s stock is on the rise. Last year, he had 13 goals and 24 points in 57 games as a rookie. But what was more impressive was his 324 penalty minutes, easily the league leader by 98 minutes, despite not playing in 25 games. He was also seventh in total fights last season, which makes it strange that the Coyotes traded for Brian McGrattan, a player who can’t do anything but fight.

Defence: Ed Jovanovski had a career year in points with 51, and tied his second best year in goals with 12. He makes more money than anyone else on the team, so he’s expected to put up good numbers. Look for him to continue to get lots of ice time.

Derek Morris is the other recognizable name of the Coyotes defensive core. He was second on the team last year with a plus 8, and will be looked upon to continue to shut down the opposition.

Goaltending: The team’s outlook changed last season, when they picked Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers. Bryzgalov has wanted to be a number one goalie for years, but was never going to get the opportunity in Anaheim. He immediately showed why he wanted to be the top dog, shining in the desert. He had the top save percentage last year of goalies who had played at least 60 games, and in doing so, gave the Coyotes creditability and the chance to win games every night he played.

Pool picks: Peter Mueller is a good dark horse pick. He scored 22 goals and 54 points on a team that was in the bottom 10 in the league for goals. With Olli Jokinen now in Phoenix, Mueller’s numbers should go up as teams focus on Jokinen. Stay away from: Ed Jovanovski. He had a career high 51 points after three subpar years. Last year won’t be repeated.

Miscellaneous: With all their tough players, teams will have to make sure they dress a fighter whenever the Coyotes come to town. Phoenix isn’t scared to drop the gloves, and will do what it takes to win games.

Expected finish: Fourth in the Pacific division, ninth in the Western conference.

Overall: The Coyotes play in the toughest division in the league, with Anaheim, San Jose and Dallas in the division. This will cost the Coyotes a few points during the course of the year, which will cost them a playoff spot this season. However, the future is looking brighter for the Coyotes than it has for years.

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