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30 in 30

With Whitney gone, Coyotes turn to Sullivan

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Mike Smith arrived in Phoenix last summer with a modest contract but a hefty task – replace a guy who just signed a $51 million contract. Smith proved up to the task, and in turn the Coyotes didn't miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

A year later, another of the Coyotes' stars is gone -- and another guy on a low-risk deal has arrived to help replace him.

Ray Whitney was spectacular for Phoenix last season, posting 24 goals and a team-high 77 points. He signed a two-year contract with Dallas, where he will join forces with Jaromir Jagr and try to help the Stars back into the playoffs.

To keep the Coyotes in the NHL's postseason party, Phoenix has to replace to Whitney's offense (not to mention possibly Shane Doan's as well because he remains unsigned). General manager Don Maloney signed Steve Sullivan to a one-year, $1.85 million pact, and Sullivan could fit in Whitney’s place in the lineup.

"He's a very similar player to Ray Whitney," Maloney told Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic. "A little smaller player, but very good skill, good power-play skill. So when we lost Ray, there were only a couple names we really could fill a skill position [with], and he was one of them."

Coyotes' lineup will use scoring-by-committee

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

After the best season in franchise history, the Phoenix Coyotes lost their top offensive player this summer and might not have their captain and third-leading scorer back.

General manager Don Maloney added Steve Sullivan and David Moss in free agency, and both could end up in top-six roles with Ray Whitney in Dallas and Shane Doan still unsigned. Maloney's best offseason acquisition could end up being Zbynek Michalek. While the GM has had to wait on a decision from Doan, he was able to take advantage of Pittsburgh's desire to clear salary cap space with Michalek and the Penguins' decision to wait on the premium free agents to nab Sullivan.

Nick Johnson and Chris Conner have also spent time in the past with the Penguins, though they came directly from Minnesota and Detroit, respectively, and both could earn full-time roles with the Coyotes. Regardless of Doan's destination, the Coyotes are likely to be a scoring-by-committee crew, though the young, offensive-minded defense corps will likely lessen the goal-scoring burden a bit for the forwards.

Coyotes hope prospect Gormley can make an impact

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Phoenix Coyotes have picked in the top five of the NHL Draft twice in the past nine years, but Blake Wheeler and Kyle Turris aren't at the top of any fan favorite lists in the desert -- both orchestrated an exit from the franchise's control.

Missing on two premium picks like that can devastate an organization, but the Coyotes have reached the playoffs for three straight seasons and still boast an interesting collection of prospects. Young, homegrown players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle, Martin Hanzal and, going way back in the draft, Shane Doan, have been part of the core group while general manager Don Maloney has filled in the parts around them.

Here's a look at the top prospects in the Phoenix organization:

Note: NHL.com's cutoff for prospect status is 20 League games, so that is why David Rundblad is not on this list (he'd be No. 2).

1. Brandon Gormley, D: Gormley was the 13th pick in the 2010 draft, and while he's retained his elite prospect status, his two seasons since being selected have been stunted by injuries. He missed time in 2010-11 with a knee injury and a chunk of last season because of a foot problem.

Offense remains a huge question mark for Coyotes

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

It probably wouldn't feel like a normal offseason for Phoenix coach Dave Tippett if his Coyotes didn't have plenty of questions to answer for the forthcoming campaign.

Since taking over in 2009, Tippett has kept the Coyotes focused despite distractions away from the ice with the ownership situation and on it with key defections, leading them to three consecutive playoff appearances. He lost his No. 1 goaltender last summer -- the Coyotes dealt impending free agent Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia, where he signed a nine-year, $51 million contract -- and they responded with the franchise's first division title and first trip to the conference finals.

The White Out was back in in the desert and Jobing.com Arena was rocking until Phoenix ran into the eventual champs after dispatching Chicago and Nashville in the first two rounds. Their $4 million goalie is back for the second year of his deal, but Mike Smith replicating his breakout campaign and where the offense will come from is among the top questions for the Coyotes as 2012-13 approaches.

1. Who is going to score?

Ray Whitney is gone to Dallas and captain Shane Doan remains unsigned -- meaning a below-average offense may have to replace 46 goals and 127 points.

After successful season, Coyotes face uncertainty

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

At this time a year ago, the Phoenix Coyotes were preparing for a season after making the Stanley Cup Playoffs but losing arguably their most valuable player. But instead of taking a step back without goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, all the Coyotes did was produce the most successful season in franchise history.

Despite sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference after the games played on March 29, the Coyotes rattled off five straight victories to close the regular season and capture the first division title in the franchise’s 32-year NHL history.

The winning didn’t stop there. The Coyotes won a playoff series for the first time since moving to the desert in 1996 and doubled the organization’s playoff series win total before losing to the eventual champs, the Los Angeles Kings, in the Western Conference Finals.

Despite their unprecedented success, it has been another unsettled offseason for the Coyotes.

High expectations raise pressure for Blackhawks

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks' experiences with the Stanley Cup -- Patrick Kane stuck on a ladder in Buffalo, Jonathan Toews having a Manitoba lake named after him, Duncan Keith and the trophy in front of the picturesque backdrop of Penticton, B.C. -- seem like distant memories.

It's been two straight seasons of losing in the first round, of failing to live up to expectations, of overtime heartache since Kane knew before the rest of the world that the puck went in and the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions. And yet here they are again ready to enter a season with high expectations and Cup aspirations -- only now the pressure to win may be at a heightened level because of the recent disappointments.

"We know expectations to win are high and getting back to being a champion is the ultimate goal," coach Joel Quenneville told NHL.com. "We're all looking forward to winning and we all know the ramifications if we don't. We welcome that challenge and let's go."

Quenneville doesn't have to state the ramifications because they are obvious: Success means status quo, maybe even more Cup days like the ones they had in the summer of 2010; failure means change is likely coming.

Hawks' questions center around goalie, special teams

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks put up 101 points last season, good enough to be one of just 10 teams in the NHL to crack the century mark. It didn't matter because, for the second straight season since winning the Stanley Cup, they were knocked off in the first round of the playoffs.

"It is heartbreaking every time you lose the last game of the year and you're shaking hands with the team that is going to keep playing when you're going home," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told CSN Chicago.

The good thing for the Blackhawks is unlike in 2010-11, the season after a summer of being crushed by salary-cap constraints, they feel they know exactly what went wrong last season.

Chicago will head into training camp for the 2012-13 season with an eye on fixing those problems -- the bulk of which are outlined among the following six questions that must be answered for the Blackhawks to be a Stanley Cup contender in 2012-13:

1. Will the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery be good enough?

Crawford won 30 games last season, but it was a struggle as he allowed three or more goals in 27 of his 57 appearances in the regular season and in five of his six appearances in the playoffs. Instead of building on a strong finish to the 2010-11 season, he went backward with a 2.72 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and zero shutouts in 57 appearances.

Blackhawks need Crawford to step up in goal

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks inquired about signing Martin Brodeur before he eventually re-upped with New Jersey. Roberto Luongo has talked glowingly about the potential of playing for the Blackhawks, and it's technically still feasible that it could happen.

Corey Crawford
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 30-17-7
GAA: 2.72 | SVP: 0.903
So what is Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford to think about all that after a season of not living up to expectations?

According to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, he shouldn't be paying attention of any of it.

"I saw [Crawford] at least a couple to three times already this summer and his attitude has been great," Quenneville told NHL.com. "I like his approach and we expect him to bounce back. He's welcoming the challenge."

Even with Luongo's situation still yet to be resolved, all indications as of now are that the Blackhawks will give Crawford the chance to bounce back and become, as Quenneville referred to him, "the top guy we think he can be."

Few changes to Blackhawks' deep, talented lineup

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Much like the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks have found out that turning a Stanley Cup title into multiple championships isn't easy in the current NHL era, even if a team is blessed with a young core of elite players.

The Blackhawks looked like potential Cup winners at times during the 2011-12 season, but a concussion for captain Jonathan Toews late in the season and some suspect goaltending didn't help as Chicago was bounced in the first round for the second straight campaign.

There wasn't a lot of activity from general manager Stan Bowman, but there wasn't a lot of need for it, either. Chicago is still loaded, and there are several kids who could bolster the team's depth up front and help the Blackhawks back into Cup contention.

Blackhawks hope prospect Saad can make jump

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Brandon Saad's draft year did not go as expected with injuries and a slumping team. The prospect from Pittsburgh, highly-touted going into the 2010-11 Ontario Hockey League season, fell out of the first round, all the way down to the No. 43 pick.

The Chicago Blackhawks now consider themselves lucky to be the team that nabbed him two summers ago because Saad, who blossomed last season with 76 points in 44 games, projects to be a player for them this season.

"You've gotta earn that, but he's bigger, he's stronger, he's faster," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told NHL.com. "He's a good hockey player. The puck just follows him around. He's the key (to our prospects)."

Saad headlines a forward-heavy yet potential-laden group of prospects currently being groomed by the Blackhawks. He may be the gem of the group right now, but the Blackhawks believe they have filled their pool of prospects with an array of talent that includes guys with high levels of skill, high levels of grit, and high levels of coach-ability.

With the help of Mark Kelley, Chicago's Director of Amateur Scouting, here is NHL.com's list of the Hawks' top 10 prospects.

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