|Phoenix Coyotes' captain Shane Doan has been
very outspoken over the lack of leadership and
scoring production from the team's veterans.
After losing 46 games a year ago, the Phoenix Coyotes
are not expected to contend in the Pacific Division this season. Still, the first seven games of the year have been a disappointment, even for a team managing its expectations.
After starting the season with a 2-5-0 record, coach Wayne Gretzky’s team has just four points and finds itself mired in the Pacific Division basement.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan told the Arizona Republic that it’s not the young players who are holding the Coyotes back. Instead, it is the team’s veterans that need to step up.
“Our young guys are playing great, doing everything you could ask from them and then some,” Doan said. “It’s the older guys in the dressing room.”
Doan, 31, includes himself among the underachieving veterans. He has not scored a goal in seven games so far this season. Steven Reinprecht, also 31, has been slow out of the gate, too, with just one goal in seven games. No Coyote has more than four points, and the team’s leading goal-scorer is 24-year-old winger Fredrik Sjostrom, who has three.
Consequently, the Coyotes are scoring just 2.29 goals per game, 24th in the League. It’s the same old story for the Coyotes, who scored just 2.57 goals per game a year ago to finished 24th in the NHL.
The Coyotes also rank 24th in the League in goals allowed thus far in 2007-08, giving up 3.29 per game.
As expected, the Coyotes’ goaltending has been uncertain at best. Gretzky has employed three goaltenders this season, and only David Aebischer (.909) has a save percentage above .900. Alex Auld is 1-2 with a .890 save percentage, while Mikael Tellqvist is 1-2 with a .889 save percentage.
Gretzky, however, said goaltending has not been the Coyotes’ primary issue.
“Goaltending is not the problem,” he said, believing his goalies have been better than their stats would indicate. Special teams have been part of the problem. Phoenix has converted on just 11.8 percent of its power-play chances, while killing off penalties at a 77.8-percent clip (23rd in the League).
Road woes for Ducks -- Throw out Anaheim’s 4-1 win over the Kings in London — a game in which the Ducks were considered the home team — and the defending Stanley Cup champs become a team that has not yet won a road game this season. Anaheim is 0-4-1 thus far in official road contests.
The Ducks’ next opportunity to walk away from an opposing rink with two points comes Tuesday in St. Louis. At 4-5-1 overall, the Ducks have looked like a shadow of the team that went 16-5 during last spring’s playoffs to win the Stanley Cup.
Anaheim is scoring just 2.30 times per game, 24th in the League. A year ago, the Ducks scored 3.10 times per game (ninth in the League).
Still, things are not so bleak in Anaheim, as the Ducks are just one point behind the division leading Stars. With Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer waiting in the wings, all the Ducks need to do, it seems, is stay close.
Planning for the future -- The Kings recently sent 19-year-old goaltender Jonathan Bernier back to his junior team in Lewiston (Maine). Whether it was because Bernier is not yet ready for the Kings, or because the Kings are not yet ready for Bernier, is irrelevant. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi does not want to expose his young goaltending prodigy to too much too soon. Erring on the side of caution with a bright young talent makes a lot of sense, especially if you’ve followed the saga of teenage golfer Michelle Wie.
Who’s hot -- Mike Cammalleri of the Kings leads the NHL with eight goals. Teammate Anze Kopitar has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last two games. Los Angeles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has three assists in his last two games. … Anaheim’s Chris Pronger has four points (one goal, three assists) in the Ducks’ last three games. Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is 2-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average in his last three appearances. ... Dallas goalie Marty Turco is 3-0-1, with a 1.48 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in his last four outings.
Not hot -- Mattias Norstrom of Dallas is scoreless in eight games. ... Coyote defenseman Keith Ballard is scoreless in six games while posting a minus-5 rating. ... Rob Blake of the Kings is scoreless in four games.
Worth noting -- After six games, 37-year-old Jeremy Roenick has three goals, which puts him on pace for 40 in his first season in San Jose. OK, so Roenick likely won’t record the fifth 40-goal season of his career this year. But with 498 career goals, Roenick’s entrance into the 500-goal club is imminent. Roenick attributes his quick start to the fact that his passion for the game has not waned.
The week ahead -- For off-the-ice intrigue, no game tops Sunday’s match up between the Oilers and Ducks in Anaheim. The game marks the first meeting between the two teams since the feud between their respective general managers — Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke — erupted last summer. The two have not spoken since Lowe signed Dustin Penner to an offer sheet that Burke believed to be over-inflated. This, after Lowe helped deliver the Stanley Cup to Anaheim by sending Burke defenseman Chris Pronger a year earlier.
The Stars will have plenty of time to savor Saturday’s 3-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks: Dallas does not return to action until Thursday, when they play the Kings in Los Angeles. Following Thursday’s game, the Stars next action is Oct. 27, meaning they will have played two games in nine days.