Playoffs? Are we talking about playoffs? For the Coyotes, they are currently in third in the pacific, so I was naturally curious about how their season has gone so far.
Copper and Blue: This season, one of the players who has surprised me the most Martin Hanzal and the fifteen points he has put up in only thirteen games. What has been the key for him and his early season point scoring?
Five for Howling: I don't think it can be understated how important it was for Hanzal to get shut down last season for back surgery. Hanzal has always been a very underrated second line center, but he has never played all 82 games in a season, and has not played more than 65 games in a season since 2009-10.
Equally important for Hanzal has been the production of his line-mates. Last season, he spent most of his time with Martin Erat and Sam Gagner, who combined for eight 5v5 goals in that stretch. This season, he's spent most of his time with Tobias Rieder and Anthony Duclair have five in about a third as many minutes. His line-mates are scoring, so he's getting more assists.
C&B: Going into the start of this season, the Coyotes were considered to be the front runner for the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. Currently, the Coyotes are sitting 3rd in the pacific and are in a playoff position. Do you see this continuing on all season, or should we expect to see the team falter and be back in the Matthews race?
FFH: A week ago I would have said the Coyotes will almost certainly fall back, as Mike Smith was pulled twice in three games and really struggled. Two wins over Anaheim and Los Angeles later, and Smith and Anders Lindback played much better.
Honestly I think Arizona's playoff chances have been bolstered by Anaheim's horrible start and San Jose's struggles. Given I think only three teams get out of the Pacific, just one of those teams has to get their act together to push Arizona out of the playoffs and into the Matthews Sweepstakes.
And let's be honest: how much do you think Gary Bettman would love to see an Arizonan drafted by the Coyotes at 1st Overall?
C&B: "Former" Edmonton Oiler Tobias Reider is having himself a strong start to the season scoring eight points in fifteen games. Where does he fit in on the Coyotes moving forward, and what kind of a role is he playing for the team?
FFH: Rieder got a mid-season call-up last season, and stuck with the parent club. He's building on a 13 goal, 8 assist campaign last season with five goals and three assists this season. More importantly, he gives the Coyotes much needed depth on the right wing, while players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair play on the left. He's really become a top-six forward in a short amount of time.
But Edmonton pried Kale Kessy away from Arizona, so I'm sure it was worth it.