Q: How much of an impact has the new ownership had on the team, both on the ice and off?
While the impact of having new owners is still in its infancy stage, the changes already implemented have been positives. While there may not be a car for Coyotes fans to hit with a sledgehammer before certain games, weekend tailgating may be the biggest addition thus far.
The passion of IceArizona has put the players and fans at ease after a half-decade of worry. Principal owner George Gosbee can be seen in the locker room after every game. Speaking of tailgating, Gosbee tailgates in the parking lot as well grilling up “GozDogs” with the fans.
On the ice, the Coyotes were able to re-sign goaltender Mike Smith to a long-term deal (as well as their general manager and head coach) and brought in the top scoring fee agent on the market in Mike Ribeiro. Further on-ice impact will come in time, but IceArizona is off to a good start, as is the team.
Q: What’s gotten into Radim Vrbata? He’s always been a decent scorer, but he’s leading the way for you guys this season. Is he just riding a hot streak, playing with better linemates, what’s the deal?
Vrbata has been sneaky good the last three seasons. After a 35-goal season in 2011-2012 and 12 goals in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Vrbata entered this season with the ninth most goals per game over the previous two seasons. More goals per game than Ilya Kovalchuk, Corey Perry, etc.
Vrbata has been tied to fellow Czech Martin Hanzal in the Coyotes’ top-six for a few years now. His left wing has changed quite frequently after two successful seasons with Ray Whitney. The LW on his line is still a work in progress as the Yotes have tried Lauri Korpkoski, Rob Klinkhammer and even prized free agent center Mike Ribeiro there.
The 32-year-old is in a contract year and is showing no signs of slowing down. He is on pace to eclipse the 30-goal mark once again with a current shooting percentage (9.6 percent) right at his career average (9.5 percent).
Q: Some people talk about Oliver Ekman-Larsson as a dark-horse Norris Trophy candidate. For Preds fans who aren’t too familiar with him, give us a bit of insight as to his style of play, and how he contributes to the Coyotes lineup.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a bona fide star at the young age of 22. He has played every single game since his sophomore season and flashes high-end talent in the offensive and defensive zones. He plays in all situations: PP, PK, up a goal late and down a goal late and more often than not, leads the team in TOI. He is the Shea Weber of the Coyotes.
OEL faced the toughest competition of any player in the NHL last season (Corsi Rel QoC of 2.761) and still managed to score 24 points in 48 games. This season, he is on pace to set career-highs in every major category. He has 10 points (six on the power play) through 13 games.
Also, since it’s Halloween, I’ll leave this here.
Thanks to Jaime for his answers, and make sure to head over to Five For Howling before, during, and after tonight’s game. We’ll see you in the Game Thread at 9:00 p.m. sharp!
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