Despite the fact that they were probably going to head into the season with one of the deeper blue lines in the league, the Phoenix Coyotes went ahead and decided to pull the trigger on a trade to re-acquire defenseman Zbynek Michalek prior to the beginning of the lockout.
Michalek had played five seasons with the Coyotes before he left in free agency to sign a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins then shipped him back on draft night, in the hopes that freeing up the extra cap space would help them bring the likes of Zach Parise to Pittsburgh. That didn’t happen.
But the Coyotes still managed to luck out in bringing Michalek back into the fold. He’s performed well in his role, and has formed a terrific pairing as the No. 2 unit on the Phoenix blue line.
Michalek has spent the season playing next to up-and-coming star Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The latter has brought the offense touch to the pairing, while Michalek has brought the grittiness to one of the more underrated pairings in the league. While Michalek’s offensive numbers aren’t impressive, what he brings in his own zone certainly has been.
His play in his own zone has been solid overall, and he’s blocked 41 shots in just 15 games. Seriously, the dude blocks everything he can. On a Coyotes team that has been somewhat disappointing early on in the season, Michalek has been a steady presence for this team.
It wouldn’t be a stretch at all to say that Michalek and Ekman-Larsson form one of the better defensive pairings in the league. At 30-years old, Michalek is the old man of the two, but playing next to a budding superstar in Ekman-Larsson, this is a pair of guys that are going to make some noise this season, and potentially beyond.