The Phoenix Coyotes enter 2013-14 flying high, despite missing out on the postseason for the first time in a few years. Injuries and a lack of offense, as well as the gigantic ownership cloud hanging over their heads (to a certain degree) all weighed into their poor finish.
However, heading into the new season, they have stability in regard to their ownership, signed one of the top free agents on the market, in Mike Ribeiro, and managed to lock up their star goaltender Mike Smith, who was an unrestricted free agent, on a new long term contract.
The question is what we should expect from Smith heading into the new year. His second year in Phoenix wasn’t quite as good as the first. In his first year with the club, he was snubbed as a Vezina Trophy finalist, having turned in an excellent year. Of course, a career backup coming off of a fantastic year is expected to regress.
However, Mike Smith didn’t regress quite as far as many of us had expected him to. Many of the issues that he did have as the shortened season wore on were due more to his health than anything. Heading into his third season as the starter, he still has plenty of doubters, though.
In his first two years, Smith was obviously playing with something to prove, for an organization always carrying a chip on their shoulder. Even with stable ownership, that chip is still there for the club as a whole. Will Smith still play like he has something to prove?
The guess here is yes. Not only that, Smith plays in a system that benefits goaltenders as well as just about any team in the league. There’s no reason to think that he’ll take any sort of step back. He should come out and continue to be an upper tier goaltender, even if he finally does have a long term home for the first time in his career.