The last time the Phoenix Coyotes made the playoffs was 2011-12. It seems like a long time ago for an organization that has been through a great deal in the past calendar year. The prime reason they were able to reach the postseason that year was one of the main factors in preventing them from reaching the playoffs in 2013.
That primary reason was Mike Smith. A career backup prior to coming to the desert, Smith has enjoyed success in each of his first two years in Phoenix. His first year saw him rise to the ranks of the league’s elite, as he was snubbed of a Vezina Trophy nomination. Last year came the regression that everyone had expected, but not quite to the degree that was predicted.
His two seasons in Phoenix were enough to sign him to a new six-year contract and make him one of the league’s highest paid goaltenders. One of the things the Coyotes needed coming back into the season was for Smith to get back to that elite level, something not out of the realm of possibility given the system in which he plays and the full summer to get healthy.
Early on this season, we haven’t quite seen Smith back at that level. While he and the Coyotes have looked very good at times, we haven’t seen him piece together consistency to this point in the early-going of the 2013-14 season. He has a 3.07 goals against average and .907 save percentage, and was pulled from his most recent outing after allowing four goals in the first period.
If the Coyotes are going to get back into the postseason, and make some noise once they’re there, it’ll be heavily on the shoulders of Smith. The offense will have to step up as well, of course, but the reason the Coyotes had so much success back in 2011-12 was primarily due to the play of Smith.
It’s a long season, obviously, so there’s still a long way to go for Smith to get his game on track. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that he’s not only playing for a playoff spot for the Coyotes. He may have a crack at Team Canada’s goaltender spot when the Olympics roll around next February.
If Mike Smith can return to playing at an elite level then Phoenix will be one be one of most challenging teams in the West. Don’t miss any of the action all season long and grab your Coyotes tickets now.