2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Phoenix Coyotes

Shane Doan is an absolute bulldozer – at least when he’s plowing into the numbers of a guy without the puck.

How does the team he captains compare to Edmonton?

Again, I’ve included one basic statistic at each position on the depth charts below. For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2012-13, and for goalies their 2012-13 save percentage. Players in italics did not play a significant number of games in the NHL in 2012-13; red indicates numbers come from the AHL or Europe while green indicates a previous NHL season. And again, the same caveat: these depth charts are my best approximation of each team and the line combinations should not be seen as definitive

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



There are a lot of things to like in this Phoenix group, but scoring isn’t one of them.

The top line simply doesn’t compare to Edmonton’s. A 33 year-old Mike Ribeiro injects some desperately needed offence into the system, but comes with warts attached. Shane Doan is a complete player but he turns 37 in October and is in slowing down offensively – his point totals in 2011-12 were his worst in a decade, and he managed to undercut them in 2013 (there’s a case to be made that Doan and Vrbata should switch roles on this depth chart – they were neck and neck in ice-time last season – but given the centres they’re playing with I’ve left Doan at the top of the list as better complement to Ribeiro). Mikkel Boedker is a fantastic young player who looked like he had a breakout season last year, but he also isn’t in the same class as Taylor Hall.

While Phoenix has lacked top end power for ages, they’ve also boasted three good lines for a long time and the 2013-14 group is no exception. Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette are an excellent two/three combination; they’re both 200-foot players with some offensive punch and Hanzal finally got a chance to show what he could do in an offensive role last season. On right wing, Radim Vrbata brings scoring punch and David Moss is another superb two-way guy. Left wing is a little dicey, but Lauri Korpikoski combined for 77 points in the two seasons preceding 2013 and seems a good bet to bounce back. Rob Klinkhammer came out of nowhere and provided an excellent third-line performance; if he can keep it up the Coyotes are in good shape, but that isn’t a sure thing. Overall, the Coyotes’ middle six and the Oilers’ middle six look pretty close to me, with Phoenix stronger up the middle but the Oilers (thanks to the addition of David Perron) in better shape on the wings.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

There isn’t much to choose from on the fourth line – Chipchura seems a better bet for 2013-14 than Lander, but Smyth/Joenssu/Brown looks better to me than Yip/Kennedy/ Bissonnette.

The wild card here is a player like Max Domi, who I haven’t listed based on my assumption that he’ll be returning to junior. Phoenix has been remarkably willing to fast-track high picks in the past, and if Domi can step into the top-nine and contribute right away that eases some of the question marks. To me, it’s not reasonable to bet on a 12th overall pick contributing right out of the draft, but stranger things have happened. If Domi makes the cut, he could push a guy like Antoine Vermette to left wing or move from centre to left wing himself.

Defence and Goaltending

Here’s where the Coyotes start making up the difference. Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be the number one defenceman on the Oilers’ roster without any trouble. I’m not as wild about Keith Yandle as many are – I don’t think he’d fare nearly as well playing outside Ekman-Larsson’s shadow – but he’s an awfully nice option to have on the second pairing.

Phoenix has Edmonton beat at the top end, and they’re in good shape depth-wise, too. If Mike Smith rebounds from an off-year, they’ll also have better goaltending than Edmonton. The Coyotes aren’t built to blow the doors off; they’re built to keep the other team from scoring and eke out just enough offence to beat their opposition.


Phoenix is a tough team to measure. They’ve got a solid group of NHL forwards, an excellent defence and a goaltender who at times has looked unbeatable. A lot depends on two things, though – the speed of Shane Doan’s decline and the four-year, $22 million bet the Coyotes made on Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro’s ability to be the go-to offensive centre may decide whether or not Phoenix makes the playoffs.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

They certainly won’t make it easy, but this is a catchable team if the Oilers have a strong season.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Flames Nation, Rex Libris looks at some examples of NHL rebuilds and – unsurprisingly – projects things to get worse in Calgary before they get better:

Of the teams mentioned above, every one of them drafted within the top five at least twice during their rebuilding period. While the Flames have never drafted higher than 6th overall, there is a chance they could find their way into the top five sometime over the next few seasons, and arguably they will need to at least two top-5 picks to finally acquire the elite level talent which they currently lack.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

  • DSF

    A prospect you neglected to mention who may have a chance to crack their lineup is Henrik Samuelsson.

    He has the size 6′ 3″ 210 to play in the NHL and would provide them with another option at C.

      • DSF

        I don’t disagree but it’s interesting that, last season, without Ribiero in the lineup they scored exactly the same number of GF as the high flying Oilers.

        The incremental benefit they get from Ribiero should be at least as large as the incremental benefit the Oilers get from Perron.

        With new ownership now in place, you have to wonder if they will give Maloney the green light to add some goal scoring before the season starts since they have the cap space.

        (Samuelson did score 33 goals and 80 points last season in the WHL so there appears to be some offense there).

        • DSF

          The reason that the Oil forwards will score more goals this year is that they will be a year older. The reason the Coyotes forwards will score less is that they will be a year OLDER.

  • Klima's Mullet

    I think the Coyotes will have a tough time in the division…any injuries on the back end and it could be a long season in the desert. No doubt their coach does more with less than anyone outside of Nashville but I don’t see enough goals in the line-up. Ekman-Larsson is a rose among a lot of thorns in that line-up.

    • DSF

      They actually have fantastic depth on D.










      And Brandon Gormley is warming up in the bullpen. And Keith Yandle actually led the team in scoring last season with 10 goals and 30 points.

      • Klima's Mullet

        I agree with you that they have some good d-men…i guess my point is that if they get a few injuries the forwards would have a tough time picking up the slack. OEL is the straw that stirs the drink. The Oil will struggle mightily if they have any injuries at C or LW.

      • OilClog

        OEL – No one on Edmonton yet

        Michalek – Petry

        Yandle – Jultz

        Klesla – Smid

        Morris – Ferrence

        Schlemko – Nultz

        Stone – Belov

        Summers – Grebs

        Rundblad – Larsen/Potter/Klef/Maricin/Nurse

        I mean what are we trying to say here, Phoenix has 1 check mark on the Oilers? By the end of the season, the potential on the Oilers squad could make Phoenix look like a lost puppy, on an island, screaming “Minnesota! Minnesota!”

        Smith – Dubnyk .. Don’t tell me Smith is better then the system makes him out to be.

        With the right Coaching system in place, Edmonton is a better team, hopefully Eakins is the man.

        • DSF

          It appears you have no idea how defensive pairings work.

          OEL >>>>Petry

          Michalek >>>>Smid

          Yandle >>>>Junior

          Klelsa >>>>Senior

          Morris = Ference

          Schlemko >>>>Belov

          Stone >>>>Lartsen/Potter

          Rundblad has played in the NHL while none of Klefbom, Marincin or Nurse has ever played a lick.

          That’s 7 check marks for the Coyotes.

  • YFC Prez

    I almost forgot how brutally inconsistent the officiating was last year. That clip of the Doan hit on Horcoff from behind without the puck just brought my off season dormant ref hate back to life.

    I just hope they are better this year. Shortened season and all I don’t think the refs ever found their game. Last season was the worse they have ever been all across the league.

    I hate it when the game becomes about the refs. They shouldn’t be a factor.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I guess I didn’t expect an immediate physical response from an Oiler after Doan’s blindside. It would have been nice to see someone take exception. At least someone should have given him a stern talking to. The oil are the only team in hockey history that lets this slide unchallenged; part of the reason the oil have been the worst for the last 5 years.

  • John Chambers

    The Coyotes have three defensemen that are better than any of the Oilers’. Yandle gets his share of criticism, but he is one of the top offensive blueliners in the league.

    I’m wondering – how does Rob Klinkhammer project to score 41 pts?

  • I’m not as wild about Keith Yandle as many are – I don’t think he’d fare nearly as well playing outside Ekman-Larsson’s shadow

    I’m not that wild about Yandle either, but I don’t think the “OEL shadow” argument is fair considering how productive he was before the OEL era started in PHX.

  • Rocket

    Ignoring the stats (I know I shouldn’t), It seems to me like Phoenix has been similar to Minnesota in that they have been trouble for The Oilers.

    Phoenix especially seems to always have a good game plan in how to play against & shut down The Oilers. Looking at Phoenix’s line up this year has me optimistic The Oilers will finally beat The Coyotes consistently.

    Good write up as always JW. I’ll definitely be rereading these articles just before the season starts.

  • John Chambers

    Two of the three major errors of the Tambellini era live in the current Coyotes lineup:

    1) in spring, 2012, the Yotes acquired Antoine Vermette from CBJ for what I believe was a 3rd round pick. At the time the Oilers’ forward corps was struggling with injuries with baby Nuge just having returned from his bum shoulder. Imagine re-living the ’13 season with Vermette instead of Belanger.

    2) at the draft just a few months later Don Maloney acquires Z Michalek and the two years remaining on his contract for a 2nd rounder in 2013. Michalek is an older, better Ladi Smid and would’ve either pushed Whitney out of the lineup sooner or saved us from having to spend a 3rd on a still unemployed Marc Fistric.

    The last major error was. Not claiming the highly-touted Michael Grabner off waivers, thereby keeping Paajarvi on the farm where he belonged in ’10-’11. If that would’ve happened we almost certainly would’ve traded Hemsky near the deadline in 2011.

    Many things are hindsight, but these appear to be three deals that could’ve and should’ve been done.

  • OilClog

    I’m sorry, but a few of you are IMO out to lunch, then some..

    Riberio.. Does not = Perron. What each will bring will not equal itself out, Perron is the better player.

    Phoenix does not have 3 better D then any of the Oilers, don’t buy it for a second. OEL is an outstanding talent, but after him, it’s a toss up between anyone else you can mention between the two teams. It’s the Coaching system that is blurring the perception of who is the better player in this case.

    Mike Smith is benefiting from where he is playing, he is not a better goalie then Dubnyk. It’s the damn Tippet system, remove Tippet from the Coyotes, you have a team that is on par with Calgary. A team the Oilers have to beat from here on out.

    They’re not a better team, their defense isn’t Miles ahead of ours, our Offense makes theirs look silly.

    Good Grief.

  • DSF

    According to DSF everyone on the Oilers holds no candle to the Coyotes? If hes not bashing the Oilers or cheering hard for other teams then where does his loyalty lie? Clearly not an Oiler fan posting on an Oilers site. Getting annoying, the Coyotes attack is bare nowadays, too many old forwards and clearly a dirty captain. DSF has me wondering now if hes actually Glenn Healy.