NHL Rumors: Phoenix Coyotes Need To Find Their Missing Puzzle Piece

Derek PivkoCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 20:  Ed Jovanovski #55 of the Phoenix Coyotes waits for a face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 20, 2010 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Phoenix Coyotes eliminated their reputation of being the basement dwellers of the Pacific Division last season. With teams like the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in the same division as the Coyotes, it was hard for the Coyotes to get a break.

For season after season, the Coyotes were cemented to the bottom of the division without getting better. However, being in last place can have its advantages. The Coyotes always had high draft picks. The problem with high draft picks is that you expect them to contribute right away, which happened to Kyle Turris back in the 2008-09 season, on the ice against elite NHL players.

Change was made to the Coyotes as they escaped from the basement dwellers to contenders during the 09-10 season, but now they are back to square one.

With 2011 just a few days away, the Phoenix Coyotes are scratching their heads once again, sitting in an uncomfortable last place in the Pacific Division.

How did the Coyotes return to this slump? After a successful month in November, the Coyotes dropped the ball in December where they are currently 6-5-1 with two games remaining this month.

Is it time to talk trade?

Not just yet, but soon!

In order for trade talk to begin, the Coyotes need ownership and Matthew Hulsizer to come in (soon) and start swinging. The Coyotes have been ownerless for about a season and a half, leaving General Manager Don Maloney on a very tight budget. While Maloney succeeded last season, lighting can not be caught in a bottle.

Once Hulsizer becomes situated the trade discussions needs to become a serious topic.

As of today, there is no player on the Coyotes who has scored 10 or more goals this season. With last season's big trade acquisitions in Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak not producing enough goals, the Coyotes have turned to other players, which is disappointing.

In the month of March, there was nobody hotter than Lee Stempniak. After coming over from Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Matt Jones and two draft picks, Stempniak lit the rink on fire, scoring 13 goals from March 4 to March 31.

While Stempniak is producing for the Coyotes, he is it in a quiet way. The Coyotes didn’t resign Stempniak in the off-season to produce quietly.

Heading into the season, I predicted Stempniak to lead the team in scoring with Wolski leading the team in points. As of today I am currently wrong and frustrated as well.

Once the Coyotes get serious with trade discussions, what should they do?

The Coyotes need to lay out a map and see where their team is going. The first part of this map should envision which Coyotes contracts are up this season and whether or not they will resign or not. The Coyotes have a lot of players who are in their contract year, such as Ed Jovanovski.

Does Jovanovski have a future in the Coyote franchise? If the Coyotes think otherwise, they need to start picking up the phone and make some calls. Jovanovski is an expensive asset to the franchise and while he is a leader with a wealth of experience, if he leaves in the off-season, we will be left with nothing.

Jovanovski recently became the 256th member of the 1,000 career games played club and another member of the Coyotes might join him. If Adrian Aucoin stays healthy, he could play in his 1,000th game March 13 at Anaheim.

While these veterans are great to the franchise, they only have a short time left in the NHL. If Jovanovski leaves the Coyotes, they can’t make the same mistake they made with Zbynek Michalek. Michalek walked away from the Coyotes for nothing last season and they still haven’t found a replacement for him.

While the Coyotes have a solid defensive unit on paper, sometimes they don’t always pan out. For example, last night against the Ducks might have been the worst game of the season. There was only two players on the Coyotes who seemed to contribute that being Shane Doan and Scotty Upshall. These are the same two players who play with everything they got night after night.

Why can’t the rest of the Coyotes play like Doan and Upshall?  

There are a lot of players in the NHL that the Coyotes should be looking at. In order to win hockey games, you need to put the puck in the net.

Can the Coyotes land a player like Florida Panthers Center Mike Santorelli? A player like Santorelli would be a key asset to the Coyotes, who desperately need a Center and most importantly, a consistent player on the ice.

The Coyotes have the players to make another run to the playoffs. However, if the Coyotes make the right moves, they will not be done with hockey during the second week of April.