Gameday Preview: Phoenix Rising

Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla (12) and Phoenix Coyotes' Lee Stempniak battle for the puck in the first period during their NHL game in Glendale, Arizona November 12, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)


The loss to Phoenix last week might be one of the low points of the season for the Flames. It certainly was for the embattled Jarome Iginla, who played perhaps the worst game of his career in the desert. He battled back and was relatively effective the next night against a good in the San Jose Sharks, but the Coyote game and his 0 shot, -4 performance may become something of watershed moment in the franchise’s history should the team indeed choose to deal Iginla this season.

Phoenix has gone on a bit of a run lately, winning three in a row on the back of unlikely hat tricks by Vernon Fiddler and Ryan Whitney (the first three goals of the season for both players, oddly). They remain a competitive but flawed club that, like Calgary, walks a fine line between winning and losing each night. Of interest right now is the fact that the Coyotes are averaging the third most shots against per game in the league (35.2), ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks (36.0) and Atlanta Thrashers (36.2). That’s rotten company for the Coyotes to be keeping and much worse than the 29.6/game average they managed as a club last year. You can be certain Dave Tippett has that stat circled in red ink.

A player of interest this evening is youngster Kyle Turris. Not because he’s one of the archetypes of the NHL’s "youth movement" – quite the opposite in fact. Turris stands more as a warning tale that finding guys who can contribute meaningfully before they’re 23 is a challenge, even when you’re drafting pretty high up. Turris was a highly touted kid when the Coyotes selected him 3rd overall in 2007. He scored 121 points in 59 games in the BCHL as a 17 year old and then led the University of Wisconsin in scoring with 35 points in 36 games the next season before turning pro with the Coyotes at 19.

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 17: Kyle Turris  of the Phoenix Coyotes forechecks against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on October 17, 2010 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

That season (2008-09), Turris got absolutely mur-didly-erdlered. He scored 20 points in 63 games, despite being completely sheltered by Gretzky night-in, night-out. Turris was part of a larger, ill-fated "kid movement" in Phoenix that year (featuring himself, Mikkel Boedker, Enver Lising, Peter Mueller, Viktor Tikhonov and Kevin Porter), but Turris was likely the worst of the lot. His zone start was 60% but he was deep underwater in terms of possession anyways (-14.72/60 corsi). That was one of the worst corsi rates in the league that year, particularly when correcting for his starting position. 

This season the kid is back up with the parent team and his possession rates are better – but only because Tippett is still treating him like the biggest liability on the bench. Turris plays sparingly, faces nobodies and thus far has a zone start of 81% (!!). Yeesh. He may eventually turn into a useful NHL player, but for this evening he’s a guy that Sutter should target as much as possible.