With Ilya Brzygalov now a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Phoenix Coyotes' goaltending situation is not as clear as it once was.
During the offseason, the team signed former Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Star Mike Smith. Smith is coming off a season in which he played 22 games, had a 13-6-0-1 record, posted a 2.89 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage and had one shutout. Certainly not terrible, but not numbers that would be considered great for a starting goaltender.
And that is the exact position Smith will have with the Coyotes this season.
Smith has never started more than 42 games in a season and has never been given the responsibility as being the No. 1 netminder in an organization.
While Smith is just 29 years old, he has yet to really prove himself at the NHL level. He has never gotten enough consistent playing time and when he has been given the net for a large chunks of time, he has struggled. Reuniting with Dave Tippett should help, but how much?
This could prove to be trouble for Smith because backing him up is Jason LaBarbera. In 15 games last season, the 31-year-old netminder went 7-6-3 with a 3.26 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
With the exception of the goals against average, these are not bad numbers. However, what would LaBarbera's numbers be like if he had to have the net for a longer period of time should Smith ever go down with a injury? Or in 25-30 games, since it's unknown whether Smith can handle much more of a workload?
Over the last two years, the Coyotes have gotten great goaltending from Bryzgalov, who has been a catalyst in the team reaching the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. But with the position of the ownership still unclear, and now this murky goaltending situation, it could be a long season in the desert for the Coyotes.
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