Coyotes pointing toward playoffs with Rozsival addition
By CRAIG MORGAN
Jan. 19, 2011
Phoenix Coyotes fans are used to waiting.
Waiting for an owner. Waiting for a playoff series win. Waiting for Wayne Gretzky to leave.
In that light, the eight-day delay between the acquisition of Michal Rozsival from the New York Rangers and his first appearance on Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena was a blink of an eye - about how long it took the Nashville Predators to ruin that debut with a 5-2 win.
The Predators bunched their first four goals in quick pairs, leaving Coyotes coach Dave Tippett in no mood to discuss the merits of Rozsival's game. The Coyotes ended their four-game homestand with two straight losses.
But that's the small picture.
The big picture is that Phoenix acquired a fluid-skating defenseman with good stick skills and a veteran's poise.
If you don't think that was worth giving up enigmatic forward Wojtek Wolski, you haven't been watching the NHL closely enough for the past half-decade.
"To have a long playoff run, you have to be deep on defense," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. "We're good now. We may have our ups and downs, but I don't have to worry about that position now."
It would be easy to dismiss Maloney's take as biased, since he was the one who pulled the trigger on the deal that sent a 24-year old away for a 32-year old. But there is ample evidence to support his claim.
Detroit general manager Ken Holland has long espoused the belief that Stanley Cup championships are built on the blue line. The Wings have the rings to back that belief.
Anaheim GM Brian Burke signed Scott Niedermayer as a free agent and then traded for Chris Pronger, and the Ducks won the Cup in 2007.
Defending Cup champ Chicago matched San Jose's four-year, $15 million offer to No. 4 defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson this summer, knowing it would force them to release the goaltender (Antti Niemi) who won the franchise's first Cup in 49 years.
With Rozsival in the fold, the Coyotes are five deep again on the point, allowing Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Schlemko to develop at a more reasonable pace while filling the enormous void left by Zbynek Michalek's departure through free agency.
"You can see what kind of player he is," Tippett said. "He moves the puck well; (he's) strong positionally. He'll be a good addition for us."
There weren't any notable statistics from Rozsival's first appearance in a Coyotes sweater. He played 20 minutes, paired mostly with Ekman-Larsson. He had no points and was a minus-one thanks to an Ekman-Larsson defensive zone lapse.
In New York, those numbers would have been a problem. Rozsival's four-year, $20 million deal made him a constant target of the blue-seat occupants at Madison Square Garden.