Phoenix Coyotes season preview

Updated: October 3, 2005, 12:15 PM ET
ESPN.com

THE BOTTOM LINE

There isn't much Wayne Gretzky hasn't done in hockey. Coaching has been one of those things, but that's about to change as The Great One goes behind the bench with a mixed bag of talent.

Offense: Sure, Brett Hull is an aging player. But he's surrounded by lots of speed as this team goes young and quick with players like Petr Nedved, Shane Doan, Ladislav Nagy, Jason Chimera, Oleg Saprykin and Boyd Devereaux and Mike Comrie.

Defense: This unit is not all that experienced and certainly not deep or strong, but there are some puck handlers back there who can move it to the forwards in the form of Derek Morris, David Tanabe and Paul Mara.

Goaltending: The jury is still out on Brian Boucher, who set an NHL record with five consecutive shutouts in 2003-04, but won only 10 games total. That's why veteran Curtis Joseph was signed. He'll do more than wait in the wings.



WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
12th YES … Because they have a lot more offensive talent than in recent years and the rules should allow them to use it.
BUT … Too thin on defense and too much reliance on goaltenders. This is, after all, a rebuilding job.

PLAYER TO WATCH
Center Mike Comrie shows a good game, but not on a consistent basis, and the Coyotes need him to be an every-night performer -- something he didn't do in Edmonton or Philadelphia.

HEY, COACH!
Can Gretzky coach? Who knows, but if he can't, he certainly surrounded himself with a good staff, including Rick Bowness (a former head coach) and Barry Smith (long a disciple of Scott Bowman in Detroit, and elsewhere).



FACEOFFS
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> THE GREAT ONE
Naming Wayne Gretzky as coach, how can you not learn from the best?

WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> GREAT WEIGHT
Naming Gretzky as coach, in a competitive conference … was this the best man available?

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Comings & Goings
Key Acquisitions:
G Curtis Joseph; C Jarrod Skalde; G Steve Passmore; LW Mike Leclerc; D Zbynek Michalek.

Key Departures:
G Jean-Marc Pelletier; LW Andrei Nazarov; D Dustin Wood; LW Jon Sim; LW Brian Savage; C Jason Jaspers; G Brent Johnson.

When we last saw them …
Shane Doan, LW
Doan posted 27 goals and 41 assists in the 2003-04 season.
Brian Boucher, G
Boucher set a league record with five straight shutouts, but posted a lowly 10-19-10 record and a 2.74 goals-against average.
Quoteables
Coaches are human, too. Mistakes are made. But, fundamentally, if you're sound you eliminate as many mistakes as possible.
Wayne Gretzky on his new gig