NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.
Two teams out in the Western Conference have piqued my interest this week. One is red-hot and deserves our attention; the other is near and dear to my heart, but needs some type of jolt to get back in the hunt. Read on to find out who I'm talking about and why:
The Predators don't get the respect and the attention they deserve, but I can tell you they're a team I didn't like playing against. They're a very tough, stingy, competitive team, and it seems their coach, Barry Trotz, is a wonderful guy.
He's extremely smart and he seems like a good players' coach. He always has a very solid, sound system that he displays to his team. His team believes in the system and plays hard for him. Every single night they are disciplined, they work hard and they are sound defensively.
If there is any one knock against the Predators it would be their lack of consistent goal scoring, but lately they've found ways to win games by scoring goals. Mike Fisher is scoring like crazy right now. When Martin Erat starts scoring a little bit more, the Predators are going to be even harder to beat than they are right now, and in the last 15 games they are 13-2.
Look at the standings. Nashville is only three points behind the top spot in the National Hockey League, and yet you don't really hear anything about that. It's disappointing to me, because the Predators have paid their dues. They've sat in the basement, worked their way back to respectability, and now they are arguably one of the strongest and most disciplined teams in the NHL.
Hopefully Suter's contract situation doesn't distract this team and he's able to sign eventually. We'll see what happens with that, but right now I'm just very impressed watching this team play hard together, play a very organized system.
Trotz is one of the most tenured coaches in the NHL right now, and I don't think anybody should question why he's been in Nashville for so long. His team really loves playing for him and always responds to his coaching tactics.
I would not want to play this team in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trust me, I know they're a very difficult and frustrating team to play.
The Phoenix Coyotes are very dear to me. They're a team I love to cheer. You can see how hard they work on a consistent basis and are backed by a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett, but they're also a team that I seriously worry about right now.
The Coyotes lost Tuesday night at home to Anaheim and are just 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. They sit No. 12 in the Western Conference because for some reason they can't get over the hump; they can't string three, four or five wins together to find their way back into the top eight.
They're a team without any major superstars or big-time goal scorers they can market and be that game-breaker, so in my opinion GM Don Maloney has to start thinking about making a trade for a proven scorer before it's too late. He has to do it in order to have an opportunity to make the playoffs this season.
And we all know how important it is for the Coyotes to make the playoffs and get that extra revenue from selling out the building for playoff games. They can't afford to miss the playoffs.
Radim Vrbata is trying his hardest to be that offensive punch, but Phoenix is not going to rally around Radim Vrbata. I mean no disrespect to him, because he's a fantastic player and he should have been in the All-Star Game this year, but the Coyotes need a marquee player.
The first name that comes to mind is Jeff Carter from Columbus. I know he has a big contract, 10 years and millions still left on his deal, and he has not played his best as a Blue Jacket. But this could be one of those cases where desperate times call for desperate measures.
If they want to get into the playoffs, they need a marquee guy that is going to score on a nightly basis. And I don't think they're going to be able to get a consistent, marquee goal scorer on the cheap.
The Coyotes are a very difficult team to play against because of their defensive structure and hard work, but they always seem to lose in overtime or by one goal. And by getting a marquee goal scorer, if they can, I think the Coyotes can make the playoffs and therefore make some extra money that would greatly enhance the interest in Phoenix.