Radim Vrbata is out and Mikkel Boedker is in. The position of top-line winger has officially been filled and according to the numbers, Arizona Coyotes fans should be excited at the prospect of watching the soon to be 25-year-old Boedker flourish into an everyday scorer. So far in his young career, the eighth pick in the 2008 draft has not garnered much accolades in media circles outside of the desert for his play on the ice. After this year, however, the name Mikkel Boedker will certainly become known, as he is primed to have an All-Star kind of year.
Being a defense-first team with a “pack mentality” in scoring on offense, it can be hard for a single player like Boedker to stand out and have an All-Star caliber kind of year. But this speedy and solid-handed winger is, to simply put it, a playmaker. Whether it is on the power play, in a shootout, or – perhaps even more importantly in the Yotes system – on defense, Boedker has proven to be the go-to guy to make a big play at the right moment.
In the last five years, only one Coyotes player has registered more than 70 points in a single season – Ray Whitney (77, 2011-12). Also, in the last five years, only one Coyote player had tallied 30-plus goals – Radim Vrbata (36, 2011-12). However, given Boedker’s playmaking and scoring ability, paired with even more growth and maturity, perhaps Boedker can finally reach those numbers and lead the pack back to the postseason.
Since the 2010-11 season, Boedker has steadily improved his scoring every year. His breakout performances began during the shortened 2012-13 season, where he notched 26 points in 48 games. Riding that career high of .54 points per game, last season he was tied (with Vrbata) for second on the team in scoring with 51 points.
Replacing a talent such as Radim Vrbata is no easy task to accomplish for the Arizona coaching staff and, as of right now, the front office has made little moves in order to ensure that the void created with Vrbata’s departure is short lived. However, if they can get Boedker to continue his performance and development and become a 25-plus or 30-plus goal scorer, it would certainly help ease the burden that will surely be placed on the shoulders of newcomer Sam Gagner, second-year player Martin Erat, and even rookies Max Domi or Henrik Samuelsson of having to perform right away.
Even though the Coyotes play with a “pack mentality” on offense, which can make it hard for a player or players to stand out, there have still been times that a player was able to register a 30-plus goal and 70-plus point season. That kind of season, however, has only happened once in the past five years – the 2011-12 run to the Western Conference Finals.
Spending more time on the Coyotes top line and number one power play should continue to increase Mikkel Boedker’s scoring and could even lead to an All-Star caliber year. But like Vrbata had en route to his 35-goal single season performance in 2011-12, who will be his Ray Whitney and score 70-plus total points? The answer to that question may also answer the question of whether or not the Arizona Coyotes can make a run for the playoffs this season. Regardless, the excitement that is surrounding the kind of year Boedker is primed to have should certainly help ease the pain of Arizona fans having to watch Radim Vrbata suit up in a Vancouver Canucks jersey.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering the Arizona Coyotes