Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/1/13
GLENDALE, Ariz. Dont look now, but the Coyotes are in last place in the same Pacific Division they won just 11 months ago. The situation isnt dire yet, but the signs sure are. Twenty games into the season, Phoenix is committing the same mental errors it did in the first week of the season. Twenty games into the season, there is still no sign of that water-tight defense that defined the clubs run to the Western Conference final last year. Twenty games into the season there is no sign of the consistency Mike Smith displayed throughout the 2011-12 season. Twenty games into the season, its not easy to imagine a playoff berth. To make matters worse, Radim Vrbata is walking around in a protective boot, Martin Hanzal is on the shelf with an injury thats a mystery to anyone outside the club, Kyle Chipchura is the teams most dependable offensive threat and Steve Sullivan isnt making anyone forget Ray Whitney. When your fourth line is your most consistent line over a four-game stretch, youve ether miscast your personnel or youve got big issues with your top nine forwards. Not enough push, not enough doing with the puck and not enough doing without the puck, coach Dave Tippett said of his top three lines. Other than that, theyre fine. Anybody feeling good about that three-game set against Anaheim that opens on Saturday? The Ducks are playing as well as any team in the NHL outside Chicago. The Coyotes? Four games shy of the seasons midpoint, we still have no idea who they are because they havent established an identity. We play like it for spurts, but we just havent played like it for a consistent stretch of games or for 60 minutes in a game, captain Shane Doan said. It seems every year at the beginning of the year it takes us a little while to get our feet under us and try to get rolling. This year is obviously going to be that kind of challenge. You would think the Coyotes would have learned some valuable lessons about defensive-zone coverage in western Canada after blowing leads against Edmonton and Calgary. But on Minnesotas first goal, defenseman Michael Stone lost track of Wild forward Jason Zucker, who redirected Matt Cullens pass past Smith for a 1-0 lead just 1:35 into the game. Then defenseman Derek Morris, in his first game back from an injury, got caught pinching Pierre-Marc Bouchard at the blue line, giving Minnesota a 2-on-1. Keith Yandle did all he could to react to the quickly developing play, but Doan was a step behind on the backcheck and Dany Heatley beat Smith with a good shot off the short-side post for a 2-0 lead. When Mikkel Boedker lost a puck battle in the corner early in the second period, Heatey converted again, and the Coyotes were playing catch-up the rest of the night despite a pair of fluky-bounce goals. I think our group is a little tired tonight. You could see there wasnt the same zip in it, Tippett said. That being said, you still manufacture a win. The other night in Vancouver, we competed so hard on every loose puck. We started out in the first period (Thursday) not so bad, but then we made a couple of crucial errors on simple rush reads that were in the back of the net, and then were chasing. Tippett doesnt know when hell get Hanzal and Vrbata back. Both skated before the team did Thursday morning, but Vrbata left the locker room before the team Thursday night with his left foot in a protective boot. The absence of those two players certainly doesnt excuse the Coyotes defensive lapses, but over time, you cant have two of your biggest offensive threats out of the lineup and not feel it. Were a no-excuse type of team, Yandle said. Weve got to find ways to win. It doesnt matter whos in the lineup. Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name every NFL regular season MVP

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker