The Coyotes are yet again, like the Sabres on the chopping block for the wrong reasons. The Coyotes came into this season with higher expectations per say making a few defensive signings, signing a starting goaltender, getting Derek Stepan, things were for sure looking to be on the way up in Arizona. Unfortunately things did not pan out like that.
Arizona finished 29th in the NHL with 29-41-12, 70 points, 30th in goals for(206), 11th in goals against(251), a 16.9 power play percentage(26th), a 79.5 penalty kill percentage(19th). The Coyotes hit a late surge towards the end of the year where they stringed together some good wins that helped boost their confidence a bit and some of these numbers but overall a 29th place finish is not great. The things that went wrong for Arizona were…
What went wrong for Arizona…
(1) Lack of goal tending, again. Antti Raanta came in to be the starter he did great in New York filling in for Lundqvist when he was out but this year transitioning to the starting role was tough for Raanta, plus he was injured so the time he missed was crucial for Arizona. Although Raanta posted solid numbers through the 46 games he started, he was not there all season which hurt Arizona. Raanta year was filled with injuries, possibly a full year with Raanta starting 60 games will help but Raanta posted 21-17-6 with a 2.24 GAA. Due to the absence of Raanta and not having a viable back up tender, the Coyotes missed greatly on the goal tending aspect of things.
(2) Lacked depth /depth scoring. The Coyotes leading point scorer was a 19-year-old rookie who tallied 65 points in 82 games. After Keller was Stepan with 56 points in 82 games. Due to some players like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair(traded), Christian Dvorak these players were all suppose to be a bit more productive this season, rumors came out about trading Domi and Duclair. Duclair did get moved due to his lack of production, and Domi had yet another disappointing season with 9 goals and 45 points in 82 games. The Coyotes did end up also trading one of their top six forwards Tobias Reider, therefore depth was lacking immensely. The Coyotes really struggle with offensive depth because after Domi, Stepan, Dvorak and Keller the Coyotes have no one else to help out.
(3) Defensive signings did not pan out. Players like Jason Demeres, Niklas Hjalmarsson really sh*t the bed this season. Demeres coming from Florida and Hjalmarsson from Chicago had high expectations and were suppose to solidfy this top five with Oliver Ekman Larsson, Alex Goligoski and Jakub Chychrun but it did not work out that way. The Coyotes have the talent and tools on the back end, but it is not there yet. Plus OEL going -28 through the season does not help, and with all the trade rumors around him, Domi and Duclair it may have caused controversy in the locker room.
(4) A slow start and a start that consisted of a ton of road games. If you do not recall the Coyotes played 14 of their first 22 games on the road. They started the season 4-16-2 heading into the end of November that can cause a lot of problems and some players to not perform as well. This rocky start did not help the Coyotes get off on the right foot and when they did start winning games it was a little too late.
Will things be better next year?
Well probably not they are in a tough division and have no forwards to supplement their offensive needs. Richard Panik, Domi, Keller, Stepan, Dvorak and the coming of Dylan Strome will not be the answer to their problems. They have a ton of young talent on their roster and up and coming players. Plus a top five pick this season but they will not be much better next year. The big problem for Arizona is having 7 unrestricted free agents and 8 restricted free agents up coming. They have to make a decision on whether to resign Luke Schenn, Kevin Connuaton, Domi, Freddie Hamilton, Brad Richardson, Laurent Dauphin right now for the upcoming off season. With Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Josh Archiblad, Nick Cousins, OEL, Chychrun and Hjamlarsson in the 2019-20 season.
The Coyotes will probably be about the same next season around the basement, maybe a better season if Raanta can play a full year and they get some forwards in the off season or their young guys start to develop a bit more and see more production out of them, as well as their defense coming together and playing like the defense they should be. They have seven picks this year 3 coming in the third round and the #5 pick of the draft this year with sights set on landing Brady Tkachuk.