The Coyotes battled through another year of “will they move or won’t they” distractions, and missed the playoff for the second season in a row. Can they overcome the NHL odds and qualify this time?
What Went Wrong Last Season?
The fact of the matter is, Phoenix just didn’t have the talent level to compete in the Western Conference, which is as good as we have seen in the last decade or so. They finished 20th in goals scored and no one was going to confuse the Coyotes with an offensive juggernaut. Put it this way, defenseman Keith Yandle led the team in points scored. On top of that, they weren’t as good as normally are defensively, finishing 18th in the NHL in goals against. That is a recipe for disaster in a conference like the West and it is probably an accomplishment that they finished as high as ninth in the West. That is a testament to coach Dave Tippett and his staff; he does extremely well with what he has to work with, but the ongoing drama off the ice ties the team’s hands with their ability to make changes.
Well, going from “Phoenix” to “Arizona” is a start for the Coyotes. They let go of Mike Ribiero, who was a locker room troublemaker, and replaced him with Sam Gagner, who has shown glimpses of being a flashy offensive player at times during his career. The Coyotes need him to be consistent to help the likes of Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette, who are 37 and 32 years old, respectively. The Coyotes also brought in Devan Dubnyk, who should give the team a quality backup behind No. 1 Mike Smith.
When chosing your NHL picks note the Coyotes are the epitome of a solid team: they aren’t going to overpower anyone in the West because the talent level just isn’t there but they are well-coached, well-disciplined and are good enough to beat the bad teams. They compete from the first whistle to the last, which is what they need to do to stay afloat in this conference. However, with Radim Vrbata gone to Vancouver, that means Doan and Vermette are their best offensive players and even if Gagner has a great season, is he really a game breaker? Unless Smith has a Vezina-type season, the Coyotes will probably miss the playoffs. They made lateral moves in the offseason while teams like Nashville, Calgary, Minnesota and Dallas are all expected to be better. That likely means the Coyotes miss the playoffs and tumble further than ninth this time around.
NHL Pick: Will Miss The Playoffs