The Coyotes enter the new season under the name Arizona instead of Phoenix, but will the team’s fortunes be any different? The losses of Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata will hurt and we think they’ll finish fifth in the Pacific Division. Do you agree?
2013-14 record: 37-30-15
Acquisitions: Devan Dubnyk, Alexandre Bolduc, Mike McKenna, Joe Vitale, B.J. Crombeen, Sam Gagner
Departures: Mike Ribeiro, Tim Kennedy, Radim Vrbata, Andy Miele, Thomas Greiss
Top five fantasy players: Keith Yandle, Sam Gagner, Shane Doan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Coyotes officially divorced themselves from their checkered past when they rebranded themselves as the Arizona Coyotes for this season. No longer are they an orphan ward of the state with a perilous future.
Their defense corps, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle, is as high in offensive skill as any in the NHL. All of which makes their power play a difficult beast to handle, which is why it finished fourth in the NHL last season. Overall, the Coyotes’ forte lies behind their forwards, with a defense corps that has a solid mix of mobility and defensive presence, and in their goaltending with Mike Smith.
The coach-GM tandem of Dave Tippett and Don Maloney is among the strongest in the league. Maloney has an ability to identify under-the-radar talent and Tippett is able to get the most out of his charges, giving every player on his roster a clearly defined role. Shane Doan is in decline, but he remains one of the most respected leaders in the league.
Bust: Arizona’s biggest problem is its most talented offensive players are defensemen. And it didn’t help that the Coyotes lost 20-goal man Radim Vrbata to free agency and cut ties with Mike Ribeiro, who has his flaws but also has the ability to create offense.
What’s worse is the Coyotes seem to dry up at the most crucial times. Last season, they endured a seven-game winless streak down the stretch that effectively killed their playoff hopes. They managed to score just nine goals during that span.
Even though they picked up Sam Gagner over the summer, he has never scored 50 points. The Yotes don’t have an imposing center ice corps that’s capable of going nose-to-nose with the beasts they meet on a regular basis in the Western Conference. The tandem of Gagner and Martin Hanzal won’t cut it.
And if Smith falters or is injured, both of which happened last season, the Coyotes’ playoff hopes are reduced to nil.
Bottom Line: After overachieving year after year, Arizona simply doesn’t have the talent this time around. If it was in the East, it would be in the playoff mix, but its lack of bite and inability to create offense at crucial times makes it a bubble team, at best, in the West. The Coyotes may have new owners, but they’re still a budget team that didn’t make the necessary summer upgrades to keep pace in the Pacific. The Desert Dogs will be underdogs most nights.
Prospect To Watch: Look at the top of this post where we have our best five fantasy options for the Coyotes and know one thing – this is a team you should more or less stay away from in regards to fantasy. They don’t score a pile of goals and make their way on a strong defense. What’s interesting is that 2013 first-rounder (12th overall) Max Domi is a potentially explosive offensive talent. Last season with the OHL’s London Knights, Tie’s son scored 34 goals and 93 points in 61 games. He probably won’t be a significant offensive contributor to the team out of the gate, but because of the type of skill he’d bring, he’ll be given a long look in camp.
THN’s Prediction for 2014-15: Fifth in Pacific Division
Contributors: Ken Campbell, Rory Boylen