Last season – 11th in the Western Conference
Would you believe it if you heard that the Coyotes are a cap ceiling team? You would most likely say no fricking way, but up there they are very much so. Last season did see an improvement with the desert team, but not nearly enough to save Don Maloney’s job as GM. Therefore, out there in the warm sun, an alternative route is being made.
GM – John Chayka
The new GM is John Chayka. 28 years of age and comes from an analytical background where he started a company called Stathletes with a friend, to provide analytics and data to the NHL teams. From there he was hired as the Assistant GM prior to last season, and now he got the reigns and is in charge of running the franchise (with some help from Tippett) going into his first season as the youngest GM ever.
Head Coach – Dave Tippett
Arizona Coyotes head coach for the 8th straight season, the last four which has been outside a playoffs spot (not surprisingly), and is hasn’t really been at the fault of Tippett. He has worked with what he has, which hasn’t been that great. Continues to put out a strategy where defensive responsibility reigns, but with a lot of youngsters being on the team and coming into the team, it’s going to be a curious case to follow in terms of how much the youngsters will be allowed to free flow offensively, when they now continue to develop in the “desert school” of the NHL.
Alex Goligoski (D), Jamie McGinn (LW), Kevin Connauton (D), Radim Vrbata (RW), Luke Schenn (D), Ryan White (RW), Lawson Crouse (LW), Anthony DeAngelo (D), Pavel Datsyuk (contract), Dave Bolland (contract)
4th round pick 2016, 3rd round pick 2017, 16th overall pick 2016 (Jakub Chychrun (D))
Antoine Vermette (LW, bought out), Klas Dahlbeck (D), Maxim Letunov (C), Joe Vitale (C),
20th overall pick 2016 (Dennis Cholowski (D)), 37th overall pick 2016 (Libor Hajek (D), 53rd overall pick 2016 (Filip Hronek (D), 2nd round pick 2018 (conditional), 3rd round pick 2017, 5th round pick 2016, 6th round pick 2017
Obviously, the main reason for the Coyotes to be so close to the cap ceiling, is shrewd movies of acquiring talent while also adding short-term contracts of players that won’t see the ice in the NHL this season. Looking at the additions, it’s clear that Chayka has gone out and added defensive prospects and short-term complimentary players offensive, who depending on how it goes, can be useful long-term solutions.
However, this team will still be a work in progress. Frankly, improving from last year’s 12th place in the Western Conference will be daunting task, given the most likely progression some of the other bottom feeders from last year’s standings are looking to have.
Goaltending – 5/10
With Mike Smith and Louis Domingue between the pipes, the Coyotes got both veteran presence and youthful addition on the backend of this team. However, neither will get you a playoff-spot with the current roster. Smith ain’t getting any younger and Domingue won’t be carrying this team any time soon. Chayka however knows this, and given Domingue’s surprising good form last year, will probably see a lot of opportunities to keep progressing.
Defense – 4/10
Ekman-Larsson is the glue and franchise defenseman on this team (even top point scorer last season with 55 points). Stabilizing himself as one of the best in the league at his position is a good starting point for Chayka’s worries (or good challenges in this case). He’s age also aligns with the younger skilled forwards in terms of when a contending team can be iced in 3 years’ time. Out of the rest of the defensemen, there is a lot of ways one can put together pairs, but be sure of that Goligoski is on the 2nd pair, and the more defensive minded defensemen like Stone and Michalek will by most assumptions be paired up with them.
That leaves Connauton and Schenn as the guys fighting for that 3rd pair spot, while newly drafted Chychrun would probably have a better progression playing heavier important minutes in the AHL, but one never know. Some years down the road, look out for Cam Dineen to swoop in a grab a spot. Outside that, they got other call-ups if needed. Overall, it’s just not a playoff-berth defense at the moment. The qualities among the current group overall aren’t there, or too early in the progress.
Ekman-Larsson – Murphy
Goligoski – Stone
Connauton – Michalek
Chychrun – Schenn
(Dineen – DeAngelo)
Forwards – 4/10
Among the forwards-group, there is a true mix of talent and veteran presence. Problem is that the veterans are too old or too beat up to carry the team offensively, and the youngsters haven’t developed enough yet, to show a constant threat to the better teams in the league.
Chayka’s challenge will be to identify a true number one center and find the correct complimentary players at the right time. In regards to where this team are prior to this season, they aren’t close to being a threat, but show some flashy sparks now and then. Chayka’s main objective for the season should be to continue the development process, and trade the veterans if an opportunity is presented before or at the trade deadline.
Domi – Hanzal – Duclair
Rieder – Strome – Vrbata
McGinn – Dvorak – Doan
Martinook – Richardson – White
Team Composition – 3/10
The goalies are a bit anonymous, the defense has too many similar qualities and is below average while not making an impact in the near future, and the composition among the forwards are too far away to be a working unit who can put legit fear into an opposition (too many youngster and too many non-impactful veterans on the scoreboard). That’s the bad thing, and it is bad.
Chayka knows this, and we will continue to see improvements during the next couple of years, and as said. It will be his timing in finding the right additional pieces and finding the number one offensive center-man threat, that are going to be the key to resolve the search for success in the desert. For now, I think they might see themselves moving backwards in the standings this coming season, simply because other teams improve more than them short-term.
Leadership presence – 7/10
While one can criticize the seasoned veterans for being way past their prime, and for not being able to be a helpful force on the scoreboard. Doan, Vrbata, Richardson, Hanzal and Smith got plenty of experience and leadership qualities to lead this team, but haven’t been on teams with much success. They will learn the youths a lot of good lections during their remaining time, but neither of them will be on the team when the Coyotes are Stanley Cup contenders.
Skill Value – 6/10
There is a lot of raw skill here, it hasn’t gotten its breakthrough yet. It’s still a bit up in the air, a lot of question marks. It’s the tough second season for players like Domi and Duclair. For now, the team is an answer in the making. There is skill, but how much? In regards to just youth, the grade doesn’t do them quite justice, but they need to break some benchmarks to push this grade up.