Without a doubt, the 2016-17 Arizona Coyotes had arguably one of their worst seasons since moving to Glendale in 1996, and this is the team that has had barely any playoff success, with the exception of making the Western Conference Finals in 2012, but they have not made the playoffs since. This is also a team that has a hard time bringing fans to Gila River Arena. Since the 2010-11 season, the Coyotes haven’t gotten out of the Bottom Three worst in attendance. Arizona is constantly losing money and flipping owners, as Gary Bettman does not want the team to leave the desert. But enough about the past and ownership, we are here to talk about their current situation with players and their future.
Arizona’s offense is the soft spot for them. The fact that 36 year old winger Radim Vrbata led the team in points, with 55, is not a good sign. Not to mention he took his talents to Florida. The team also announced that longtime captain and franchise leader in goals and points, Shane Doan, won’t be returning, ending an era. The good news is for the Coyotes, is that they acquired center Derek Stepan from the Rangers, earlier this offseason, in which he will most likely be the number one center, and be paired up with a healthy Max Domi and possibly Christian Dvorak. With their first line being set, they have a few key rookies who can set the tone for the second and third lines. Centers Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller will be making the team this year, only problem being is they will need to find wing partners to play with. Strome will likely be paired with Tobias Rieder and Jordan Martinhook, as for Keller, he could be seen playing aside with Brandon Perlini and Anthony Duclair. Their fourth line is pretty much set with Nick Cousins centering Jamie McGinn and Lawson Crouse.
The Coyote’s defense is not as bad as everyone thinks it is. Obviously the defense is led by All-Star and future captian Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had 39 points, but a brutal -25 on the ice. He could be seen playing aside with Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was acquired in a trade from the Blackhawks right before the draft, but had to give up 24 year old Connor Murphy. Veteran Alex Goligoski racked up 36 points, as he will be pair with Luke Schenn. Jakob Chychrun, who had 20 points in his rookie season, will be paired up with Adam Clendening, and could be see time playing with OEL. If they could get a right handed defenseman who can put up 15+ points, I think they would be all set.
Finally, the Coyotes goalie situation. They lost Mike Smith in a trade to the Flames, but received Antti Raanta in the Derek Stepan trade from the Rangers. He is most likely going to be the starter, as he had a great season backing up Henrik Lundqvist during his tenure in New York. Louis Domingue will serve as backup, as he did to Mike Smith.
As a quick wrap up, I definitely see Arizona making improvement, but still see them fall short on making the playoffs. If they acquire decent wingers to go along with Strome and Keller, I can see Arizona barely pull off a winning season.
Here are our projections for the 2017-18 Arizona Coyotes
Projected Record 34-39-9 (77 points)
Projected Starting Lineups:
Domi – Stepan – Dvorak
Rieder – Strome – Martinhook
Perlini – Keller – Duclair
McGinn – Cousins – Crouse
Ekman-Larsson – Hjalmarsson
Goligoski – Schenn
Chychrun – Clendening