The Arizona Coyotes were not particularly active this summer in making signings/trades. Although it certainly appears that this relative inactivity has become a major liability for the team's competitiveness, let's take a look at the moves that were made and see how they've panned out thus far.
For the purposes of this article, we are only looking at players who have played in at least one NHL game this season and were not in the Coyotes organization last year. So guys like Tobias Rieder, Jordan Martinook, and Brendan Shinnimin will not make this list.
Joe Vitale - Free Agent Signing: from Pittsburgh
2013-14 Stat Line: 53 GP - 1G, 13A (14 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 44.3, 5v5 Corsi Rel -5.5%
2014-15 Stat Line: 34 GP - 3G, 3A (6 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 42.6, 5v5 Corsi Rel -8.4%
The fourth line center position for Arizona has been designated for one player in particular: a penalty-kill/faceoff specialist. From the likes of Boyd Gordon and Jeff Halpern comes Joe Vitale, a longtime Pittsburgh Penguin.
Vitale's numbers are always going to be skewed by the number of penalty kill minutes and defensive zone starts he receives per night. This season, Vitale is starting just 24.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, which is far and away the lowest percentage in his career. His faceoff percentage is down from years prior, hovering at 50.8 percent this season, with 154 won versus 149 lost.
Granted, Joe Vitale was not brought in to put up big offensive numbers, though he has contributed with three goals. Still, why Vitale was given a three-year contract to play fourth line minutes for the Coyotes remains a mystery.
Sam Gagner - Trade: Edmonton via Tampa Bay
2013-14 Stat Line: 67 GP - 10G, 27A (37 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 44.2, 5v5 Corsi Rel 0.0%
2014-15 Stat Line: 33 GP - 5G, 11A (16 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 52.3, 5v5 Corsi Rel 4.3%
After losing Radim Vrbata to the Vancouver Canucks, and Mike Ribeiro to a buyout, Sam Gagner was brought in to provide top-6 offense. To say that he has disappointed in that regard is probably an understatement. Up until the team's last game against the Oilers, Gagner had just three goals on the year. On a team that included the likes of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that lack of offense wasn't a deal breaker. With Arizona, it is.
Despite the lack of concrete totals in the early goings, there are quite a few good things about Gagner's play this season. Most encouraging, Gagner currently has a shooting percentage (4.3%) that is more than 50% lower than it has ever been in his career (his career low was 7% last year). If he starts getting a little more puck luck and his shooting percentage normalizes, he may yet flirt with 20 goals on the year.
Additionally, Gagner has not been a drag on the team's possession numbers, something that was a particular concern when he was acquired. His 52.3% Corsi For Percentage at even-strength is a dramatic improvement from years past, and he is a relative possession driver on a team that has been very poor at possession this season. If he continues to stay healthy, Gagner could look less and less like a trade bust towards season's end and more and more like an asset worth keeping with the likes of Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson
B.J. Crombeen - Trade: Tampa Bay
2013-14 Stat Line: 55 GP - 3G, 7A (10 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 48.4, 5v5 Corsi Rel -3.1%
2014-15 Stat Line: 27 GP - 1G, 1A (2 points) - 5v5 Corsi For% 43.5, 5v5 Corsi Rel -7.1%
B.J. Crombeen coming over to Arizona in the Gagner trade seemed like more of a contract/salary dump by Tampa as opposed to an integral component of the Coyotes' roster plan. While he had shown slightly more offensive upside than fellow tough guy and one-time Coyote Paul Bissonnette, the difference was not significant given their ice-time.
Crombeen doesn't really seem to add much to this team. He doesn't lead the team in PIMs (that honor belongs to Kyle Chipchura), despite that seemingly being his primary role, and his possession numbers on an already bad roster are just atrocious. Crombeen becomes a UFA at season's end, and I would be stunned if he is brought back next year.
Justin Hodgman - Free Agent Signing: from KHL
2013-14 Stat Line: (3 different teams in KHL): 49 GP - 11G, 15A (26 points) - Possession numbers N/A
2014-15 Stat Line: 4 GP - 1G, 0A (1 point) - 5v5 Corsi For% 56.7, 5v5 Corsi Rel 8.6%
Justin Hodgman's surprising emergence out of training camp may be the feel good story of the season for the Coyotes. He finally earned a brief call-up to the NHL after narrowly missing the team out of training camp. In four games, Hodgman scored a single goal and put up good possession numbers before being sent back down to Portland.
With the Pirates, Hodgman has scored six goals and five assists. He is a useful part of the veteran rotation that can be called up in the event of injuries, and while his NHL stint was short, he's been a quality depth signing seemingly out of nowhere.
Andrew Campbell - Free Agent Signing: from Los Angeles
2013-14 Stat Line: 3 GP - 0G, 0A - 5v5 Corsi For% 47.2, 5v5 Corsi Rel -13.8%
2014-15 Stat Line: 1 GP - 0G, 0A - 5v5 Corsi For% 52.4, 5v5 Corsi Rel -1.0%
Like Hodgman, Campbell was brought in as an AHL player who could be called up to the NHL in the event of injuries. So far he's played just one game for Arizona, recording no points in the process.
He's scored three goals and six assists in Portland. While it's unlikely he's going to see much NHL playing time this year, he's done what he's been asked to do, and got to collect an NHL game check in the process.
Devan Dubnyk - Free Agent Signing: from Montreal
2013-14 Stat Line (2 NHL teams): 34 GP - 11-18-3 (2 SO) - Save Percentage .891, GAA 3.43
2014-15 Stat Line: 15 GP - 7-3-2 (1 SO) - Save Percentage .920, GAA 2.65
As bad as this season has been for the Coyotes, it could have been much worse had Dubnyk not shown tremendous improvement from this season to last, when he went through three different NHL systems. Mike Smith's numbers remain atrocious, and Dubnyk has performed admirably well in his place.
Devan Dubnyk's save percentage has very quietly moved to the .920 mark, which puts him in the top 15 goaltenders league-wide with more than 10 appearances. Though his high GAA number suggests that the Coyotes are letting a lot of shots through, Dubnyk seems to have stolen the No. 1 job from Smith this year with solid play.
The relatively middling grades of the Coyotes' offseason acquisitions demonstrate the danger of mediocrity. None of their signings (save Dubnyk) have dramatically outperformed expectations. On top of a roster that was not sterling to begin with, and it's clear to see why the Coyotes fell so far behind the rest of the Western Conference.