The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2014-15 season with a new name for their team and stadium as well as plenty of new names on their roster. After finishing outside of the playoffs for two seasons in a row, the Coyotes are looking to have a bounce-back season.
This season's team will combine energetic and skillful youth with the experience of seasoned veterans. Like any non-playoff team, there are more questions than answers. Here are three of them.
1. Will the bottom two defensive pairings be overwhelmed most nights?
I doubt it. Guys like Michael Stone, David Schlemko, and Chris Summers are seasoned enough that they should be able to take care of themselves. Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy will probably have some growing pains, but Keith Yandle is likely playing on the second pairing anyway, so I don't anticipate it being a monumental problem.
2. Can Sam Gagner and Joe Vitale be effective two-way centers?
Sam Gagner is absolutely going to have to be. Mike Ribeiro fell out of favor very quickly because of just how sheltered his minutes had to be. Gagner is going to need to prove to Dave Tippett that he is not Ribeiro 2.0 and that he can minimize any potential liabilities in the defensive end.
It is less vital for Vitale to have a two-way game, as he's not going to be logging a ton of minutes in all likelihood. He's going to need to be good in the faceoff circle and respectable defensively. If he can do that, he will have met expectations.
3. Which of Arizona's young forwards, if any, will make an impact at the NHL level this season?
For reasons we've already discussed earlier this offseason, Max Domi is probably going to make a major splash for the Coyotes by virtue of the gaping hole on the top six he's going to have to fill. It wouldn't surprise me to see Lucas Lessio take a job away from someone like Brandon MacMillan; he made the roster last year for a reason, and based on what I saw from him during rookie camp he looks like he's learned a lot about shot selection and defensive breakouts, so he might have a good shot to stick around.
These questions and more will be answered for certain as the season unfolds. One thing is for sure, a third season without postseason play will raise questions no one wants to answer.