Something just feels a little different this year.
The Arizona Coyotes have missed the playoffs for two seasons in a row and are halfway to a third season without a tournament birth. Yet, something just feels different about this season.
Could it be that the new ownership honeymoon from the original sale wore off long ago? Could it be the accumulative effect of missing the playoffs before that makes fans so upset about likely missing them again? Or is it simply the fact the Coyotes were at least in contention by the midway point of the past two seasons instead of far from it like they are now?
Either way, something feels just a little different.
The Coyotes played their 41st game of the season Saturday night and that means it's time for some thoughts and observations from the season thus far.
- Sitting with a record of 16-21-4 (36 points), the Coyotes are on pace for their second worst season since the 2004-05 lockout. Aside from the 48-game season in which they had a winning record, Arizona has failed to accumulate at least 79 points in a season just once -- 2006-07 (31-46-5; 67 points). The Coyotes are currently on pace for 72 points.
- Scoring has been a major issue for the Coyotes since the last time they made a postseason appearance. At the midway point, Arizona is on pace to have a third consecutive season without a 25-goal scorer. Only three players (Mikkel Boedker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Antoine Vermette) are on pace for 20. Boedker has the best chance to break that streak, with his team-high 12 goals so far.
- Following the same theme, no Coyote is on pace to break the 60-point mark. Keith Yandle, Vermette and Boedker are on pace to break 50, but even getting to 55 points would be a bit of a chore. The last time the Coyotes had a 25-goal scorer and a 60-point scorer was in 2011-12, when they won the Pacific Division. Radim Vrbata scored 35 goals and Ray Whitney had 77 points.
- Penalty killing is a major flaw in Arizona's game and it shows up statistically. The unit ranks dead last in the NHL, killing off just 74.6 percent of opponents' power plays. Should that number not improve, the Coyotes are on pace to have the second-worst penalty killing unit of the last five seasons.
- Head coach Dave Tippett is entering uncharted waters with a team on its way to a losing record. In his 12 years behind the bench for both Dallas and Arizona, he has never coached a team below .500. The last time Tippett was a part of a team with a losing record was in 1993-94 as a forward for the Philadelphia Flyers (35-39-10).
- One bright spot for the Coyotes over the past two seasons is their power play. Aided by assistant coach Newell Brown, the Coyotes rank No. 2 in the Western Conference (No. 6 overall) on the man advantage after ranking No. 1 in the West (No. 4 overall) last season. The dynamic duo of Yandle and Ekman-Larsson on the blue line sure help. Speaking of OEL...
- Ekman-Larsson earned his first All-Star selection last week, after being invited to join the festivities as a rookie participant in 2011. The selection is well deserved after he turned a rough start to the season back around into the OEL performances of old. He would be a three-time All-Star if not for the brief lockout of 2012-13 and the 2014 Olympics.