The Arizona Coyotes have their starting twenty-three. The season begins in less than a week. Let’s hit the ground running shall we?
Off Season Transactions- Forwards
Subtractions: David Moss (UFA: MIL - AHL), Martin Erat (UFA: Omsk Avangard - KHL), Sam Gagner (Trade: PHI), BJ Crombeen (Unsigned UFA), Lauri Korpikoski (Trade: EDM), Mark Arcobello (UFA: TOR).
Additions: Boyd Gordon (Trade: EDM), Brad Richardson (UFA), Steve Downie (UFA), John Scott (UFA), Antoine Vermette (UFA),
Anthony Duclair – Antoine Vermette – Max Domi
Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Mikkel Boedker
Steve Downie – Brad Richardson – Shane Doan
Jordan Martinook – Boyd Gordon – Joe Vitale
Extras: John Scott, Kyle Chipchura
Yet again this season, the biggest question mark for the Coyotes is going to be offense. Only Buffalo scored less goals per game last season than Arizona. This preseason was more of the same. 4 goals in 6 games, with the last 3 games yielding zero goals.
If the preseason was a preview of what is ahead, it is very concerning. Having the likes of Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and a healthy Mikkel Boedker should help with this problem once lines are set and they start to play with consistent centers and line mates.
Rieder could be more productive year than last season (13 G 8 A 21P). His defensive game has always been solid but the prospect of faster teammates to break him out could keep him on track for a non-bust sophomore year.
They do have the usual suspects back in the mix this year. The team’s re-signing of Antoine Vermette is a stop gap for 1C until Dylan Strome is ready. The Coyotes center situation is a lot more stable than it has been in the last two seasons.
Hanzal is supposedly 100% and healthy after his back surgery in February. Vermette being back does bolster the faceoff percentage as well. Bringing in Brad Richardson and reacquiring Boyd Gordon, in addition to centers Kyle Chipchura and Joe Vitale, makes the third and fourth lines very solid in up down the middle (or to the wings in some cases.)
The Coyotes did decide to add some more grit and toughness this season but adding Steve Downie and John Scott. It's the unwritten rule that those types of players are still needed in the NHL. With Max Domi coming into the NHL, he will be a type of player that is targeted due to their skill set and size, as will Duclair.
Bold Prediction: Max Domi lands a Calder Nomination. The Coyotes are not dead last in scoring this season. Martin Hanzal plays more than 50 games.
Newell Brown has made the Coyotes power play lethal over the last two seasons (2013-2014 4th in the league with a conversation percentage of 19.86% for best in the Western Conference. 2014-2015 7th in the league with a conversation percentage of 20.00%).
This season will be interesting to see develop since Keith Yandle is now on the Rangers. During the preseason, heads and tails of who would be on PP1 or PP2 has not really evolved into concrete units. It does seem that the two points on PP 1 will be Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mikkel Boedker. It’s a dice toss on who is on the ice with them, but that was the steady pair for the point.
Possible Units for PP1: Ekman-Larsson, Boedker, Doan, Vermette, Rieder.
Possible Units for PP2: Stone, Murphy, Domi, Hanzal, Duclair
It’s too early to tell, but if Boedker can handle the point as well as Yandle, it might come back to its top 5 potential. That’s important because almost 30% of Coyotes goals came on the Power Play last season other than 5 v 5 (165 goals total. PPG Goals: 46 5 v 5 Goals: 115 Short Handed: 4)
Again, scoring seems to be the Coyotes issue again, if they cannot get the Power Play back up to snuff, it’s going to be a long season.
If you look at all the forwards on paper, it is a group of 2nd, 3rd and 4th line players, with a glimmer of an actual top line in the making. Hope and change is on the horizon; this year is more about if the team will be able to grow into their roles.