When we first previewed the Arizona Coyotes yesterday, we saw their forward corps, which was a mix of talented youngsters and seasoned veterans. Let's now take a look at the mostly overhauled Defense.
Off Season Transactions - Defense
Subtractions: John Moore (UFA - NJD), Andrew Campbell (UFA - TOR) Brandon Gormley (Trade - COL)
Additions: Nicklas Grossmann (Trade - PHI), Zbynek Michalek (UFA) Stefan Elliott (Trade - COL)
Michael Stone - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Zbynek Michalek – Klas Dahlbeck
Connor Murphy – Nicklas Grossmann
Extra: Stefan Elliott
All We Need To Know
Okay, maybe there is more to it than that.
The Top Pairing
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the corner stone of the defensive system of the Arizona Coyotes. After his 23 goal season the question is, will he repeat this? He does have the advantage of working point on the power play (10 PP Goals), last year with Keith Yandle (for a majority of the season) and this season seemingly Mikkel Boedker. An offensive Ekman-Larsson is just as valuable as his defensive game.
After Zbynek Michalek was injured and before he was traded to the St. Louis Blues, Michael Stone was slotted in to be Ekman-Larsson’s defensive partner. Through preseason, this seems to be the top pairing going forward. They are a stable pairing who have a good read on each other.
The Second Pairing
With Michalek returning to Arizona, he is in good position to help mold Klas Dahlbeck and his game. Michalek has his game down to a science. He isn’t young and spry like his defensive partners but he is solid, blocks shots and sometimes even scores a goal. Blocking shots is Michalek’s thing, always will be.
Dahlbeck will learn a lot from Michalek. He has a strong game, which was seen towards the end of the season last year after his acquisition. Playing with a seasoned defensive partner will help. Michalek helped make Ekman-Larsson better and with his work ethic and style, he will help Dahlbeck as well.
Five, Six, and Seven
Connor Murphy is still young. Yes, he is just 22 but he is a different player from Ekman-Larsson. Through the last two seasons he has been on the 3rd pairing, or landed on top pair when something went awry. He still needs to round out his game, but he is becoming a solid presence on the blue line.
Nicklas Grossmann was brought in for his style of play. He plays a simple defensive game but is good at it. Working with youngsters Murphy and Elliott, he can help round out them out while working in front of a goalie he has played with before.
Stefan Elliott came over in a trade with Colorado. He’s a right handed shot, which is needed and highly sought after by many teams. Leaving the Colorado system, hopefully he can find actual NHL ice time. He was highly productive in the AHL with the Lake Erie Monsters (19 G 21 A 40 P in 64 games.)
As it stands, Murphy and Elliott will most likely cycle in and out of the line up with Grossmann as their partner. In the end, it is an advantage that effectively (except Elliott) all of the defenders have played in front of Mike Smith before, either last season or while Smith was on the Dallas Stars (Grossmann.)
Bold Prediction: Oliver Ekman-Larsson gets a Norris Nomination and scores 24 goals.
The Defense will need to be solid this season. With the additions and stabilization of the foundation the Coyotes had last season, they should be okay, even if they aren't producing as many points in the offensive end.