We are now one month into the regular season, which means it's as good a time as any to take stock at how the Arizona Coyotes have performed in the 11 games they've played thus far.
The bag is mixed, which is better than a lot of people (myself included) could have hoped for at this stretch of the rebuild. Let's take a quick look at where the Coyotes have made major strides, and where they still have work to do.
Rookies - A+: Watching the young guns play has been nothing less than a treat. Max Domi is on a sweltering 3.00 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 play pace, and Anthony Duclair is not far behind him at 2.54 P/60. Duclair may have hit the wall now, and Domi may end up hitting one this year too. But the fact that both forwards are doing their damage at even-strength is quite good news for the Coyotes.
Equally good news is that the Coyotes are getting contributions for other young players beyond Domi and Duclair. Tobias Rieder is about a third of the way to matching his 21 points from last season. Jordan Martinook surprised most Coyotes watchers by making the team out of camp, and Tyler Gaudet's brief stint in place of Joe Vitale has been very good. We're witnessing the future of the Coyotes' offense, and it looks very bright.
Defense - D: The offense's future is so bright, in fact, that the biggest worry for the Coyotes moving forward is now what happens on defense. The Coyotes have conceded 29 goals over their last eight games. It's hard to win when you give up 3.63 goals per game.
The other concern is that there is no immediate relief in sight. Apart from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes do not have defensemen who can consistently get the puck out of danger and keep it out of danger; ugly turnovers aside, Keith Yandle was terrific at zone entries, which helped create sustained zone time and meaningful possession. The Coyotes lack that now, and unless Dysin Mayo or Dakota Mermis significantly beat expectations, the Coyotes don't seem to have that in their system at all.
Goaltending - C-: Well, Mike Smith's hot start was nice while it lasted. Smith has posted sub-900 save percentages in every game he's played since shutting out Anaheim back on October 14th. While undoubtedly a portion of that should be laid at the feet of his defense, Smith has also given up some stinkers of his own.
Anders Lindback has been hard to gauge considering he's played less than 150 minutes so far this season. He looked great in the one game he started, but that apparently was not enough to convince Dave Tippett to give him another start or two.
Possession - C-: Arizona so far is actually doing worse in possession numbers than they were last season, despite more than a few games of score effects to buoy the raw numbers a bit. The Coyotes are averaging 49.7 Corsi events per 60 minutes of even-strength play, which is the lowest the team has ever done since the stat was first tracked by hockey fans.
The Coyotes are also giving up fewer shot attempts compared to last year (54.1 per 60 5v5 minutes this year versus 57.9 per 60 last year), and their 5v5 goal differential of +1 is on pace to be miles better than their -68 goal differential last season. But the Coyotes are still struggling to turn their time with the puck into offensive chances, and while a sterling Corsi percentage doesn't always translate into success, taking fewer shots than your opponent night in and night out is not a consistent way to build a winner.
Overall - C: The Coyotes are 5-5-1, which is about as mediocre as you can get. A dreadful Pacific Division is keeping them afloat for now in the standings. But given how low expectations were when the season began, that is probably a small moral victory. So there is still plenty of work to do, but all things considered the Coyotes are off to a better than expected start to the season.