Don Maloney is reportedly exploring a trade for a new goaltender for the Arizona Coyotes. But if the defense doesn't improve, Maloney's efforts might amount to little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
The Coyotes lost 7-5 to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, but that laughably high score is anything but an anomaly. Arizona has now conceded four goals or more in seven of its last eight games, and 102 on the year, which is third worst in the league.
Why? Perhaps the defense is a major cause. Here are some basic numbers courtesy of War On Ice:
The highlighted numbers underscore two of the biggest deficiencies in Arizona's defensive corps. Apart from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, every single Coyotes defenseman has a sub-50% Corsi at even-strength, and OEL is the only player with a positive penalty differential.
These two factors form a lethal combination of awful on the blue line. The Coyotes cannot control the puck when anybody besides Ekman-Larsson is on defense, and the defense takes more penalties than they draw while trying to get possession back.
None of the defensive play excuses soft goals allowed by Arizona's goaltending. Mike Smith, Anders Lindback, and Louis Domingue have to be better, or Don Maloney is going to have to find someone else.
But even if the Coyotes were to somehow land Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist, the reality is their fortunes are not going to improve tremendously without an overhaul of the team's defense. Some of those soft goals may get stopped with an upgrade in goal, but the goaltender is not the one that leaves the slot open, fails to clear the puck from the corners into the neutral zone, or can't separate the opposing forwards from the puck.
That's on the defensive corps. And if the Arizona Coyotes want to build towards becoming a contender, their defense needs to get better. Full stop.