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From the editor's desk: an overhaul

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If one domino falls for the Arizona Coyotes, a lot more could follow suit.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Previously in this space I've addressed the possibility of Dave Tippett moving on from the Arizona Coyotes. I had this to say about Tippett's desire to remain in the desert:

Ultimately, the only person I think who decides if Dave Tippett doesn't at least start the rebuild with the Coyotes is Dave Tippett himself. This is uncharted territory for the coach, who has never had a team finish below 4th in the division. Perhaps Tippett doesn't have the stomach to embark on a painful rebuild.

Though I ultimately suggested that he would not want to leave the team with a rebuild on the horizon, perhaps he's less interested in sticking around than I originally thought. Both Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger are now on the record believing that Tippett's tenure in Arizona may be coming to an end, as soon as this offseason. And from what the reports indicate, it would be Tippett choosing to leave instead of Don Maloney or the Coyotes forcing him out.

If Tippett does decide to seek out other opportunities elsewhere, he should have no shortage of interested suitors looking for a new bench boss. He would also leave behind no shortage of questions back in Glendale.

Arizona could potentially lose its head coach, assistant coaches (if they follow in Tippett's footsteps), goaltending coach, and most of its veteran players, all in the same season. That would make the 2014-15 season the most destructive one in franchise history.

It also puts the ownership group in a very precarious position. Doubts about IceArizona's commitment to the Valley persist despite the group's emphatic denials. More than a few season ticket holders are not pleased at giving their money to one of the worst products in the league. And now all of a sudden it seems like most of the off-ice management is at least contemplating jumping ship.

The hockey world wonders; is this a once in a lifetime combination of poor on-ice play and off-ice defections, or are the Arizona Coyotes starting to sink?

Thoughts

  • If Tippett and the coaching staff leave, it's hard to imagine Shane Doan doesn't follow suit. He's less enthusiastic about a rebuild than Tippett is.
  • Interestingly enough, Doan's contract may preclude him from landing somewhere else. He stands to make $4.5 million next year, and has a cap hit of $5.3 million. His cap hit comparables include Derick Brassard and Jeff Carter, with just a fraction of the production (33 points for Doan compared to 57 points for Brassard and 56 for Carter).
  • If Doan does get traded, the Coyotes are likely going to have to retain some salary to do it. That shouldn't be a huge problem, given their current salary retained deals are UFAs this summer, and there aren't many more expensive contracts on the roster to unload, but it's money they're paying someone to not play for them.
  • The Hanifin vs. Strome/Marner debate generated a tremendous amount of discussion, particularly when it comes to size/skill. They both have skill in spades it seems.
  • I do however wonder if the concerns about Marner's size are a little overblown (apologies for the double puns there). The average height of the NHL this season was just above 6' 1". Marner is only three inches below that, and is still 17.
  • It's also worth remembering that even if Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Mitch Marner are relatively small, guys like Brendan Perlini (6' 3", 205lbs) and Ryan MacInnis (6' 4", 185lbs) are not. It's not as though the Coyotes have no size down the middle in their prospect pool.
  • Through 77 games, Arizona has an SAT% of 48.8%. While not good, it's a lot easier to improve from there compared to say Buffalo, who has an SAT% of 37.6, or Colorado at 43.8%.
  • Stats obviously don't mean everything, but a middling SAT% combined with a terrible SPSv number makes for a bad team. That second number tends to normalize over larger samples, so it's quite possible the team will bounce back relatively quickly.
  • Barring some dreadful numbers in the last two games, it appears the Coyotes will finish the season with average attendance above 13,000. Not bad considering how rough the year has been.
  • The big test for attendance numbers will be early next season, after fans have slogged out a brutal year. Are they going to be more pensive about going to games until they see how the team fares?

Storylines

  1. Can Gagner catch OEL? Sam Gagner is just two points behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the team scoring lead? Can he pass him?
  2. When will Jordan Szwarz get an assist? Szwarz has four points in his NHL career. All goals.
  3. How many more games does Louis Domingue play this year? Arizona's last back to back is this weekend. Will he play any of the final three games the next week?

Player to Watch

Keep an eye on Michael Stone. He and John Moore seem to be auditioning for the second power play defenseman spot behind OEL. Someone is going to have to replace Keith Yandle's puck moving ability.