Ever since Don Maloney went nuclear on the Arizona Coyotes at the Trade Deadline and dealt veterans Zbynek Michalek, Antoine Vermette, and Keith Yandle elsewhere, the Coyotes were expected to crater. And crater they did, to the tune of a 4-14-1 record in March and April.
Yet by several metrics, the Coyotes did not perform all that poorly over those two months. Their goal differential at 5v5 play was just -9 in the 19 games after the Deadline, compared to -59 in the 63 games before. They still managed to win a majority of their faceoffs (50.7%), even with Vermette's departure and Martin Hanzal's season ending injury.
But perhaps most important to their performance was the dramatic rebound of their shooting + save percentage (lovingly referred to as PDO). The team posted a dreadful PDO of 96.5 before the Deadline, and a respectable 99.1 afterwards. This came despite a shooting percentage drop of a full percentage point from before to after.
That stark contrast should demonstrate just how well Mike Smith rebounded down the stretch. The Coyotes' 5v5 save percentage before the Trade Deadline was a paltry 90.6%. Afterwards? 94.2%. So the stats back up what the eye test seemed to conclude pretty definitively in March and April; Smith got much better as the season closed out. Now it's up to him to build on that success.
- If Dave Tippett is going to resign as head coach of the Coyotes, it's probably going to be quick, as Craig Morgan pointed out in this very important article surrounding the future of Tippett and Shane Doan.
- In addition to Don Maloney's visit to the IIHF World Championships in Europe, the Coyotes are going to want as much time as possible to put a plan in place should Tippett depart, and Tippett is going to want to find a new team as quickly as possible too.
- The rumored "out-clause" in Tippett's contract is intriguing. Remember that Andrew Barroway bought into IceArizona, instead of the other way around. Does that mean there was a "change of ownership"? And who gets to decide what that clause ultimately means should Tippett and Coyotes' management disagree?
- Though there are not a ton of teams with vacancies currently, there are more than a few with big questions behind the bench. San Jose seems to be in the middle of a massive upheaval in the front office, while Detroit's Mike Babcock is going to have a ton of suitors over the next few months.
- Either way, Coyotes management has a very fine line to walk here. If they want to keep him, they have to convince Dave Tippett that their roster can turn itself around and become a playoff contender relatively quickly, while simultaneously not taking shortcuts on the rebuild that will hamper the team's ability to win the Stanley Cup.
- What makes the timeline Morgan alludes to in his piece so interesting is that most of the face-to-face conversations between Tippett and Maloney would have to be done before the NHL Draft Lottery, where Arizona stands a legitimate (albeit not guaranteed) shot at getting one of two franchise defining players in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Does Tippett decide before he knows where Arizona drafts? Does that draft pick have any impact on his decision at all?
- The Coyotes fell just 430 people short of their average attendance last season, which is pretty impressive given how long the team has been out of the playoff picture.
- Sam Gagner finished the season with 15 goals and 26 assists for the Coyotes. The man he was primarily brought in to replace - Mike Ribeiro - had 16 goals and 31 assists in his one season with Arizona.
- This season seemed to prove that Gagner's natural forte is on the wing as opposed to down the middle. Hopefully the Coyotes will end up with enough center depth to keep Gagner on the sides.
Our Storylines and Player to Watch segments will be on hiatus for a while as the offseason gets going. There is one storyline above all others this week though:
- Where do the Coyotes pick this summer? The percentages suggest they'll end up picking third, as there is a 66.5% chance that someone above them in the standings wins the Draft Lottery. The decision on who to take in that scenario becomes a very challenging one.