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#AskFFH: your Arizona Coyotes questions answered

Our inaugural edition of #AskFFH answers some of your burning questions about the Arizona Coyotes, including Nick Merkley's future, the future of the center position, and the effect of last year's disastrous season on fan attendance.

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Last week, we asked for your questions about the Arizona Coyotes. And judging by the responses we received, there are plenty of questions to answer.

So here are the FFH staff's answers to four of the burning questions you posted on Twitter, Facebook, and in our comment sections.

Answered by Carl Putnam, FFH Editor Emeritus:

The first line center position has been a glaring hole for much of the franchise's time in the desert. Assuming the team's center roster stays the same there are only likely two choices for this coming season. Those two choices are Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette.

Neither is a "true" number one center. Neither is going to put up offensive numbers like most other first line centers in the league. However, both have filled the role for the Coyotes in the past whether their line had been labeled the first line or not. 

Which brings us to the issue of the Coyotes' potential lines and how Coach Tippett has used lines in the past. At times he's been loathe to describe the lines. This probably has had more to do with clear cut talent distinctions than coaching philosophy frankly.

If he had a forward line which included Pacific division pairings like the Sedin twins or the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry duo, I highly doubt he wouldn't call them his top line. The current roster itself is not ideal by any stretch, so there are going to be less than ideal line choices.

What I suspect is most likely to happen this season is to see both aforementioned veteran Coyotes center lines which could be labeled 1A and 1B which would get similar ice time. There are natural combos already due to the left wings on the roster.

Vermette would likely pair best with Mikkel Boedker. The Dane is the left winger he has been paired with for most of his time in Arizona. On the other line, rookie Max Domi's slick stick skills are reminiscent of former Desert Dog Ray Whitney, a player whose skill set complimented Hanzal's when they were linemates.

Answered by Brendan Porter, FFH Managing Editor:

Nick Merkley went into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft with an aggregate ranking by talent evaluators in the mid-teens to early 20s. His height (5' 11") at the center position is probably a major reason why he slid down to the Coyotes at #30. Some questions about his stickhandling ability remain as well.

But what Merkley undeniably has is speed, energy, and playmaking ability. He logged 70 assists in 72 regular season games for WHL Kelowna, and added another 22 in just 19 playoff games. Those are some incredible production totals.

He puts up those numbers through sheer determination and a strong sense for where the play is developing. Though short, he already has 190 pounds on his frame, which allows him to fight off larger players. When you're getting labeled as a smaller version of Corey Perry, that speaks volumes about your ability to make your line better.

The Coyotes were undoubtedly intrigued by his ability to play on the right wing in addition to center. The Coyotes need more depth on the right side, and Merkley provides that.

In three years, Nick Merkley will only be 21, which gives the Coyotes an excellent young prospect who can develop on a steady pace. I believe Merkley can be a top six forward in the league, especially if he's able to improve his stick-work and defensive game.

Answered by Carl Pavlock, FFH Staff Writer:

I am going to say no but there is a lot of caveats to that answer. The point at which the team started to "tank" as opposed to just a team that was consistently losing is a question that can be debated, however I believe that the team went into last season thinking they could potentially compete; not that they were guaranteed a playoff spot, but they could at least be competitive enough to show up every night.

For a variety of reasons that did not happen. I consider the true start of the "tank" to be later in the season when the team was already losing pretty badly, in which case I don't think it necessarily did as much harm to the fan base because they were already losing.

I will say that even though the team did not get McDavid or Eichel, that didn't hurt the fan base, it just didn't help them, which I think is a very important distinction. I don't think the team is going to lose anyone because the fans didn't get the player we wanted, but the fanbase didn't have the potential gain either.


Thank you to everyone who submitted questions! If your question wasn't answered this time around, don't worry! We'll be back to answer more questions soon!