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HYPE TRAAAAAIN: The Defense

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For the longest time, analysts deemed Arizona’s defense one of the most abysmal in hockey. That is no longer the case.

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at San Jose Sharks Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

The Coyotes are back for the 2017-18 season and featuring a roster and coaching staff completely renovated from the dark days of rebuilding.

This is the HYPE TRAIN, a 7-day series focused on giving you 7 reasons to get F*****G JACKED for this season’s road hopefully leading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


When you follow the Arizona Coyotes as close as I do, you sometimes are blind to problems. To a degree, you suffer from blind optimism. You always want your team to do well and I feel like I had that for the last few years. I thought Zybnek Michalek was still a feasible option for the longest time. I thought the team should have brought back Rusty Klesla or Michal Rozsival when they were in free agency.

Not great ideas right?

So when John Chayka made a marquee move to acquire Niklas Hjalmarsson at the draft and Jason Demers during training camp, I needed affirmation that my defense was actually not bad. I needed someone to tell me I wasn’t seeing things that weren’t real.

So I asked my buddy, who follows a team with arguably the best defense in hockey in Nashville, “Is Arizona’s defense actually good?”

First I asked if we were in the top 50% of NHL defenses. He responded by saying we were in the top 25%.

So I asked where we fall in Western Conference defenses. I was ‘shook’ by his response.

He gave me this list.

  1. Nashville (of course)
  2. Calgary
  3. St. Louis
  4. Arizona

In fact, I even recorded my reaction because I was so surprised. I added a green screen image of Phoenix in the summer behind me for context.

So to speak, I was thunderstruck.

{Click on that link. Click on it. Do it. It will enhance your hype experience. Play it loudly}

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is coming off a rough season after dealing with the loss of his mother and an injury to boot. But he’s back in Arizona, healthy, and accompanied by his brother Kevin, who will be taking up a blue-line role in Tucson. OEL is primed to take the next step forward.

And he’s primed because he finally has a partner who won’t leave him on an island. Niklas Hjalmarsson is the premier defensive defenseman in the NHL. He eats pucks for three square meals a day, then asks for another serving for dessert.

These two are a legitimately ELITE top pairing in the NHL. They complement each other's play and you know what? You should be [whispers] jacked about it.

But the defense does not end there, and your excitement should not cease to exist after the stars have been noted.

What we have ourselves here is a very high-quality set of defensemen filling out the bottom 4 playing spots.

We got ourselves an offensive defenseman in Alex Goligoski, who will likely find himself now that he will have a regular, far more defensively-minded but mobile partner in Jason Demers.

Down on the bottom pair, youngin’ Jakob Chychrun will return at some point in the first half of the season and will spend time bonding with noted shot-blocker Luke Schenn.

Bringing up the rear with responsibilities ranging from consuming Press Box hot dogs to standing in as the occasional forward for injuries is Kevin Connauton and Adam Clendening.

Your defensive corps, upon review, is actually really damn good.

Now, we are all excited for that, but why be ABSOLUTELY F*****G JACKED ABOUT THIS DEFENSE?

Because it’s a complete defense. And the Coyotes have arguably never had that. Like, ever. 2011-2012, interestingly enough, was the closest we’ve ever gotten to that kind of defensive acclaim. But that group was ultimately broken up not long after it was formed.

Most importantly, this group is designed to last. Ekman-Larsson is the weakest long-term link, but all signs from the organization suggest that based god John Chayka will hand Oliver a blank check and a white sheet of paper, tell him to fill in the blanks and they’ll notarize it. Goligoski, Hjalmarsson, and Demers are locked up long-term.

Schenn has one more year left but is also the most easily replaced with both talent abroad and developing below. Chychrun is the future, and the team has at least 3 more years of control, meaning they have time to find the money he will demand when his contract is up to tie him down long term.

Never has this team had this much stability on the back end and never-ever has it had that much stability almost guaranteed to persist for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday I said this:

So what do you need to make the playoffs? A good goalie, a stellar defense, and a competent top 3 lines. Does Derek Stepan complete that equation?

I’d like to refine that statement. You need a passable defense and a good offense to make the playoffs. But what happens if you have a stellar defense and a young but talented offense instead?

Pretty much the same thing.

IT IS TIME FOR THE LEAGUE TO REALIZE ARIZONA IS NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH ANYMORE. THIS DEFENSE IS LEGIT AND THE HYPE IS REAL MY DUDES AND DUDETTES.