With the end of 2018, we here at Five For Howling review what has been a rather important year for the Arizona Coyotes. With a new coach and new outlook, most of 2018 was rather negative, however.....as we like to do here let us remember and reflect on the past year.
What was your favorite Arizona Coyotes memory of 2018?
Carl: Its a cop-out but seeing the team’s relationship with Shane Doan improve this past off-season has been great. The way the team moved on from Doan definitely angered fans and it honestly seemed like it would take longer for the two to come back together. But Doan did the fantastic video for the reveal of Oliver Ekman-Larsson as captain and next year we get to see his number retired. For many fans Doan is the Coyotes, and its great to see that relationship on better footing.
Brandon: After being shutout in our first few games, finally scoring a few goals was a relief. Considering we outplayed those opponents, I was worried we’d get in our own heads and start imploding. Unfortunately, those first few games weren’t the end of our goal-scoring woes. Special mention to watching Richardson and Grabner for their excellent penalty kill, which had me on the edge of my seat more often than our power-play did. Get better soon, Grabs.
Alex: My favorite Arizona Coyotes memory would have to be the intense turnaround that occurred during the previous season. John Chayka and Rick Tocchet’s vision is coming to fruition and a lot of the team is benefiting from the process. OEL has looked exponentially better in terms of how he is fitting into the system and his position as the captain
Rose: It's a tough choice I really liked the first home win I got to see live. It was the game against Tampa Bay and it was very fun. But my favorite moment was when they announced Oliver Ekman-Larsson as captain. A lot of people criticize him as being too quiet to lead, as a fellow quiet person, I know that quiet people can lead. Also I'd love to know how all these folks have insight in to what happens in the locker room. Even though it was expected to happen when it finally did it felt like vindication.
What/who has been the biggest surprise of the last year?
Carl: Adin Hill. I’ve always been a little wary of the “goaltender of the future” not working out when it comes to the NHL. Its nice that Hill has been able to step in and play well at an NHL level, especially with the Coyote’s struggling with injuries. I’m not sure if Hill will ever be a full time starter, but for now I’m happy that we have him in the pipeline.
Brandon: Since Carl mentioned Hill, I’ll go back to the dynamic duo of Richardson and Grabner. I’ve always been a Richardson fan, but the speed he’s shown this year with Grabner has been phenomenal. Heck, getting Grabner, a back-to-back 27-goal scorer for the contract we did was a big enough surprise. Seeing him help transform our penalty kill to tops in the league makes must have rival GM’s kicking themselves. Honorable mention to Oesterle and Lyubushkin, who have shown themselves worthy of top-6 minutes.
Alex: While he has not been with the team for long, Nick Schmaltz has been rather surprising given the magnitude of the trade. The magnitude coming from trading 2 former first rounders for a streaky player. With him at center, Clayton Keller has looked more comfortable which is what matters in terms of the future.
Rose: The biggest surprise for me is how well and how quickly the Adin Hill and Darcy Kuemper tandem have relieved my back up goalie nervousness. I don't really worry as much about the Coyotes ability to hold a lead as I did at the end of 2017.
What moment sticks out to you in terms of 2018?
Carl: Signing Oliver Ekman-Larsson to an extension. Going into the offseason most media outlets speculated that Arizona wasn’t going to have the money to re-sign Arizona’s star defenseman. It looked like the Coyotes were going to have the question of re-signing OEL weigh on them throughout the season with speculation heating up as the trade deadline approached. Thankfully GM John Chayka was able to re-sign Ekman-Larsson in the offseason and answer that question early on.
Brandon: I’m torn between the Nik Hjalmarsson re-signing and the big contract extension given to Christian Dvorak. After a tumultuous season on the ice, multiple concussions/injuries, and some other off-ice difficulties, I was surprised that Hjalmarsson was interested in re-upping with the team. Injuries aside, Chicago’s implosion without ‘the Hammer’ shows just how much they relied on the defensive defenseman, so he certainly would’ve had his share of suitors. The Dvorak extension was a shrewd signing by John Chayka, albeit with a bit of risk involved. We don’t have a huge sample size of Dvorak to go on, and his injuries this season has really dampened some enthusiasm, but I think in his limited time with the Coyotes he showed that he has the skill, smarts, and speed to be an effective top-6 player for years to come. By the latter half of the contract, he’s going to look like an absolute steal.
Alex: The biggest surprise for me would have to be Clayton Keller. The Coyotes have a young star and like Rose mentioned, the small market usually hinders talent from being recognized.
Rose: Clayton Keller being nominated as a Calder finalist. Having a small media market and being in the west puts the Coyotes behind the 8-ball for any of the media voted awards. He had an excellent season and absolutely deserved to be a finalist but the same could have been said about many rookies. A strong showing in March helped get him back in the conversation where he belonged.
What/who has been the biggest disappointment this year?
Carl: The power play. The power play definitely started to improve as the year was coming to an end but that doesn’t change the fact that the Coyotes’ power play has been bad. Even with the team acquiring players like Alex Galchenyuk to improve the power play, we haven’t seen anywhere near enough improvement with the man advantage.
Brandon: Basically anything to do with putting the puck in or on the net. While the Coyotes aren’t world-beaters 5-on-5, their even-strength play looks worlds better than when they play with a man advantage. Early in the season, there were many jokes about us declining powerplays and instead playing a man short since we were much more dangerous on the latter. While that’s a testimonial to our penalty killers (including Stepan and Crouse, who have also contributies shorties), it’s also an indictment of our terrible powerplay. With our offensive struggles going on two years (under the current coaching regime), if changes aren’t made soon, the biggest disappointment will be Chayka’s loyalty in certain members of the coaching staff.
Alex: While this one might not be that fair, Alex Galchenyuk is the easy answer. Granted, this is in light of Max Domi destroying it up in Montreal. Time will tell but it does not look great when Galchenyuk is being moved to the wing due to his inability at center.
Rose: The offense has definitely disappointed. I'm no longer concerned about the Coyotes holding a lead, now I'm concerned about them getting one. And that's despite GM John Chayka's best efforts to add offense to the team.
Who has the hottest seat coming into 2019?
Carl: John MacLean. The offense can best be described as inconsistent and the power play is only just now starting to improve. Seeing a player like Max Domi go somewhere else and suddenly become a scoring juggernaut has to make you wonder if the Coyotes’ system is the problem.
Brandon: As I hinted above, a big disappointment will be if Chayka sits on his hands regarding the coaching staff this year. Barring a turn-around, MacLean should start preparing to send his resume around. Despite bringing in Galchenyuk, Grabner, Schmaltz, Hinostroza, and other skilled players, the team has struggled to score, as mentioned above. Meanwhile, Domi has flourished in Montreal, while Strome has found some success in Chicago. At this point, that’s a lot of fingers pointing in MacLean’s direction...
Alex: I will roll with the big dogs here and say John MacLean. Development is key and offense is the ultimate key to winning in the desert.
Rose: Well obviously it's John MacLean but just to be different I'm going to go with the mysterious potential new owner. Whoever it ends up being needs to be prepared to invest in stabilizing the franchise. As much as an East Valley arena location is needed an end to the ownership rollercoaster is equally important. It's difficult to expect a fan base to continually invest and believe in a franchise that has never had stable ownership, a secured arena and a quality on ice product all at the same time.
Which trade has been more impactful? (Domi or Schmaltz).
Carl: At this point the Schmaltz trade has had a bigger impact. Max Domi is playing at a level I never thought he could in Montreal and I’m sorry I ever underestimated him. That being said I’m not sure if he could have played at that level in Arizona. Schmaltz on the other hand plays well with Clayton Keller, which I think is more important for the team.
Brandon: I’m not sure if we’re actually asking about Domi’s impact in Montreal or Galchenyuk’s impact in Arizona. I presciently mentioned Domi’s success in la belle province above, and I don’t think many would argue with saying that he’s had a bigger impact in Montreal than Galchenyuk has in the desert. Regarding Schmaltz, he’s developed a chemistry with Keller that Domi couldn’t and with the right coaching (see above) I think we could see the start of something really special (okay, consistently special) there. With things as they are, I don’t think Schmaltz can have a bigger impact than Domi (who I suspect is overperforming a little this season), but in 2 years, I think we’ll be saying the opposite.
Alex: I would say that the Schmaltz trade was more impactful. It provided the team with some fear that they are not guaranteed anything. When you trade 2 former first rounders for a return of a player that has a history of inconsistency....it sends a message. Also Schmaltz has been great in terms of manning the center position when called upon.
Rose: It's a bit early to assess the impact of either of those trades. If both Domi and Schmaltz maintain their current pace they'll have amazing season for their teams. But that's the big question for both players as well, can they maintain their pace?
What would be your new years resolution for the Arizona Coyotes?
Carl: Consistent scoring. Its so frustrating that the Coyotes offense appears to turn off for games at a time. The team’s goals against numbers are good, if they can figure out how to score a bit more and not have games where the offense disappears completely I think that they put something together.
Brandon: I regret answering this after Carl, because we seem to agree on a lot of these. Staying healthy would be a great resolution, but really, even with Demers, Dvorak, Grabner, and Raanta in the lineup, the team would still struggle to score goals and thus win games. Thus, I’ll revert back to Carl’s consistent scoring, but to avoid a complete cop-out, I’ll ask for something specific: stop over-handling the puck. Too many times I’ve seen some good passes made to wide-open players who opt to settle down the puck until it’s perfectly on their stick before firing. In the meantime, the opposing goalie has gotten square to the shooter while defenders now have the shooting lane blocked. So we shoot wide (or into feet) and try again (or go into panic mode as opponents odd-man-rush it into our zone).
Alex: My new years resolution for the team would be to find that magic from the end of the 2017-2018 season. This plays into being more consistent as well. Losses are find but consistent shutouts are not.
Rose: Total commitment. Commitment to the system, to each other, to playing their best every night. Commitment to not disappointing the fans any more.
Carl: Scott Allen. The Coyotes are 11th in goals allowed with 112 and have the best penalty kill killing 87.7% of penalties this season. Allen definitely deserves a lot of credit for this.
Brandon: Damn Carl, that was a good obvious, yet off-the-wall answer. With Grabner out indefinitely, I’ll give this one to Brad Richardson. Our penalty killer extraordinaire was also our top-scorer for the first couple months of the season and gets the Max Domi award for being one of the few players on the team giving 100% every shift. Runner-ups for the Domi include Nick Cousins, Lawson Crouse, and Josh Archibald for also stepping up. While not MVP-worthy, they comprise some bright lights on a team that has had too few. Here’s hoping that 2019 comes with some more inspiring performances from our top-6.
Alex: Of course Carl comes with the heeeeaaaat. 100% agree! Allen has put new life into this team and with the team being 11th in goals allowed, a lot of potential.
Rose: It can't be denied that the Penalty Kill has been a bright spot this season. In addition to allowing the fewest power play goals in the league, they have also scored 11 short handed goals. It's gotten to the point that the crowd at GRA rises in anticipation when the PKers enter the offensive zone. Some fans even yell "Get another shorty!" at the start of a penalty.
As 2018 comes to a close, we here at Five For Howling hope you had a great holiday season and a Happy New Year! Get ready to get ya howl on!!