After many years of struggles, the Arizona Coyotes finally have a team that looks ready to become a post-season contender.
The Coyotes started the season with a disappointing 0-2-0 record, but have quickly become a team that others should be wary of.
Rick Tocchet’s team made a name for itself last season with a late-season push for the playoffs despite a long list of significant injuries, and things appear to be progressing nicely early this season.
Two games into the season, the ‘here we go again’ comments began to surface, particularly in the media, but just nine games later and the Coyotes are now considered one of the most competitive teams in the Pacific Division.
Sitting in third place in the division, the Coyotes have a strong 7-3-1 record (15 points) and have played fewer games than the 2nd-placed Vegas Golden Knights (16 points in 13 games) and division-leading Edmonton Oilers (17 points in 12 games).
The Coyotes have once again established themselves as being one of the strongest defensive teams in the entire NHL, having conceded the second-lowest number of goals with 24.
This has come largely thanks to the stellar goaltending tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, who are once again showing themselves to be one of the strongest tandems in the league.
Kuemper, the current preferred starter, has a 5-3-0 record with a save percentage of .933 and is allowing just 1.87 goals on average.
Raanta, who has worked hard to get back into shape after missing the majority of last season with an injury, sports a 2-0-1 record while averaging 2.62 goals against and has a save percentage of .922.
While the team has shown great resilience defensively, their offensive output is also impressing.
Last season, not a single player on the team reached the 20-goal mark, though 11 players did reach double digits, whereas this season there are five players currently scoring goals at a pace that would see them eclipse this mark.
Conor Garland, a fifth-round selection of the Coyotes in 2015, already has six goals to his name this season and is producing at a rate that would see him eclipse 40 if he can maintain this.
Garland scored 13 goals in 47 regular season games last year and is sitting at roughly half that after just 11 in 2019/20.
Of course, not all is perfect with this team, with star summer acquisition Phil Kessel currently only with two goals and six total points since arriving in the desert.
While this will undoubtedly concern some fans and the player himself, the fact that the rest of the team with working and earning results shows that they are not reliant on just one player to produce.
Tocchet and his team are moving in the right direction and if this strong early showing continues, it may be time for the rest of the league to give the Arizona Coyotes the respect they truly deserve.