The past few seasons the Arizona Coyotes haven’t had the best offense. Last season alone they finished near the bottom in goals scored and had one of the worst power plays in the league. But things have changed dramatically this offseason with the Coyotes trading Kevin Connauton and a third-round pick for Carl Soderberg and Alex Galchenyuk and P.O. Joseph for Phil Kessel.
While he didn’t generate as much offense as hoped, Alex Galchenyuk tied Brad Richardson with 19 goals for the team lead. He also finished third on the team with 41 points. Originally brought in as a center, Galchenyuk was moved to wing and was a key piece of the Coyotes’ power play. Like many Coyotes he had the bad luck of being injured last season, and his slow start may be partially blamed on missing training camp.
Kevin Connauton wasn’t as big a piece as Galchenyuk, but he was a consistent part of the Coyotes’ blue line for the past two seasons. After last season though he began to see his role starting to diminish. He would play in 50 games, but that can largely be attributed to injuries to key defenseman like Jason Demers. With younger players such as Jordan Oesterle and Ilya Lyubushkin ready for more ice time there unfortunately wasn’t a spot for Connauton moving forward.
My prediction for the Coyotes lines next season (to be changed four shifts into the second game):
Nick Schmaltz - Christian Dvorak - Phil Kessel
Clayton Keller - Derek Stepan - Vinnie Hinostroza
Lawson Crouse - Carl Soderberg - Barrett Hayton
Michael Grabner - Brad Richardson - Conor Garland
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Jason Demers
Jakob Chychrun - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Alex Goligoski - Jordan Oesterle
Phil Kessel is definitely a major addition for Arizona. Kessel adds something that was desperately needed last season, more goals. Last season Kessel was tied for 23rd in the league in points, having registered 27-55-82. The last time the Coyotes had a player finish with over 80 points was during the 1996-97 season when Keith Tkachuk finished with 52 goals and 34 assists. And while Coyotes may not have a player of Evgeni Malkin’s caliber, pairing Kessel with Schmaltz or Keller will hopefully prove to be successful.
Along with Kessel the Coyotes have also added Carl Soderberg. Soderberg finished with a career high 23 goals last season with the Avalanche, although its doubtful that he will score that many again. Last season he had a 12.2 shooting percentage, way up from his career average of 9.3 percent. But considering only four Coyotes players finished fifteen or more goals, even if he regresses Soderberg should still prove to be an upgrade.
Joining the Kessel and Soderberg in revitalizing the offense the Coyotes also have a key player returning. Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Dylan Strome, Nick Schmaltz only managed 17 games with the Coyotes before sustaining an injury. In that short time he managed 5 goals and 9 assists. In a full season he could add another 20 goals, which would be a big deal for Arizona who didn’t have a single 20 goal scorer last season. Coach Tocchet has suggested that Schmaltz will likely see some time with Kessel, although the chemistry he showed with Clayton Keller may be worth utilizing.
So will it be enough? Arizona was in the running for a playoff spot until the very end but the lack of offense ultimately proving to be the Coyotes’ undoing. During the final ten games the Coyotes were 3-6-1 and finished with 2 goals or fewer in eight of those games. And during the regular season they were shut out seven times and in nineteen games they only scored one goal. With even a modest increase in offense we could very well see the Coyotes entering the post season for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
When you add Soderberg’s and Kessel’s goals last season and subtract Connauton’s and Galchenyuk’s the Coyotes would have scored an additional 30 goals. Adding another 30 goals would move the Coyotes up to 239, moving them up to 19th overall. Add another 15 goals from a healthy Schmaltz and Arizona is suddenly 13th in the league in goals scored. If Arizona can have another season with excellent defense combined with an average offense they have an excellent chance of making the playoffs.