Most people would consider the Arizona Coyotes’ offseason a resounding success. Last season the struggled to score and General Manager John Chayka addressed that with the acquisitions of Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg.
But there should be a big concern for the Coyotes’ fanbase. After being mum on it for weeks the Coyotes would ultimately not re-sign assistant coach Scott Allen, who spent the past two seasons with the Coyotes running the defense and the penalty kill.
Under Allen, the Coyotes had one of the best penalty kill units last season. They finished with the third-best penalty kill at 85.0% and they had the second most short-handed goals with 12.
While the team struggled to score the Coyotes’ penalty kill was a silver lining. The team’s offense was one of the worst in the league, finishing 28th in goals scored with 209 goals, and only through solid defense and a stellar penalty kill was the team able to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
This past offseason the Coyotes brought in a new assistant coach, Phil Housley. Housley’s longest coaching stretch was as an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators from 2013 to 2017 were worked primarily with defensemen. He has also previously served head coach for the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons and was a coach and assistant coach for Team USA at various international events.
But Housley will not be taking over the penalty kill unit, current assistant coach John MacLean will. MacLean previously ran the Coyotes’ power play, which unlike the penalty kill was not great. Last season the Coyotes had the sixth-worst power play in the league, finishing with a 16.3% success rate.
It’s hard to know if the Coyotes’ penalty kill success will finish under MacLean. MacLean has shown to be an effective assistant coach in the past with the New Jersey Devils and he may be a better fit for the penalty kill.
On paper, the unit is largely the same, if not better with the addition of Soderberg. Soderberg was fourth in short handed time on ice among the Colorado Avalanche last season and lead the team with three short handed goals.
Whether or not you think the Coyotes’ penalty kill will stay effective depends on the age-old debate of players versus system. If you weigh the players’ input more then you will likely think that the penalty kill will stay effective next season. If you think that the system is more important you may want to be concerned with the Coyotes switching coaches.
Recently Scott Allen has found a new home, serving as an assistant coach for the Washington Capitals’ AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears. Because the universe is logical and things make sense one of the minds behind one of the best penalty kills last season will, of course, be running the power play.
Caught up w/Scott Allen RE: his new assistant coaching position w/the Hershey Bears (Capitals’ AHL affiliate). He laughed in noting he’ll be coaching the Fs and PP, the direct opposite of what he coached with the Coyotes.— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) August 30, 2019
The handling of Scott Allen is likely a sore spot for some Coyotes fans, and it seems like a gamble. If the team’s penalty kill struggles out of the gate it will be an early indication that the Coyotes front office made a major misstep in not bringing back Allen. But hopefully the a revitalized offense can be complemented with another season of an elite penalty kill.