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Comparing the Arizona Coyotes to the NHL’s 32nd Franchise

Would the Coyotes be in a better position if they just started over? 

2021 NHL Expansion Draft Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken took more than just Tyler Pitlick from the Coyotes. The NHL’s newest team also claimed the Coyotes’ spot in the weak Pacific Division and forced their move into the Central Division.

The Coyotes will now have to deal with long-distance travel and more formidable teams come next season. The Kraken built their team with the same expansion draft rules that allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season.

Although the Kraken are not expected to have nearly as much success as the Golden Knights, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, the same cannot exactly be said for the Coyotes.

It may be upsetting for Coyotes fans to realize that another expansion team will win more games than them right out of the gate. However, the Coyotes may be in a better position than the Kraken in the future.

Current Team

When comparing the Kraken to the Coyotes, it is essential to recognize each team’s plan. The Coyotes made their plan to rebuild clear when they started stockpiling overpriced contracts and future draft picks. The Kraken seem like they want to see where their team is before deciding if they need to retool or add a piece to set them apart.

Many criticized the Kraken for passing up on selecting some of the league’s star players. The Coyotes have also lacked elite talent for years which has contributed to their sparse playoff success.

However, not all teams without stars are destined for mediocrity. The Kraken’s roster looks heavy and hard to play against. Their defensive structure could resemble the New York Islanders or the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues.

Despite this, the Kraken’s forward group does not appear to be that of a Stanley Cup champion. General Managers learned from their mistakes that allowed the Golden Knights to become a powerhouse immediately. Teams avoided side deals and instead opted to just move on after losing one player. As a result, the Kraken didn’t have the opportunity to make any major trades.

Their number one center is Alexander Wennberg, who scored 29 points in 56 games last season. His 17 goals were impressive, but his 20.7% shooting percentage is unsustainable. The Coyotes’ number one center will be Nick Schmaltz, who recorded 32 points in 52 games. Schmaltz also has .6 points per game over his career, compared to Wennberg’s .5 points per game.

The Kraken’s center depth is certainly a weakness, but their offense is balanced. Unlike the Coyotes, the Kraken will have four lines who can defend and score. The Coyotes are also an older team after trading for several players whose contracts aged poorly.

It seems the Kraken plan on not needing much scoring. Their defense is led by Mark Giordano, the 2019 Norris Trophy winner. Although most teams would prefer to have Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Giordano provides the veteran leadership. The rest of the Kraken’s defense is much more complete than the Coyotes and several other teams.

If teams get through the Kraken’s defense, they will be shooting on a formidable netminder. Their starter is newly signed Philip Grubauer, and Chris Driedger will be the backup.

As for the Coyotes, their goaltending situation is looking bleak. Armstrong may be in the market for a veteran starter, but if not, their goalies are Carter Hutton and Josef Kořenář. For perspective, Seattle’s goalies both have a .92 career save percentage or higher. However, Hutton and Kořenář are both under a .91 career save percentage.

Future Success

The Kraken’s defensive team may be a playoff team next season due to the uncertainty in the Pacific Division. The Golden Knights will be a playoff team, but one of the three Canadian teams could miss the playoffs.

This is beneficial for the Kraken next season, but it could lead to problems down the road. The three California teams have finished at the bottom of the Pacific Division the past two seasons. It means that eventually, their decorated prospect pools could allow them to dominate the Pacific Division once again. Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, the Los Angeles Kings are already looking much better than in previous years.

Although the Central Division will be tough this season, some of the teams have an uncertain future going forward. Specifically, the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators may not be in playoff contention for much longer.

Even if the Coyotes kept their team the same as last year, they would probably miss the playoffs this season. However, Armstrong’s head start on the rebuild will allow the Coyotes to be a good team when many other teams in the Central Division are on the downswing.

The Coyotes are preparing for a big 2022 draft that could shape the franchise for years to come. They have two first-round picks, and five second-round picks next year. The Kraken only have their original one pick in each round.

If the Coyotes draft well, their prospect pool could be one of the best as soon as next season. It will come down to how they manage their assets, but more picks give them more opportunities to pick the right players. That is not a feat that the Kraken, or many other teams have.

Final Thoughts

The Seattle Kraken could be a good team for a while if they are managed properly. Their management has spent the last three years deciding how to construct their team. Time will tell if they made the right moves for now and for their future.

The Arizona Coyotes could be a bad team for a while if they are managed properly. They need to commit to the rebuild and not attempt to contend too early like they have in the past. Their dedication to scouting, drafting, and developing players will determine their success in the future.