With the NHL season just around the corner, we are unveiling our 31 in 31 series previewing one team per day. We’re going division by division, moving alphabetically within each. Today we look at the Arizona Coyotes.
Does anyone ever really know what’s going on with this franchise, a team that changes owners as often as Teemu Selanne changes cars?
The Coyotes are not a playoff team, and the fourth-lowest scoring team last year is going to have trouble filling the net, despite adding a 55-point centreman in Derek Stepan.
Stopping goals could be an issue, too. The tandem of Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue has serious questions marks, and defensive depth is also an issue, despite adding Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago.
UP-AND-COMING PLAYER TO WATCH
Clayton Keller left Boston University after one season, tearing it up with 45 points in just 31 NCAA games. He snuck in three NHL games with Arizona last season and had two assists, and has a better than excellent chance of starting the season with Arizona.
Keller is the next young player tagged with hopes of taking the Coyotes to relevancy in the Arizona market. Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Anthony Duclair… All have tried, but they need more help than ‘Yotes management has afforded them.
Keller is another good young player in the desert. What this team needs is a better supporting group of veterans to help the kids along.
WHAT A SUCCESSFUL 2017-18 WOULD LOOK LIKE
Arizona has missed the post-season five consecutive years, and it’s going to be six come April. Success in the desert will be defined by finishing ahead of both Vegas and Vancouver in the Pacific, and pressing Los Angeles for fifth spot.
They need to finish a project with this club, rather than starting off in a new direction every couple of seasons. Shane Doan is now gone, and Hjalmarsson is a nice add on defence. The Coyotes need to be harder to play against, while establishing a style with some staying power.
BIGGEST REMAINING QUESTION
Raanta is one of those goalies coming out from behind a top starter. He was stellar in spot duty when Henrik Lundqvist got hurt in New York, but wasn’t as good as advertised when he landed in Chicago originally. Maybe Raanta has improved.
NHL creases are littered with guys who came out from behind a star No. 1. Cam Talbot, Frederik Andersen, Martin Jones, Jonathan Bernier, Ben Scrivens… Which one is Raanta? There’s only one way to find out, and the Coyotes’ season is riding on the answer.