The summer break is over and hockey will soon be back. As part of our NHL season previews, today we look at the Arizona Coyotes.
Notable Players Out: Alex Galchenyuk
First Key Game: Vegas Golden Knights; October 10th.
Odds to win the division
12:1 (t-5th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
No. If you rummage around the back the sofa and turn up a couple of bucks though, throw it on the Coyotes to make the playoffs. They’re probably not going to win the division, but the odds are nicely stacked that you’ll get a nice return on the money you’d already thought you’d lost. If the team doesn’t win the division, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The last time the Coyotes were competitive, 2012, the team won the division and progressed all the way to the conference finals. Unfortunately Arizona have been through a lot of changes since then and are pretty much an unknown quantity.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
The question on the minds of everyone watching the Coyotes will be answered in March. Will the Coyotes make the playoffs for the first time since 2012? Arizona have realized that Pavel Datsyuk isn’t going to be the team’s saviour, so have started shopping around, making the most of players who’ve been around the block a little but still have something to offer. The Coyotes are in that fun position of being low in expectations, but high in potential.
The trades the team has made feel very short term, and the owners and front office will be hoping for a playoff push to revitalize the franchise, which has had more than its fair share of problems recently off the ice.
Player to watch
It’s gotta be Phil ‘The Thrill’ Kessel. The Coyotes’ highest paid forward will likely line up with Derek Stepan and Christian Dvorak, and it will be interesting to see how the two-times Stanley Cup winner will fare in the wild west reaches of the NHL.
Kessel’s pedigree is already evident, and although the Coyotes are often the punchline to many a joke, the team missed out on the playoffs by just one place (and six points) last season. The organisation, although perpetually rebuilding, is looking for playoff hockey this season. That investment in Kessel and Soderberg needs to be repaid, and with Soderberg an unrestricted free agent after 2019-20, the pressure is on the pair to perform now.
It’s the same ‘c’ word that you’re probably going to see a lot this month: consistency. In goal, the Coyotes are strong, Darcy Kuemper was underrated last season, and alongside Antti Raanta form a formidable goalie tandem. The issue is the blueline, specifically whether or not the defensive corps can contribute enough offensively.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a superstar in Arizona, but in a division stacked with offensive d-men (Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano etc), the Coyotes need two-way contribution from every player on the ice.
If the Arizona Coyotes were an animal, what would they be?
The Coyotes would be a coyote. Lazy? Maybe, but the Coyotes are well named. Sat out there in the desert not bothering too many folk. Just getting on, getting on. Adapting to whatever situation arises, coyotes are opportunistic and will eat up whatever comes their way be that rabbits, fish, carrion, Marián Hossa’s contract, insects etc.