Few teams have had the relative chaos over the years of not only finding their identity, but fiscal stability and a some kind of fan base. The Coyotes are a team in constant flux off the ice. One of the few teams that hasn't but should have moved somewhere..anywhere. They have a solid GM in Don Maloney and coach in Dave Tippett and can field a competitive team most seasons. But outside of really nice seasonal weather year round, there seems to be too much uncertainty in the organization to attract really good or interesting free agents. They just recently found a new ownership that will keep the franchise in the greater Phoenix area, renamed the Franchise the Arizona Coyotes and seem to be able right now to operate in the black, or at least for this coming season. The other problem is a limited fan base that only seems interested in the team come playoff time. With it's excellent winter weather, Phoenix is a popular destination for Canadian fans of the several teams in Canada to visit and get really good seats to see a game.
To be competitive the Coyotes have decided that being a sound defensive team is in their best interests. They have over time rather wisely invested in good to great goaltenders and mobile defensemen and they hope to hang around long enough during a game to make a push to win at the end or take advantage of a power play. Dave Tippett is a systems man and has adapted his team to this style. They try to maintain a strong forecheck and stay mistake free and wear opponents down. There's no really close by other NHL teams hence no real rivalry, so they get little attention on national TV during Wednesday night rivalry night. They also in my opinion catch a fair amount of teams playing in their building on the second night of back to back games. I think the NHL might do this to help keep them stay viable giving them an extra chance to win. To add acid to a bad situation they have one of the worse locations for travel as everybody they play seems to be a heck of a trip to get too especially within their own division.
Goaltenders: The strength of the Coyotes is Mike Smith as their number one. Unfortunately if he becomes injured he's also the teams biggest weakness. Smith is a quality goalie who can steal games and has a strong mental capacity to not be bothered when giving up goals because his team falters in front of him. This year he needs to remain injury free as his backup is Devan Dubnyk a former number one goalie in Edmonton that seems to me to be shot out after being a shooting target for many years. He lacks confidence and seems to play a consistent style that allows him to stay healthy while absorbing many easy saves. Not much of a game stealer.
Defensemen: This is the offensive strength of the team with Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson being the go too duo for the team and playing in all situations especially the power plays. The rest of the defense plays yeoman like defense and this year Derek Morris is an unsigned free agent and no longer seems in the team plans.
Forwards: With the departure of Radim Vrbata, there just doesn't seem to be much left to push the puck forward. They have a strong developed bottom six group that is key to their defensive game. The top six led by aging Shane Doan and hopefully new help in Sam Gagner and B J Crombeen coming in from Tampa will be the hopes of some offensive potential. If I had to pick a particular weakness of this forward group it would be the ability to win face-offs and in a division with LA, San Jose, Vancouver and Anaheim that are so strong down the middle, it negatively affects their possession ability.
I pick Arizona to finish fifth in the Pacific Division based on the excellence and health of Mike Smith and the defense. Too many deeper teams to crawl over to get in the playoffs though many of their games will be hard fought.
Until Next Time!