Our Arizona Coyotes 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
To put it lightly:
Let’s recap the Coyotes end of season and offseason:
- At the deadline the Coyotes acquired Taylor Hall from the Devils for a 2020 1st, a 2021 3rd and 3 prospects
- The team overall does worse with Hall in the lineup
- Taylor Hall has since left to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, gamble lost, sometime that happens. Okay not too bad
- July 25- GM John Chayka quits with three years left on his contract, citing differences with management.
- This happens a few days before the Coyotes are to begin playing games in the Edmonton playoff bubble as 11th seed.
- Reportedly Chayka was unhappy that Taylor Hall went to dinner without him with members of Coyotes ownership
- August 7- The Coyotes defeat the Nashville Predators (6th seed) 3 games to 1 in a qualifying round to advance to playoffs
- August 19 – The Coyotes are defeated 4 games to 1 and lose in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche
- August 26 – Due to the Coyotes violating draft combine testing rules, they were penalized by having two draft picks removed
- September – New GM Bill Armstrong is hired. Bill previously worked as head of amateur scouting for the Blues.
- October – The Coyotes draft Mitchell Miller in the 4th round. Coyotes are publicly criticized due to Miller’s shocking history of bullying (which other teams, like the Canucks, knew about and passed on him for). Great start to the Armstrong era, although he technically wasn’t allowed to participate in the draft himself.
- After a bit of public shaming, the Coyotes renounced Miller’s rights. Kudos, for doing the right thing, only after you didn’t get away with trying to hide a bad thing.
So at the end of the day this means that the Coyotes draft this year and next year look like this:
- In the 2020 NHL entry draft the team had no picks in the first 3 rounds (but really 4 since they renounced Miller)
- In the 2021 NHL entry draft the team has no 1st or 2nd round pick
Oh and did I mention they are at zero cap space?
That’s a lot of damage. The Coyotes really helping develop a culture of inclusion and success… It’s no wonder that Taylor Hall wasn’t wooed by his dinner date with Coyotes Ownership.
- Tyler Pitlick
- Johan Larsson
- John Hayden
- Taylor Hall
- Vincent Hinostroza
- Michael Grabner
- Carl Soderberg
Arizona Coyotes Roster Overview
The loss of Taylor Hall is dramatic. He was the most dynamic offensively gifted player on the lineup. More notably, the team gambled on getting him, gave up quite a bit, did worse with him in the lineup and then lost him for nothing. Overall not a win. Hall played predominantly with Conor Garland and Christian Dvorak, and even though they only played a few games together, they have a nearly 90 minute lead on any other line combination used by the Coyotes 5on5. The constant line jumbling is a huge issue on the Coyotes. Also of note was that when Taylor Hall was acquired the New Jersey Devils retained 50% of his salary.
In September 2019, Chayka signed Clayton Keller to an 8 year $7.15 million AAV contract extension, an almost $6 million raise for a player with 37 goals and 77 assists in 167 NHL games at the time of the signing. Keller finished this season with 44 points in 70 games, proving he is valuable to the team, but he needs to continue to develop with that high of a salary. He took some solid strides in the playoffs, with 7 points in 9 games, although he was playing with Taylor Hall. With this contract coming into effect for the 2020/21 season, the Coyotes were up against the cap at the end of the season. With Covid-19 and a flat-salary cap, there was even less wiggle room than anticipated. The team was even rumouredly shopping team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and backstopper Darcy Kuemper (arguably the reason they beat Nashville in the qualifying round) to make room for Hall. Ultimately they weren’t able to make it happen and Hall landed in Buffalo. With the Coyotes cap situation how it is, the loss of Hall cannot be replaced by bringing in another player.
With Hall gone the Coyotes top six forwards looks pretty questionable, unless a player takes a large step forward. The top two lines are looking like it will be some sort of mix between Dvorak, Garland, Stepan, Schmaltz, Kessel, and Keller. Clayton Keller will be a huge part of the offense, but he’s really got to grow into his contract. He’s definitely a pass first kind of player, but with the leading scorer of the team being Conor Garland with 22 goals, some players will have to shoot the puck a bit more. Keller shot percentage was 9.2% on 184 shots, which is actually up from the previous season’s 7.0%.
I was excited when Phil Kessel came to Arizona. I thought he would be a good fit, but he ended up having a point total of 38, a career low since his second in the league in 2007-08 when he had 37 in 82. It was a shortened season, and he still played every game like the iron man he is, but he only got 14 goals, 24 assists, and was aiming for the NHL green jacket award of worst +/- with a -21. That award eventually went to Andreas Athanasiou if you were wondering, with a *cough* -46…. Phil had a 4 year low shooting percentage of 9.2%. He HAS to be better if this team is going to compete. I’m not sure what Tocchet can tell him, but they need to channel their time in Pittsburgh together to get something going. This team needs to score more.
Nick Schmaltz was injured on a dirty hit to the head laid by Ryan Reaves in a return to play exhibition game, and missed the entirety of the Coyotes playoffs. Schmaltz had the second most points on the team after Taylor Hall. He saw time with a lot of different line mates. I think Tocchet needs to really solidify some line combos here so the guys can develop some real chemistry. The Coyotes weren’t as beat up in injuries this season, so hopefully that trend continues into next season and the team can shelter the minutes of some of their younger guys coming up like, Barret Hayton, Lawson Crouse, and Christian Fischer on the third line. These three will have to fill the spots of Hinostroza, Soderberg and Grabner, who have all left the team. Tyler Pitlick, John Hayden and Johan Larsson came in to also battle for those spots, but seem like more natural additions to a fourth line with the physicality in their games.
For the second straight off-season, the Arizona Coyotes opted not to change their blueliners, and to be honest, I think it’s the right choice.
The team was trying to make a deal to move Ekman-Larsson to Canucks, but could not do it by OEL’s self imposed trade deadline and he ended up staying put. OEL had a decent year, potting 4 goals, and 28 assists and played in all 70 games the Coyotes played in the short season. He will undoubtedly remain the teams #1 LD. Jason Demers saw a large amount of time paired up on that top unit and will probably remain there for this season.
Alex Goligoski had a big resurgence after an off year in 2018-19 and got his numbers back up to on pace for career norms. He and Jacob Chychrun were a very solid pairing for the Yotes, and actually played the most together out of any pairing combination. They both had successful offensive seasons, with Chychrun earning 12 goals, which is impressive for any d-man. They will most definitely start the season together and should remain a great pairing for the team.
Behind these top 4 we have Ilya Lyubushkin and Jordan Oesterle battling for a spot alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson to form the third pairing. Hjalmarsson missed quite a bit of time last season, and Lyubushkin and Oesterle saw a lot of playing time together in his absence. Whichever way the lineup goes, it seems like a luxury to have a defenseman of Hjalmarsson’s calibre on the third pairing.
After this season Goligoski, Demers, Hjalmarsson, Oesterle and Lyubushkin will be in need of new deals. It will be interesting to see what Bill Armstrong does with that.
If Coyotes fans are looking for a bright spot. This is it. Darcy Kuemper is an amazing goaltender, and Antti Raanta ain’t no slouch either.
Kuemper was 4th in the league in goals saved above average, he was 4th in the league for goals against average, and 3rd in the league for save percentage. Kuemper had a 2.22 GAA and a 0.928 save percentage in 29 games played.
Raanta on the otherhand was 10th in the league for goals saved above average, and 8th in the league for save percentage. Raanta had a 2.63 GAA and a 0.921 save percentage in 33 games played.
Adin Hill played a few games when needed when Kuemper was out with injury, and performed quite well as well with a 2.62 GAA and a 0.918 Save percentage in 13 games played.
Some people may look at the amount of games played and say “well small sample size, guy’s like Hellebuyck and Price are better because they play more games”. Well, maybe, but I see this as a strength of the Coyotes, that they can rotate out their goalies with ease and play with confidence in front of either guy. At the end of the day it’s about team success, and teams that rely on just one goalie will be hard pressed this year to roll the same goalie in a compressed season. The Canadiens addressed this cleverly by adding Jake Allen. Hey, lets get back to the Coyotes.
Because of the strength in net, the Coyotes were 3rd best in the league for goals against per game with 2.61, but in goals for per game…amongst the ten worst in the league, which seems to always be the issue in the desert.
Arizona Coyotes 2020-2021 Prediction
5-6 West Division
The Coyotes are definitely trending down. I predict they will not be in contention for a playoff spot, unless their goaltending tandem has another lights out season and the team somehow finds a way to score more with the players currently on the roster. Regardless of what happens on the ice, it can’t possibly be as bad as their off-ice stuff this offseason…right? As long as the Robo-yote and Kachina jerseys are around I’ll still have hope.
That concludes our Arizona Coyotes 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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