A team that was in the playoff mix until the end in the West Division, the season did not go according to plan for the Arizona Coyotes.
One of the biggest problems they encountered was injuries, especially with their goaltending. Not only did their top goaltender Darcy Kuemper deal with injury troubles, but his backup Antti Raanta also dealt with injuries throughout the year. This forced them to rely much more on Adin Hill, their third-string goaltender.
Despite this being a down year offensively for Arizona, they were in the fight to get to the playoffs being eliminated on May 5th with their loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Phil Kessel led the team in scoring with 43 points, which was five points more than his first year in the desert.
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By The Numbers
Power Play: 20.79% (13th)
Penalty Kill: 80.84% (11th)
Goals For: 150 (23rd)
Goals Against: 174 (22nd)
While Kessel had a great year, the Coyotes’ best player was their young defensemen Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun has continued to flourish and this year could certainly be considered his breaking out party. Not only did he set career highs in goals with 18, assists with 23, and points with 41, but he finished tenth in Norris Trophy voting. He also led the team in offensive point shares by a considerable margin with 4.5, and in total point shares with 7.4.
While a lot of players on the team had a down year, there was one that is the most concerning as it continues a troubling trend. The biggest disappointment for Arizona this season was Clayton Keller. This is a hot take, and understandably so. A player who finished fourth on the team in scoring is the biggest disappointment? However, Keller has been on a downward trend these past few years. Since his second year in the league when he had 65 points, his points total has slowly gone down. And this year was his career-low with 35 points. If the Coyotes want to take that next step, Keller needs to get back to his scoring ways.
Behind the Bench Analysis
The team missing the playoffs was the final nail in the coffin for Rick Tocchet as he was fired after that May 5th loss. In his time in Arizona, Tocchet had a record of 125-131-34 with one playoff appearance coming last year in the bubble. However, if it were a regular-season they would’ve missed the playoffs that year. Tocchet was a big reason why Kessel accepted a trade to the Coyotes, but his tenure was rather uneventful.
In his place, the team has hired Andre Tourigny as their new head coach. While he has no NHL head coaching experience, Tourigny was the head coach of the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL, as well as their president of hockey operations. During his time in Ottawa, he worked with NHL prospects such as Marco Rossi, Alexander Chmelevski, and Jack Quinn to name a few. He took the team to the Robertson Cup Playoffs every year he was there. However, last year’s playoffs were canceled due to the pandemic. The Coyotes will hope that he can bring his winning ways to Arizona and help them get back to the playoffs.
Front Office Analysis
After quite the tumultuous tenure of John Chayka, Bill Armstrong took over in September of last year and got to work trying to repair the culture of the Coyotes. Chayka signed a few pieces to the team including veteran Derrick Brassard. He also made a couple of moves before the expansion draft. He started by trading away Adin Hill to the San Jose Sharks, acquiring Josef Korenar and a second-round pick, and he also acquired Andrew Ladd from the New York Islanders along with a second-round pick next year and two other conditional picks.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
The Coyotes have seven draft picks in this upcoming draft. Their first pick does not come until the second round due to their first-round pick being stripped from them due to the team bringing in prospects for secret tests before the 2020 NHL Combine. However, they do have three second-round picks this year. The first one they acquired was in the deal that sent Derek Stepan to the Ottawa Senators, and the second from the aforementioned Ladd deal.
Offseason Wish/Checklist & Prognosis for 2021-22
There could be multiple questions for the Coyotes this offseason, but the biggest question continues to surround their captain, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. There have been trade rumors swirling around him for quite some time, but he has remained in Arizona. Will Armstrong decide to pull the trigger on an Ekman-Larsson trade? Or at this point, has his value depreciated? There are also some rumors swirling around Christian Dvorak. For the offseason, the Coyotes have a lot of expiring contracts coming up to decide whether to re-sign or not. The biggest of these will be Connor Garland, who is a restricted free agent. Arizona also could look to add some more scoring on the forward end.
As far as the 2021-22 season goes, the Coyotes will move into the Central Division to make room for the Seattle Kraken to join the Pacific. The Central Division is going to more than likely be just as competitive as the West Division last year, if not more competitive. Armstrong and Tourigny will have some work to do if they want to remain in the mix for playoff contention.
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