The Oilers hit the road for a back-to-back set starting on Thursday in Arizona.
Arizona has had a tough start to their schedule, going 0-2-1 and allowing goals by the bunches. Early season jitters? Pre-daylight saving time fears? Goalie can’t stop a beachball? I enlisted site manager Carl from our SB Nation site Five for Howling to help shed some light on the Coyotes’ early season woes.
Thanks go to Carl for his time.
Let’s dive right in.
Copper and Blue: The Coyotes have just come off a 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues, they’re 0-2-1 to start the season. They played a close one against the Sabres, but got pasted for eight goals in their season opener against Columbus. They’ve yielded 17 goals in three games, what’s the number one reason they can’t keep it locked down?
Carl @ Five for Howling: It’s still early, but I think the team’s most significant issue is a lack of familiarity with each other and a lack of confidence because of it. Goaltending has been an issue, but when you are losing games 7-4 or 8-2, that can’t just be an issue with your goaltender. The team was doing well against the Blues, but they allowed five goals in the span of five minutes, which absolutely sunk them. The Coyotes had so much turnover during the offseason and acquired so many new people that I don’t think they have complete trust in the system or each other yet. Once the team has had a chance to play a few games together, we won’t see as many massive blowouts or even a win or two.
CNB: The Coyotes are stacked for the 2022 draft. They’ve got three first round selections and five second round selections, all due to them absorbing a significant amount of bad contracts this last offseason. The nicest part about these deals is that most of them expire at the end of this year, nearly 40 million in Arizona’s cap falls off at the end of th year. How confident are you in Arizona’s ability to make the most of the 2022 entry draft and begin to make inroads towards the playoffs?
FFH: So far, management has been saying the right things and making the right moves. Bill Armstrong was brought in for his history of evaluating talent with the St. Louis Blues, a team that found a few steals during his tenure there. They have focused on expanding and solidifying the team’s scouting department and have spoken of a commitment to making sure that players have enough time to develop properly. It’s still early, but they have stuck with this, with the most prominent example being sending Dylan Guenther back to the Oil Kings so he can have a full season rather than having him play this season, despite a strong preseason. It will be interesting to see if my opinion changes when the team starts drafting players, but I’m confident they will find a few steals at the draft.
CNB: Clayton Keller signed an eight year deal back in September of 2019 that will keep him a Coyote until the end of the 2027-28 season. Is there any reason he’s on the third line with Lawson Crouse and Travis Boyd? Is it just to prop Phil Kessel up top and hope someone bites in a trade?
FFH: The actual Coyotes lines haven’t mattered for a long time, so I’m not sure. The Coyotes’ lack of talent seemed to create a nebulous top nine, rather than a definitive top line, even before the Great Selloff. It could be an effort to prop up Kessel, who had two assists in the Coyotes’ last game and is a player that I think will be traded this season. Keller has played well with Lawson Crouse; he is second on the team in points and leads the team with two goals in three games, so for right now, it seems like a good place for him. But starting next week, we may see that same line called the first line, so who can say for sure.
CNB: Which Coyotes prospect is ready for a breakout year?
FFH: Victor Söderström has looked good for the Coyotes, earning a spot on the team for opening night, and has played in all three games for the Coyotes. He had a lot of buzz around his draft time and will hopefully be an essential defenseman in the coming seasons. I don’t think he is a game-breaker yet, but I think this is the season he takes that big next step.
CNB: What needs to go right for the Coyotes to make the playoffs in 2021-22?
FFH: If the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets get sucked into a black hole, the Arizona Coyotes may make the playoffs. This isn’t a team designed for success now, and I do not think anyone expects them to. I think the team is better than they were in the three games they dropped, but not by much.
CNB: Finally, the Coyotes are being evicted from Gila River Arena at the conclusion of this year. There’s a proposed 1.7 billion dollar arena for Tempe, but that leaves the Coyotes without any immediate plans for the next two years. What’s next for the club? Will they find a new home in the desert?
FFH: It’s a complicated question that depends on what the City of Glendale wants to do. The city says that this is not a negotiating tactic and that they can make up for the Coyotes’ absence with additional concerts, but there is a lot of competition for concerts in the Valley. So I can see Glendale agreeing to a two-year extension and the team staying at Gila River Arena during the construction of the Tempe arena if it happens. If Glendale says no, the team will likely play at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the downtown State Fairgrounds.
Thanks go to Carl for his time.