The Arizona Coyotes battled the Buffalo Sabres all of 2014-2015 for 30th and ultimately missed out on both of the coveted draft picks. They ended up selecting Dylan Strome, who has yet to play an NHL game, but was viewed as a great selection even though they missed out on “McEichel”.
Nobody expected the Arizona Coyotes to be this good this year, as they are 2 games over .500 and currently sit 4 points outside of the 2 final Wildcard spots. Things looked good early on, but this young team is hitting a tough patch, as they have gone 2-6-2 in their last 10, and have dropped outside of playoff contention.
Before this recent dip in the standings, the Coyotes were 8-1-1-1 (12-19-5 through 1/12/16) which helped them climb the standings. The Coyotes have been an inconsistent team, which is expected from a young team, but have seen mostly .500 hockey, which definitely makes them one of the more interesting teams this season.
With 30 games remaining, can they be competitive enough to battle for a playoff position? I think so, as they have been without their top tendy Mike Smith since December 8th, which shows how much heart, and battle this team has.
The Coyotes had sparked some controversy, when they shipped off Pacific Division All Star Captain John Scott, to the Montreal Canadiens, in what seem liked a move that was forced from the league more than the GM of the team. Scott wrote a very good article for the Players Tribune, which can be read here, called “A guy like me”, which is a MUST read for anyone who knows Scott. He spoke of how nobody expected this team to be good, and he that he felt betrayed that he couldn’t represent his teammates at the All Star game. Yes, he did go on to play, and represent the Pacific Division. But he currently is playing in the AHL, which is a joke if you ask me. He should’ve never been traded, and was a huge mistake. He was traded on January 15th, and since the trade, the Coyotes have a record of 2-6-1, and saw a 3 game losing streak upon his departure.
It is dumb to think John Scott was an offensive firepower that helped Arizona early on, but what John brings to the locker room, and on the ice, isn’t easily measure by points. He’s a great guy, and a great locker room presence, as he proved at the All Star game. I’m blaming the Coyotes recent descent, on the trading of John Scott, yes.
Back to my original question. Can the Arizona Coyotes continue to be the “Surprise Team of 2016”? To put it short, no, I do not think so. This team is similar to Buffalo, and Toronto, a young rebuilding team with multiple holes that will be filled with young players in the upcoming years. The Coyotes have already seen two pieces develop into tremendous hockey players, in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Since the John Scott trade, Anthony Duclair has only 2 goals, which are his only points, in the 9 games. The other young core piece, Max Domi, who has 3 points since the trade, has been expected to carry this young team.
Both did a great job before this recent skid, Duclair has 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 51 games, and Max Domi has 31 Points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 52 games. The two need to get out of this slump in order to carry this team to a surprise playoff birth.
The best thing for the Arizona Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney to do, would be to acquire a veteran or two, to help steer this locker room in the right direction. Scott was obviously a huge part of the locker room culture, and his loss is not noticeable at first glance, but their would be no way the Coyotes would bring him back. That would be a good move in my book, but it will never happen.
The Coyotes are sitting 4 points back of the wildcard spots, and need to correct this slump soon, as Mike Smith isn’t expected back until mid to late February. The Coyotes could be playing playoff hockey, but don’t count on it. I’m certainly not.