The NHL Season is winding down and with that, you start to see teams fizzling out of playoff contention. For the Arizona Coyotes this fizzling out process does not come as a surprise considering they are 23-35-11 this season. Unfortunately, this has become a trend for the desert dogs as they haven’t seen playoff hockey in Arizona since the 2011-12 season when they went on a miraculous run to the conference finals.
Over their last 10 games, the Yotes have found themselves in a predicament winning 6 of those 10 contests. They have shown in this latter half of the season they are a team to watch out for, and are looking to play spoiler for teams trying to make a last-ditch effort at postseason play. Even if this season is over for the Coyotes don’t be surprised if next season this team turns out to be a lower seed playoff team.
4 Arizona Coyotes Positives In 2017-18
Youth, Youth and More Youth
The Arizona Coyotes are a team that have been in a rebuilding stage for more than 5 years. In that time have found a way to collect a good amount of young gun talent with names like Clayton Keller (2016), Dylan Strome (2015), Christian Fischer (2015), Nick Merkley (2015) and so forth. This team is loaded up with offensive players ready to make an impact – some, like Keller and Fischer, have already done so. Keller’s scoring ability and the playmaking ability of Strome will most definitely make an electric duo for years to come if they develop these two players properly. At the NHL level, everyone has witnessed Keller’s game and what an impact player he is for Arizona. So, when these other highly thought out players pan out, the Coyotes could be a very dangerous team.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a player with exceptional skills, has hit a wall of some sort in recent years. The silky smooth puck-moving defenseman has had his fair share of disappointments this season being a minus 34 player and collected only 35 points in 69 games. In his past 5 games though, he has had more jump as this recent winning was made for the past Ekman-Larsson to come out of his shell a bit more having a goal and 2 helpers. He is still a young player and only at 26 he still has a chance to turn his awful past couple of seasons around. The youthful speedy offensive players that Arizona is bringing in might just be what OEL needs to get some life back into his tank moving into next season.
The Arizona Coyotes being a product of the NHL have had some bad luck early on in this season which some might say is due to the Coyotes just being absolutely terrible. Others might disagree after watching their past 10 games, makes it seem to be more of an awful scheduling job on behalf of the NHL. The NHL is about making money as it is, at the end of the day, a business. But for most people, especially in the state of Arizona, hockey is not the number one sport to watch or prioritize.
Arizona is more focused on the football and baseball markets. The NHL took notice of this and made a horrendously hard schedule for Arizona because they wanted the “snowbirds” who come to Arizona when December/January rolls around to buy tickets in hopes that these people are hockey fans. This made Arizona play on the road for 20 of their first 32 games. They had one of the toughest schedules as a result of this and for an already “bad” team, this didn’t do them any favours. The positive from this is the team won’t be subject to this type of abuse next season, and overall may help them not be on the road so much at the beginning of the season.
Overall on defence, the team is moving in the right direction player wise. Especially with names like Ekman-Larsson,19-year-old Jakob Chychrun and Niklas Hjalmarsson — someone they basically stole from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chychrun has flaws but the kid is 19 years old playing top 4 minutes for the most part in Arizona. This is going to help him grow and Chychrun has shown his elite two way skating abilities as well as the fact that he isn’t afraid of throwing his weight around. So far in his sophomore year he has 11 points in 39 games played. Chychrun has ran into some injury problems but in his 39 game showing Chychrun has more then half the points he totaled in his rookie season of 20 points in 68 games. Chychrun is going to be a bright spot in Arizona for years to come.
Regarding Hjalmarsson, he is clearly one of the most under rated defensive defenseman in the game today. He is an amazing defensive defenceman and on a team of a lot of minus players, Hjalmarsson only sits at -1. If Hjalmarsson stays in Arizona, expect him to play a huge role next season.
This team has had a rough year but with some help and some tweaks they could easily be a dominating force in the next couple seasons, as long as they continue with their rebuild and let their kids take over the show. But, just like the 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs showed, anything is possible once the kids get hot.
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