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New Faces, But A Slew Of New Problems For The Winless Arizona Coyotes

Ralph Freso-AP

On paper, the Arizona Coyotes improved during the offseason. So why have they started out so poorly?

After a disappointing 30-42-10 record in the 2016-17 season, general manager John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes sought out fresh faces to ensure his sophomore year with the team would produce better results.

He traded defenseman Connor Murphy and a forward prospect to the Chicago Blackhawks for three-time Stanley Cup champion Niklas Hjalmarsson and gave away the seventh overall pick of the 2017 Entry Draft along with a prospect to the New York Rangers for center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta

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John Locher-AP

These key acquisitions of veteran players filled many of the holes that the departure of goaltender Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames and the decision not to re-sign franchise superstar Shane Doan had created. Doan later retired during the offseason after 21 seasons with the franchise, both during its Coyotes incarnation and when it was the original incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.

It appears as though Doan’s retirement couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Coyotes. To start the season, they’ve had a miserable 0-7-1 record, scoring two or fewer goals in all but two of their games.

Raanta, their expected starting goalie, had a solid outing in his first game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in which he blocked an impressive 40 shots. But in a rematch with Vegas, he allowed three goals within the first five shots he faced and had to be pulled. In the next game he played against the Detroit Red Wings he was injured after a single period and hasn’t skated since.

Hjalmarsson has one assist with his new team so far and consistently skates around 20 minutes each game. Stepan has two goals and four assists, but even his impressive scoring hasn’t been able to turn the tide. 

Nineteen-year-old Clayton Keller, selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft, has been one bright spot for the beleaguered Coyotes. The skilled forward has collected six goals and two assists to start the season. 

His team, however, has developed a particularly bad habit of allowing goals quickly after scoring them. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson acknowledged that painful statistic, saying, ”I don’t know why it keeps happening. We score a goal and two shifts after, they score another one. That’s something we have to work on.” The Coyotes have also scored first in six of their eight contests, but have yet to hold onto that lead for a full 60 minutes.

LM Otero-AP

The Coyotes are entering a tough five-game, eight-day road trip out east. Their players haven’t been coping, with new lines and new faces. Their two healthy goaltenders both have higher than a 3.50 GAA (goals against average). The team has only capitalized four times on the power play. 

It’s frustrating,” Hjalmarsson admitted during an interview after losing to his former team, “but somehow we’ve got to find a way to stay positive even though it’s been a rough start here.”

Already having reached the unwanted achievement of the worst start in franchise history, the Coyotes are now dangerously close to meeting or   surpassing the 1943-44 New York Rangers, who lost 11 games to start the season, the longest such streak in league history. 

Only four of the players on the current Coyotes roster were with the team before the 2015-16 season. Younger players like Keller and Max Domi continue to provide decent scoring; Keller, Domi, Ekman-Larsson and Stepan are currently the only four players on the team with more than five points. Furthermore, ten of the twenty active Coyotes forwards and defensemen have yet to score a single goal.

This year, it seems, is a lost cause. A combination of subpar goaltending, lucky breaks for their opponents, and a lack of secondary scoring have torpedoed the Coyotes’ season almost as soon as it’s begun. Adding new faces to the mix hasn’t provided the success Chayka probably hoped for, either.

The Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights are running away with the Pacific Division, and the Coyotes, barring a magnificent stroke of luck, won’t be able to catch them. They really aren’t as bad as the numbers indicate, but moral victories won’t earn them any points in the standings.

Edited by Kat Johansen, Resubmission, Vincent Choy.

How was the O'Brien Trophy won, and when was it last awarded?
Created 10/18/17
  1. Most assists by a player; 1943
  2. Being the Stanley Cup runner-ups, 1950
  3. Most shutouts by a goaltender; 1965
  4. Winning the NHL All-Star Game; 1994

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