Last year, the Arizona Coyotes finished last in the Pacific Division with 70 points. It was a low point for the franchise. They started the season with an 11 game losing streak and finished with a record of 29-41-12. No one would have expected them to turn around and become one of the contending teams for the Western Wild Card just one season later.
Coyotes GM, John Chayka, got to work early in the off-season making sure that their team would not drop as low in the next season. To start the summer, the Coyotes traded Max Domi, who was third in points last season, for Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadians. Next he grabbed Micheal Grabner, Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jordan Gross (prospect), Robbie Russo, Dakota Mermis, and Trevor Murphy (Not in any order). Chayka re-signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and goalie Antti Raanta. Chayka was suiting up for a big season with this Coyotes team.
The season started in the right place for the team. In the first 15 games, the team pulled together a record of 7-7-1 with 41 goals for and 38 against. Chayka continued making trades and moves to further the team. He sent Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome to Chicago for Nick Schmaltz. He moved players up and down to get his team to perform. Within the first half the Coyotes were 17-21-3 with 103 goals for and 118 against. It wasn’t a top spot in the standings but it was better than last season when they were 9-27-5 in the first 41.
The second half of this season has picked up for the Coyotes. In the 23 they’ve played, the Coyotes have picked up a 14-7-2 record with 70 goals for and 64 against. The team is riding a 5 game Win streak. They’ve been able to pick up points and put themselves within playoff contention. Goal tending has played a big part of this turnaround. Of the 722 shots goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Calvin Pickard have faced in the last 23, only 64 have slipped past them. Currently, the team is just 1 point out of playoffs, with a nice 4 point cushion between and Chicago.
But the one thing he couldn’t plan for was injuries. Only 4 players on the Coyotes roster have played in all 64 games this season. Technically 3 players now because Derek Stepan was injured just yesterday and he had yet to miss a game this season. Stepan is 3rd in goals and 4th in points on the team. The loss of a player like Stepan along with players such as Nick Schmaltz, Jason Demers, Micheal Grabner, and Antti Raanta have been greatly felt by this team. You have to give the Coyotes credit for doing this fantastic with younger call ups. One call-up that deserves a hell-of-a-lot recognition is Conor Garland, who just signed a well deserved two-year extension with the Coyotes.
If this team can keep healthy with who they have right now and remain consistent, they just might snag the last Wild Card spot in the mist of all the teams battling for it. Not to mention that if this team comes off this season with maybe one round of playoffs under their belt, they’re going to remain relevant for years to come. The team is full of young players who have barely had a sip at playing in the NHL, once they taste playoff contention, there is no stopping them.
Featured Image:Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP