It’s tough to follow a team for many years and watch them get your hopes up… only to disappoint you. It’s called being a ‘fan’, yet it can be very annoying and frustrating. The 2019-20 Arizona Coyotes team falls into this category.
The 2019-20 Arizona Coyotes Are Difficult to Follow
For one thing this team has failed to win important one-goal games. Their 10-13-8 record in these tight games may be what has defined their inability to be in a playoff spot with 13 games remaining. To illustrate this, if they had only won four more of those games putting their mark at 14-9-8, they’d be tied with the Edmonton Oilers for second place in the Pacific Division.
This is a very good defensive team ranked third in the NHL with a stellar 2.59 goals-against-average. Losing close games for this team can be attributed to a weak offence, not a weak defence. They rank 23rd in average goals scored a game at 2.72. What brings this to the forefront is their record when they score three or more goals in a game. They are a stunning 32-4-3 when they light the lamp three times in a game.
2019-20 Arizona Coyotes Offensive Woes
Of course, this team was supposed to have addressed the issue of a poor offence when it acquired star winger Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins. That part hasn’t really worked out too well for the Desert Dogs. Phil has struggled with just 14 goals, 22 assists. He has kept his consecutive games streak alive by participating in all 69 Coyotes games.
This team struggles scoring and it may be the downfall which causes them to miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season. And, if that transpires you can expect some sort of shake up to the organization. Either the general manager/president of hockey operations, John Chayka and/or head coach Rick Tocchet may be gone.
More likely if they stay, there will be a roster makeover to emphasize their offensive shortcomings. They have needed a first-line centre for some time now. They haven’t had a player score 30 goals or more since Radim Vrbata did it during their best year of late, in 2011-12. He collected 35 that year.
The team is getting good looks and even breakaways, yet are not capitalizing on their good fortune. Some of it could be good goaltending they’re facing, but execution is thoroughly lacking.
Net-front Presence Pays Dividends
On a positive note, they have exhibited a willingness to go to the net and screen the opposing goalie. It’s something which has been successful and needs to be stressed by the coaching staff. It is a war zone in that area of the rink, but it pays high dividends. The possibilities of rebounds or deflections are endless. Just look at the Nick Schmaltz goal against the Vancouver Canucks as an example. You go to the net and good things happen.
Power Play Needs to Improve
The Coyotes rank 18th in the NHL with a 19.3 percent power play scoring ratio. While not exemplary, if it was improved their offence would be able to earn them more victories. Right now, with the season close to ending, every win is needed to keep them above water. And, getting Kessel on the power play has helped with him adding eight of his 14 goals on the man-advantage. Players like Schmaltz and Clayton Keller need to contribute more to this unit to really make it effective.
Taylor Hall Status
It was also thought that going after and acquiring a talented forward like Taylor Hall would infuse some offence into this team’s glaring weakness. It really hasn’t helped much there either. They have gone 14-16-4 since adding Hall to their roster. The argument that Hall may still be adjusting to being on the team holds no water (or ice) as it’s been 34 games. That’s almost half a season. Hall adds speed and play-making along with two-way play to the roster. Yet, they are under .500 with him in the lineup. That’s baffling!
If the team intends to re-sign Hall a good thing to do is to get to the playoffs so he feels staying in the desert is a good career decision. What may help the Yotes is that the salary cap is expected to rise at least $2.5 million or more. Since the team will be strapped for cap space next season, this will certainly help. They look to have $3.285 million, so any additional resource will be welcomed. Of course, player moves will be made on the team with seven free agents on the roster.
The Arizona Coyotes are still in the hunt for a postseason berth. Don’t count them out. They fight, and scratch for every faceoff, every shot on net. Since they have Darcy Kuemper back, the stretch run will be exciting to watch.
Better yet, if they can score some timely goals, their excellent defence and goaltending can take them to a place they’ve not visited for a while.