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2017-18 Pacific Division Goodbyes: Arizona Coyotes

Another year, another early summer for the D***** D***.

Apr 3, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet on his bench during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome
Rick Tocchet’s team was once again eliminated before the month of April, finishing 29th overall in the league.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

To the Coyotes fan it may concern:

Just as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the (south)west, your Arizona Coyotes will once again be breaking out their golf clubs early this year. There will be no White Out in the desert this year, but there will be a White Out in Winnipeg, where the tradition originally started (and probably should have stayed).

On the bright side, you do have some very nice golf courses down there. And it’s only April, so you’ll beat the heat! What’s that? It’s supposed to be 99 degrees next week? Alright, just get some extra sunscreen and make sure you drink lots of water.

But it’s ok, Coyotes Nation. I’m a Sharks fan. You don’t have to tell me about disappointment. Or, you can remind me over and over again, like everyone else. Your call.

I didn’t watch a lot of Coyotes games this year, mostly because they didn’t play in a lot of meaningful games (no offense). The last time I saw the Sharks and Coyotes play in a truly meaningful game was in 2002, when San Jose clinched a first round series against the Coyotes at home in Game 5. I vividly remember that game because it was the first time I saw my team clinch a series in person. Thanks for that, Coyotes.

Did I mention that we won more playoff series in 2016 than you’ve ever won, ever? Sorry about that, I don’t get to trash talk much. Let’s move on.

So let’s go over the team and figure out why it can’t seem to do anything right.

Just to be clear, I’m not here to make you feel bad. I’m here to cheer you up. As one season ends, the next one begins right? You have a lot to look forward to!

Because playoff appearances occur about as often as rainfall in the desert, your prospect pool is as deep as they get. In their annual team prospect pool rankings, The Hockey News ranked the Coyotes No. 1 last year and No. 3 this year. Not bad.

Max Domi, your 23-year-old former first-round pick is quickly becoming… wait… he only scored nine goals this year? How? Was he hurt? (Checks game log) He played every game? Oh, well that’s weird. But didn’t he have a good season last year? How many goals did he score last year? (Checks stats) Only nine goals last year? Hmm. Well, he’s still just 23. A lot of time to improve.

Even if Domi doesn’t become a superstar, you still have plenty of first round picks coming up through the ranks! Like Dylan Strome, taken third overall in 2015. That draft class was stacked! McDavid, Eichel, Hanifin, Werenski, Meier, Rantanen, Barzal, DeBrusk, Connor, Chabot, Konecny, Boeser. He’s gotta be great! What’s that? He spent most of the season in the AHL? Well, that’s okay, he’s got time to season. Oh, you’re right, he does only have 10 points in 28 NHL games, but that’s not that bad for him being only 21.

But wait... doesn’t the guy who was picked right after him already have 130 NHL points? Mitch Marner. Yeah, he’s good. But didn’t you trade for another high first-rounder that year? That’s what I thought. I’m sure that guy is pretty good, what’s his name? Lawson Crouse? Let’s see... 13 points in 83 NHL games. Well, I’m sure he’ll pick it up from there… but... looking back at that draft, it just seems like you were shooting at fish in a barrel and somehow missed all of the fish. It’s alright, there will be more high picks to come in the near future.

Hey! Here’s something: Clayton Keller is good! 23 goals this year as a rookie is great! Who else do you have that can score goals? What? No one else on your team scored 20 goals? Really? Okay... well do you have someone to pass Keller the puck? What do you mean Keller also led the team in assists? Who exactly is contributing secondary scoring on this team? Nick Cousins, with 19 points in 70 games. That’s not great, but he has room to grow. Jordan Martinook, 15 points in 80 games. He’s only 25, I guess. Brendan Perlini almost scored 20 goals!

Brad Richardson is your alternate captain and has 15 points in 75 games and plays on your fourth line. Isn’t the alternate captain role supposed to go to someone who contributes a lot and can lead the team? In San Jose, for example, our As belong to a future Hall of Fame center and this other guy who shuts down the opposition’s top line while scoring 30 goals in the process. Okay, okay, I’m sorry!

Wait, hang on. You have Zac Rinaldo? Zac Rinaldo is still in the league? I need to check your forward line combinations (courtesy of DailyFaceoff).

Panik — Stepan — Keller

Domi — Strome — Rinaldo

Perlini — Archibald — Fischer

Martinook — Richardson — Cousins


Zac Rinaldo is bad at hockey. He is good at fighting people. Those are two mutually exclusive things. In his last two seasons, Rinaldo’s corsi for percentages were 38.8% and 43.3%. That’s not just bad, that is how-did-this-guy find-his-way-to-the-rink bad. He also has 10 points in his last 104 NHL games. I don’t care if you’re a traditionalist or a stat nerd, I think we can all agree that he shouldn’t be in the NHL.

Deep breath. Your defense doesn’t look that bad. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is good. Our old buddy Jason Demers can be decent at times. It looks like those are the only two guys who played most of the season and have a CF% above 50%. That’s… not great. But Jakob Chychrun might be good. Kevin Connauton is on your third pairing and has 21 points this year, I’ll take that any day of the week!

Hey, you do have a GM who loves advanced analytics. That’s pretty cool. I would hope he at least did the right thing and sold at the deadline. It looks like you got... a backup goalie and a 22-year-old AHLer. No draft picks. Hmm. To be fair, it can be hard to sell when you don’t have anything valuable.

I’m sure you have a ton of picks next year already. You have: a first (Dahlin?????), Minnesota’s second (so probably around 50-60th overall), a third, a fourth, a sixth and a seventh. That’s… uh. Well. It’s not like San Jose is stock-piling draft picks, either.

It doesn’t matter! You finally have a goalie! Antti Raanta has been incredible! I don’t really understand how you’ve lost so many games when he has a .930 save percentage!

So, what it looks like to me is you just need to round out the young talent with some good free agent signings this summer. The Coyotes traded for a few vets last summer. Trading for two of your best players in Raanta and Stepan was not bad (even though it cost you an early first-round pick, who the Rangers used to draft that guy who threw his World Juniors silver medal into the crowd. He’s good, by the way). This year, they have a good amount of cap space. Who do you think they will sign? What do you mean the Coyotes don’t know how to do that? Who did you sign as a free agent last year?

2017 Arizona Coyotes Free Agent Signings:

  • Scott Allen, LW
  • Emerson Etem, LW
  • Michael Latta, C
  • Adam Clendening, D
  • Andrew Campbell, D
  • Mike Sislo, RW
  • Zac Rinaldo, LW
  • Joel Hanley, D
  • Mario Kempe, RW
  • Hunter Miska, G

Wow. That’s a whole lotta AHL there. Zac Rinaldo is literally the only player there who is currently on your roster.

Well, all I can say to make you feel better is this: forget the past, your prospect pool is good, and the rebuild looks like it’s almost over! After a classic nine-year rebuild, I can confidently tell you that the Coyotes will make the playoffs in 2020-21!

Hopefully they don’t move the team to Quebec before then.

[Note: All joking aside, I actually think Dylan Strome will be a good pro one day. Don’t trade him just because he’s struggling as a 21-year-old cough Oilers cough Chiarelli cough]