The Morning After: Burning paper tigers
The Coyotes aren't the feel-good story of the season.
Perception amongst fans does not always equal reality, but it has certainly felt like the Sharks have struggled to beat mediocre (or even bad) teams in recent years. No such problem can be alleged against this year's San Jose team, which just torched the Coyotes 4-1 after dominating the Flames (despite losing) two days earlier.
Arizona has, at least casually, been referred to as a nice story after its strong start out of the gate. While the Coyotes still sit in fourth place in the Pacific, their odds of making the playoffs dwindle by the day. Arizona isn't a good hockey team, and truly hasn't been all season long. While Mike Smith stood on his head for Arizona early, the Coyotes haven't been able to do much of anything successfully since his injury.
What some might refer to as a slump, I'll refer to as a correction. Arizona was never good, even as the team raced out to a playoff spot to open the season while Anaheim toiled in the bottom half of the decision. The Coyotes didn't stop being good, they stopped being stupendously lucky. Need more than my word to convince you? Well...okay, fair.
You'll notice some fluctuation in the graph, which is the Coyotes' rolling average (25-games) of score-adjusted fenwick-for percentage. What you should really notice is that all of those numbers are below 50 percent, a sure sign of a team that is just not very good at the game of ice hockey. Arizona is currently 29th in the league by that metric, only surpassing the woeful Colorado Avalanche.
The shooting percentage of the Coyotes has absolutely plummeted since their red-hot start, which I'm going out on a limb to say isn't a coincidence. Arizona is now shooting a pretty average 9.5 percent (the Sharks are at 9.6, for reference) but the telling statistic is just how fall that number has fallen.
With the new year came a new low in shooting percentage for Arizona, a telling sign that the Coyotes luck has just about run out. Now six points out a playoff spot (and having played a game more than the third-place Ducks), the Coyotes should be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. Arizona has some nice young pieces, but it's just not time for the Glendale club to punch its playoff ticket. As for rumors that the Coyotes might fancy themselves as buyers come deadline time...well, that would be great news for 29 teams in the NHL.