I traveled out to the desert to find answers to life's most difficult questions: Why are we here? Is there life after death? What is morality? And most pressing of all...who is Brandon Gormley? Dehydrated and burning under the hot sun, I encountered an old Native American woman, who kindly served me a drink made from cactus and desert flowers in a wooden bowl. "Head toward the mesa," she said. "There you will find the answers you seek." So, toward the mesa I walked, feeling increasingly aware of every physical sensation. The sand turned bright hues of purple and yellow. A coyote spirit howled from the top of the flattened rock in the distance.
"I know nothing of philosophy," it said, seemingly through some sort of telepathy. "But the young Arizona defenseman is a subject of which I'm intimately aware. My family has had season tickets for years!"
Below is the conversation that ensued:
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1. Brandon Gormley was an awfully high draft pick. Did he get enough of an opportunity at the NHL level to justify moving on?
Gormley got his first extended look last season, and actually looked like he could stay in a bottom-four role. Midway through the season however, Gormley suffered an injury that sidelined him for over a month. He did get the chance to prove himself last season, and his performance left much to be desired.
2. Gormley finished 4th on the team (behind OEL, Michalek, and Stone) in relative Corsi. Was he really outperformed by the other young defensemen (Murphy, Dahlbeck, Moore) in his opportunities?
I think Gormley's relative Corsi benefited somewhat from favorable deployment relative to some of the other young defensemen; Gormley started 58.7% of his 5v5 shifts in the offensive zone last season, compared to 51.4% from Connor Murphy and 34.6% from Klas Dahlbeck. For a team whose possession numbers were anemic enough as is, the fact that Gormley didn't do as much heavy lifting defensively as the other youngsters probably contributed to why Tippett and Maloney felt it was okay to part ways with him.
3. How does he need to improve his game to stick at the NHL level?
Consistency is going to be tremendously important if he wants to stick around; he can make good decisions and can play on the power play at times, but it really seems to depend on which version of Gormley you get that particular night. I think he still has the ceiling to be a middle-pairing kind of defenseman, but only if he can balance his offensive talent with defensive responsibility.
4. Where does Elliott fit on a one-year two-way contract?
Elliott's right-handed shot was probably what the Coyotes desired most; they've struggled to keep depth on that side, and they lost AHL top-pairing defenseman Dylan Reese to a long-term injury. Elliott will likely be in the running with Keith Aulie, Corey Potter, and Philip Samuelsson for the #7 spot in the NHL. The fact that he is waiver eligible also complicates things.
5. What can we expect from the Coyotes coming off a 56-point season? Do you keep Dylan Strome around if the team is looking to get into the Auston Matthews sweepstakes?
Arizona's strategy this season appears to be placing two-way veterans in the center position to help ease younger players into top six roles. While Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Brad Richardson, and Boyd Gordon are not exactly a fear inspiring center corps, they're all defensively responsible, and can help younger wingers like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair adjust to playing in the NHL.
I personally think the Coyotes would be better off preserving a year of Dylan Strome's ELC by returning him to Erie anyways; his skating could use some improvement, the Coyotes already have four centers under contract, and the team isn't magically going to turn into a playoff contender just because Strome plays this year. I suspect Arizona would be in the running for the best odds in the Draft Lottery even if Strome played, but unless he has an amazing training camp I think we'll have to wait to see Strome's NHL debut for another season.