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MHH Previews the Lesser 29: Arizona

Welcome to a new installment where we will preview each of the other NHL teams who simply make up the bulk of the league the Avalanche play in. Today, we look at the Arizona Coyotes.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Their head coach: Dave Tippett. A coach whose most notable achievements have been making it to the playoffs with the Stars in the mid 2000s before running into the indestructible buzzsaw that is/was the Colorado Avalanche. He’s spent almost all of this century coaching in the NHL with warm weather teams in the Kings, aforementioned Stars, and the Coyotes since 2009.

Their captain: Shane Doan. Sometimes, I feel bad for Doan in that he’s spent his entire career with this team. He is the face of the Coyotes, and while it’s good to be considered the face of a franchise, being the face of Arizona is like being the face of a McDonald’s when you could be the face of an In and Out Burger. I shouldn’t feel bad though because for some reason I don’t understand he has decided to spend his time in Arizona when he’s had the opportunities to leave. The fifteen people in Arizona who know what hockey is are eternally grateful for his sacrifice.

Their 15-16 season: It was a lot better than expected to start out. No one gave the Coyotes a chance in a cold hell to make the playoffs in the preseason, and halfway through the season they were in the thick of things in the Pacific. The last part of the season was more like everyone imagined the entirety to be, and they were a bad team, not sniffing the playoffs. Trading for Alex Tanguay was the exclamation point to their statement they did not expect to play postseason hockey.

How did they do against the Avs? They won 2 of 3. The first one in Arizona was pretty boring to watch; the most notable thing about it was the Avalanche wearing their "home" sweaters on the road for the first time in forever. In the 2nd game, soon-to-be but now ex-Av Mikkel Boedker scored a game-winner in overtime, and I don’t think a statement encapsulates the Avs of late more than that one. Colorado took the final game in Denver pretty easily, but 3 points were lost that the Avs surely would have enjoyed having when they battled Minnesota for the last wildcard spot.

When do they play the Avs this season? At Arizona on October 29th, in Denver on November 8th, and at Arizona on March 13th.

Will they be good? They will be mediocre. The Coyotes have a lot of good young players, which will be discussed more below, but I think they’re a year or 2 away, especially with how good the California teams are right now. It’s natural to predict at this point that Anaheim, LA, and San Jose will take the automatic playoff clinching spots from the division, leaving Arizona to fight with whoever doesn’t take the Central’s automatic bids, and that’s not an easy thing to contend with.

3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, Five For Howling:

-You guys are probably tired of talking about it, but I can’t ask 3 questions with Coyotes fans without first asking about where the ownership stands right now regarding the future of this franchise. What’s the word on staying in Glendale or possibly moving? The team absolutely wants to leave Glendale; that much is clear. There are a couple of rumored sites in the East Valley (which is generally more populated and more affluent) that the Coyotes are pursuing, but there are logistical hurdles to getting there. The narrative that they want to cut and run out of Arizona should have been thoroughly killed at this point; they bought and moved an AHL club to Tucson two hours south in AZ, have invested millions in marketing and youth hockey programs, and even are about to put down a lot of money on a new arena. They're staying in Arizona, if not in Glendale.

-The Yotes have a lot of good, young talent. Domi, OEL, Duclair… what’s missing for this team to make some consistent noise in the West? Arizona's two big questions marks are down the middle and on defense. Domi and Duclair are tremendously talented, but Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak are untested at the NHL level so far. Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette are decent centers, but not of the Anze Kopitar/Ryan Getzlaf caliber. That's the kind of player down the middle Arizona needs at least one of Strome or Dvorak to blossom into.

On defense, the Coyotes have definitely embraced the modern puck-moving defenseman by adding Alex Goligoski, trading for Anthony DeAngelo, and drafting Jakub Chychrun. But DeAngelo and Chychrun are extremely young, and the Coyotes currently imbalanced between the left side and the right. OEL and Goligoski should be very good in the first and second pairing, but will they be good enough long enough for Arizona's other defensive talents to get to the NHL?

-You play in a division where you’re battling LA, Anaheim, San Jose, and up and coming teams in the Flames and Oilers. Where does Arizona finish the season and will they be in the postseason? San Jose and Los Angeles don't seem to have gotten demonstrably worse, and Anaheim should not have regressed a lot either. Elliott should help Calgary's long deficient goaltending, while who knows if Lucic and Adam Larsson will offset the loss of Taylor Hall. Arizona should be better, but I don't think they're guaranteed playoff spot better. They may make a push for the wild card, but it'll be a tough climb.

But at least they aren't Vancouver.

Thanks to Brendan Porter for taking the time to answer!