The Arizona Coyotes have yet to win a game in their first seven games that they have played this year. It appears they may be in the cellar once again this season. Is there any hope for the boys in the desert and the fans who support them?
It took the club six games to use a third goalie. In those games, the team gave up 23 goals and scored 12. Head coach Rick Tocchet has told his team not to panic according to NHL.com. The Yotes are obviously in rebuild mode developing young talent, but they have been in this mode for the last five years.
If you are patient, there is always a bright side to look on. The team’s fans have proven to be passionate as any fan base in years that they’ve made it to the postseason. A long rebuild has followed since their last playoff berth in 2012. However, rebuilds are long processes. The key is to see signs of optimism for the future at these points in time.
Starts from the goal line and out
Every good hockey club needs solid goaltending. A true number one is a top priority for the Coyotes in this rebuild. The last time Arizona was host to playoff hockey, they took it all the way to the Western Conference final. Their starting goaltender that season was Mike Smith. He was a true number one.
Smith posted a 2.21 goals against in 2011-12, which was good for fourth in the Vezina Trophy race for the league’s top net minder. He led the Yotes just four wins away from the finals, letting up the seventh fewest goals of any team that year.
Arizona traded Smith prior to the start of this season. They currently have three goalies on the roster, two of which have given up 21 of the 23 goals allowed in a combined seven appearances. The third goalie on the Coyotes’ roster made his NHL debut Tuesday night against Dallas. His name is Adin Hill, who stopped 31 of Dallas’s 33 shots in a 3-1 loss. Will he be Arizona’s number one goalie of the future?
anchors on Defense
Defense and special teams go a long way in piecing together a solid hockey club. The 2011-12 Coyotes did not score a great deal, finishing 17th in the league in scoring. They won through great goaltending, penalty killing and defense.
Arizona (then Phoenix) had a collection of experienced veterans and youthful talent the last time they were in the postseason. Veterans like Adrian Aucoin and skillful rookie defensemen like Oliver-Ekman Larsson (who collected 32 points that year) manning the backend. A goalie is only as good as the team in front of him. As the good defense has dicipated over the years, Mike Smith was unable to put up as spectacular of numbers.
The Yotes traded for Stanley Cup champion Niklas Hjalmarsson in the offseason. He and veterans like Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers and Luke Schenn are slowly coming together as a formidable defensive core. This team is following suit with the youth movement with the average age of their players being under 25. The question remains, will a few tweaks bolster their roster, or will this rebuild continue for years to come?
Superstar Talent Up Front/stick with it
Every contending team has at least one or two players in that 50-70 point range. Ray Whitney registered 77 for the Yotes during the 2011-12 season. This is where the Arizona faithful have reason to be optimistic about the future.
The Yotes have four young, talented, developing forwards. One is 24 (Tobias Rieder), two are 22 (Max Domi and Anthony Duclair) and another is 19 playing in his first full season (Clayton Keller).
All four find themselves in the top five of Arizona’s scoring list to start the season. Each of these players have the ability to turn into high-end players in this league. Nevertheless, for the time being, there is reason to watch and be entertained if you are a member of the Coyote faithful.
Gary Bettman has been very open that the NHL is committed to hockey in the desert. Rebuilds can take five or even ten years. However, if you look at an organization like Toronto, it is unquestionably worth the wait once your team is back on top.
Hockey is there to stay in Arizona and for fans confused about their investment, don’t be. Things can change on a dime.
All teams go through ups and downs throughout their history. It will never be one way or the other forever. Sticking with your team through the hard times makes it all the more meaningful when they return to glory. Any Chicago Cubs/Blackhawk supporter or any member of the Oiler and Maple Leaf communities will tell you this for sure. Always believe, always think positively as long as your team is still playing.
“From Our Haus to Yours”