Arizona Coyotes: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

Puck Daddy

(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!) 

Last Season:

24-50-8, 56 points, last in the Western Conference.

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2014-15 Season, In One Tweet

Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

Worse than the start of last season, better than they were when it ended.

The Coyotes gutted their team in an effort to secure the first overall pick in last summer’s draft, trading players like Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette and Zbynek Michalek around the deadline. Two of those players are back: Vermette, with his name on the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks, and Zbynek Michalek, the veteran defensive defenseman.

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They join new Coyotes Boyd Gordon, back after being traded by Edmonton; Steve Downie, the truculent former Flyer and Penguin forward; checking center Brad Richardson; goalie Anders Lindback; and defenseman Stefan Elliott, acquired for defenseman Brandon Gormley. Oh, and Big John Scott.

They also traded Sam Gagner to the Flyers, and snagged defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and dead cap space in the deal.

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Mike Smith, G

One of the reasons the Coyotes decided to gut the team in the hopes of landing either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel was because Mike Smith was a pile of hot garbage sitting atop a welcome mat in front of an empty net last season.

The Coyotes will swear up and down that it was a total team breakdown in front of him, and there’s no denying this was a bad hockey team. But Smith had a .904 save percentage and a 3.16 GAA, along with an .867 save percentage shorthanded.

He was a special kind of bad last season, which is why the first two months of this season will be key. Lindback will be the fallback, but that doesn’t change the fact that Smith is signed through 2019 with a no-trade clause.

2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D

The 24-year-old blueliner led the Coyotes with 43 points and 23 goals last season, and continues to be chatted up as a Norris-caliber player thriving in obscurity. He led all defensemen with 10 power-play goals last season, and his showed a lot of improvement in his shot. Just getting better and better.

3. Mikkel Boedker, RW

Boedker signed a 1-year deal at $3.75 million as an RFA, but goes UFA next summer. He was limited to 45 games last season due to injury, but scored 14 goals in that span. The 25 year old future member of Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey (he’s from Denmark!), he could add another role to his offensive responsibilities on the team: power play point man, in Yandle’s wake.

4. Max Domi, F

A potentially dynamic rookie for the Coyotes, and one that could be in the Calder conversation with Eichel and McDavid. The son of former NHL pugilist Tie Domi, he has some of his father’s tenacity but could blossom into an elite offensive talent. He had 102 points with the London Knights last season.

5. Chris Pronger, D

Just kidding.

5. Anthony Duclair, F

Acquired in the Yandle trade with the Rangers, he has palpable chemistry with Domi, his world juniors linemate. They’ll form the “DVD” line with Vermette, although the preferred format is Blu-Ray, at least until high-def streaming becomes more widely compatible with current download speeds.

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

The kids. Domi and Duclair are going to be the foundation for this rebuild, along with No. 3 pick Dylan Strome, who has impressed in camp but might not be in the NHL this season. Throw in sophomore Tobias Rieder (22) and defenseman Connor Murphy (22), as well as the fact that Ekman-Larsson, Elliott and Klas Dahlbeck (acquired from the Blackhawks) are all under 25, and the future looks bright even as the present looks like the basement of the Western Conference, and probably the NHL. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

That there’s no reason they should be any good this season. That’s true for the roster, which has gaping holes – and a 39-year-old captain named Shane Doan, in the last year of his contract whose points per game (0.48) were the lowest since 1999 – but it’s also true for the organizational philosophy. Why win now and potentially lose out on Arizona-bred NHL draft prodigy Auston Matthews next summer?

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

Domi, Duclair, Ekman-Larsson. Two linemates with insane chemistry and one of the best offensive D-men in the League. They might melt the ice.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

Seven. This rating would be higher if he didn’t have three years left on his deal and the expectations for the Coyotes were so low. Truth be told, Tippett will probably leave this gig before GM Don Maloney ever fires him. But for now, it’s hard to see how he’d lose his job. Because failure is still the best option for this franchise, this season.

Awkward Old School Video Break

One of them is a bald, small, weird-looking puppet. And the other one is a snowman.

(Just jokes, we love you Panger …)

Their Best Case Scenario Is …

The Coyotes feed off their youthful exuberance, a renewed commitment to Tippett’s system and inspired goaltending from Mike Smith … and still end up finishing in last place, earning the first overall pick and local boy Auston Matthews.

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

The Coyotes feed off their youthful exuberance, a renewed commitment to Tippett’s system and inspired goaltending from Mike Smith ... and finish 10 points out of the postseason with crappy lottery odds. Oh, and another three rounds of Coyotes vs. The Glendale City Council play out while Canadian newspaper predict their imminent relocation.

Prediction

A two-year tank, but this time the Coyotes complete the mission and finish last overall in the NHL.

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings/Dallas Stars/Columbus Blue Jackets/Colorado Avalanche/Chicago Blackhawks/Carolina Hurricanes/Calgary Flames/Buffalo Sabres/Boston Bruins

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