2014 Arizona Coyotes Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/24/2014
The Phoenix Coyotes are dead. Long live the Arizona Coyotes. With new ownership the team is finally acknowledging that they are not actually located in Phoenix. Geographers will be happier, but it is unlikely that the change makes any impact on the ice.
That's the problem, really - the team hasn't made the playoffs the last two years, and they didn't really have an aggressive offseason designed to change that trend. That would be a concern for any team in the league, but when the team plays in the brutally-deep Western Conference, not keeping pace can be especially costly. Of course, they only fell two points short of the playoffs last year, and they collapsed down the stretch by losing their last seven after their starting goalie was hurt, so they don't likely need to improve by a whole lot to make the postseason. In other words, this is a very tough team to judge.
The biggest issue the team had - and likely still has - is a lack of scoring. When a team's leading scorer is a defenseman there's no cause for celebration, and Keith Yandle led the way for the Coyotes with just 53 points. To further complicate things, second-leading scorer Radim Vrbata signed as a free agent with Vancouver. Only three playoff teams scored fewer goals during the regular season than Phoenix - though one of those, notably, was the eventual champions from L.A.. The difference, though, is that the Kings allowed the fewest goals in the league, while Phoenix allowed more than every playoff team except Philadelphia.
Arizona Coyotes Offseason Moves
Aside from Vrbata, the biggest departure up front is Mike Ribeiro. He was lousy last year, so the team bought out the last three years of his contract. They are hoping that Martin Erat, who they got at the trade deadline, and Sam Gagner, who they picked up from Edmonton for peanuts, can fill the offensive void. Gagner had 49 points as a rookie in 2008, but he has ever surpassed that level and was a horrifying -29 last year. They also face a (hopefully) minor change in net. When starter Mike Smith was hurt late last year, Thomas Greiss moved in and was a disaster. Greiss left for Pittsburgh, and Devan Dubnyk, who served short stints in Nashville and Montreal last year after leaving Edmonton, is in town to be the backup. Dubnyk is a long way from good, so it will be far from good news if he has to play for long stretches of time.
There is hope for some offense, albeit from a young player. Max Domi was the 2013 first-round choice of the team, and he is very strong offensively. After another year in junior last year he is poised to make the team, and he has plenty of upside. You can't pressure a youngster too much, but we have seen a lot of talented guys in recent years put up real numbers in their first season, and Domi will certainly have every opportunity to score provided he can crack the roster.
Arizona Coyotes NHL Outlook
It's a numbers game for Phoenix right now. It's not hard to imagine them being as good or even slightly better than last year. They were not quite good enough last year, though, and the race is on in the West. Vancouver and Edmonton have both improved - perhaps significantly - in the Pacific Division. Five teams in the Central made the playoffs last year, and all five are going to be solid again this year. Status quo probably isn't good enough, so the team really needs Domi, Gagner, Erat and others to step up their game if they want to have a chance. If they don't make it into the postseason his year then the organization really needs to look at what they can do to shake things up, find more scoring, and get competitive again.
Arizona Coyotes Schedule
We will know quite a bit about this team four games into the season. They open with four in a row at home. The first game against Winnipeg should be manageable, but then it's L.A., Edmonton and St. Louis. They could easily lose three of those four, and that would be a huge hole out of the gate. We'll see where the offense is at, if Smith is in good form, and if the team is hungry and gritty. Domi will also face some pretty good goalies early in his career. If they struggle early it will be even harder to be optimistic about this team going forward.
Arizona Coyotes NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Coyotes are 66/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them ahead of just four teams. They are tied with Winnipeg as the 12th choice in the Western Conference at 33/1. Their 10/1 odds to win the Pacific Division are better only than Calgary's 14/1. I don't see any value at all in any of those prices.
2014-15 Arizona Coyotes Predictions
I want to like this team, and some stable ownership certainly can't hurt them. I just don't think that they are going to be able to score enough goals to be competitive, though. They could be in the mix for a wild card spot, but I expect them to be on the outside looking in. Their other problem is even if they did make it into the playoffs, I don't see how they have the guns to compete with any of the truly elite teams in the West. This team needs to aggressively re-tool, and perhaps the frustrations of this season will spur them to do that.
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