Arizona Coyotes Season Review

2018-19 Record (39-35-8) 86 Pts

Season Review

After the offseason acquisition of Alex Galchenyuk, there was a sense of hope among Arizona Coyotes fans. This came from a baffling misconception that Galchenyuk was a thirty goal scorer. I made sure to point out that two full seasons had passed since he hit that mark. With both of those seasons seeing him score less than twenty goals. In fact, sixty-six percent of his career, Galchenyuk wasn’t even a twenty goal scorer. Clearly pointing to the fact that he simply had a career year. Then again, with Arizona sports media such as John Gambadoro lazily perpetuating the idea that he was in fact a thirty goal scorer. I’m not particularly surprised that Coyotes fans didn’t second guess the validity of the claim.

Going into the season there was certainly trouble. With Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Galchenyuk starting the season on the injured reserve list. To make things worse, it took Arizona six games to score more than two goals in a game. With the team going 2-4-0 in those games. The lack of offensive production would go on to hurt them in the long term. Nothing proves this claim more than the fact that all of Arizona’s last eight losses saw them score two or fewer goals in each game. 

While there were a ridiculous amount of injuries throughout the season that saw Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Chychrun, Derek Stepan, Nick Schmaltz, Kyle Capobianco, Dvorak, Galchenyuk, Michael Grabner, Antti Raanta, Kuemper, and Brad Richardson lose valuable ice time. Despite all of that, Arizona still fell only four points shy of a playoff spot. Due in large part to the most valuable player last season. 

MVP – Darcy Kuemper

Photo Courtesy of Dinur Blum

Pictured above is the stallion that the Coyotes rode to relevance last season. Kuemper was without a doubt the reason they almost squeezed themselves into a playoff spot. After the injury to Raanta, Kuemper was played to a ridiculous degree. Being rode until injured, then rode upon return. To the extent that even for the final game of the season, Rick Tocchet wanted to play him over back up goaltender Calvin Pickard.

Kuemper started a career-high 55 games. Posting a record of 27-20-8 with a .925 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.33 goals-against-average (GAA). Those 27 wins being a career-high for him. If it wasn’t for Kuemper playing well above his head, the Coyotes would’ve been nowhere near a playoff spot. He’s proven himself to be a starting level goaltender, and I hope he’s a Coyote for many years to come. Then again, Arizona chose Mike Smith over Devan Dubnyk years ago. So your guess is as good as mine. 

Most Improved Player – Conor Garland

Photo Courtesy of Dinur Blum

Conor Garland is a hard-working player that was on the cusp of breaking into the NHL for anyone who watched how he played for the Tucson Roadrunners to start the 2018-19 season. The 2015 fifth-round draft pick scored 13 goals, and 18 points, in 47 games last season. A solid rookie campaign, considering the fact that he primarily played in the bottom six. Garland is a talented scorer that uses his speed and passing ability to create plays, and score goals. He hustles play after play, going so far as to score a goal off of his head. Garland proved he’s an NHL talent last season. He could easily be a top-six forward this season if he continues to improve his game. 

Disappointment – Clayton Keller 

Photo Courtesy of Dinur Blum

Clayton Keller is proof that once you’ve achieved any level of success, you never need to try again. Keller regressed heavily in terms of his fundamental game last season. Despite that being clear, there was an army of people to defend his terrible on-ice play, because of the sophomore slump. A tired old excuse that amounts to, players don’t play well in their second season. This is accepted because a good amount of amazing rookies just don’t replicate their performance the second time around. It’s understandable to score fewer points in your second season. The surprise of your success is no longer there, and teams have an entire year of footage to counter your game. Keller didn’t just slump in terms of production, he had a full-on regression of play.

Keller’s statistics did in fact go down. His goals, assists, and points all saw a drop. Additionally, his plus/minus was also atrocious. That’s not why I’m so disappointed with him. I’m disappointed with him, because he constantly missed empty nets, turned the puck over like crazy, forced passes constantly just to avoid shooting, played no defense for over ninety percent of the year, and was still made an All-Star. It was absolutely embarrassing to see a guy putting little effort on the ice be celebrated for it.

With an army of defenders quick to shut down criticism of the kid on the grounds of the sophomore slump, or he’s only twenty, or the tired He’s the best player on your team. No, he wasn’t the best player. He played on the first line for 95 percent of the year. He played top minutes for forwards on the team, while most other point scorers, like Nick Schmaltz who got Keller going upon acquisition, were missing chunks of the year. Keller finished in a three-way tie for fifth in team scoring, despite playing in more games than all 24 other players who scored a goal for the Coyotes last season.

He led the team in points last season, which means nothing. Let’s take a look at the bottom six teams in the league. Considering the argument is that Keller is good because he led the Coyotes in scoring. Need I remind you, the same team plagued with scoring woes, (partially brought on by all of Keller’s turnovers and missing empty-net shots) and more injuries than even the hockey gods would be comfortable with claiming. 

Of the bottom five teams in the league, the highest Keller would place in terms of point totals, was tied for second on the New Jersey Devils. He would be fifth on the Ottawa Senators, third on the Los Angeles Kings, third on the Detroit Red Wings, and fourth on the Buffalo Sabres. Keller didn’t have a special season, he had at the absolute best, a decent season on a disappointing team. His effort wasn’t there for most of the season unless Schmaltz was there to bail him out or set up his shots. Keller doesn’t deserve his praise, and I’m tired of people defending mediocrity. 

Highlight of the Year

Current Depth Chart

Photo Courtesy of CapFriendly

Top Three Prospects

  1. Kyle Capobianco – Capobianco is a highly skilled two-way defenseman. He is a top defenseman for the Tucson Roadrunners and has been for two seasons now. Just based off of defensive ability, he’s ready to make the jump to the next level. Add in the fact that he’s an offensive driver and power-play quarterback. Capobianco is the whole package. 
  2. Barrett Hayton – Hayton has impressed the Coyotes fan base as a whole over the last season. I’ll admit, I’ve seen an improvement in his game over the last season. He looked sluggish, and unprepared to me during the 2018 Rookie Camp. Hayton was easily the best player during camp. He made improvements in his skating, speed, passing, shooting, even his defense. I remain skeptical if he can make the NHL this year, but he has a realistic shot to do so.
  3. Brayden Burke – Not many Coyotes fans seem to be giving Brayden Burke enough credit. Burke as a rookie established himself as a reliable talent. Recording 13 goals, 20 assists, and 33 points in 67 games. Burke is a fast skater, hard worker, as well as an unselfish player. An ideal teammate with NHL potential.

Players Primed to Break-Out

There is just too much to consider in order to pick a player who’s gonna blow up in 2019-20. My gut feeling tells me that if Capobianco is ready to go this season, he can crack the roster. Though, I have to give my prediction to Garland. He now has NHL experience and knows what he needs to work on in order to be successful. Watch out for him to become a 20 goal scorer this season.

Key Addition

Phil Kessel, just Kessel. The Coyotes added another 20 goal scorer as well, but the key addition of the offseason was the man, the myth, the legend, Phil Kessel. A two time Stanley Cup champion, consistent 20 plus goal scorer, and a proven star in the league. Kessel brings with him a winning culture, and the ability to teach it to any player in the Coyotes locker room.

Trade Bait

The only player I can see being used as trade bait by the organization is Kuemper. The franchise has a history of picking the wrong goaltender, and he has one year left on his contract. Easy guy to move for an asset.

Offseason Needs

Short and simple, the Coyotes needed one thing. Literally only one thing. The Coyotes needed a 20 goal scorer. They needed to add in scoring to the roster. Chayka added two 20 goal scorers in Kessel, and Carl Soderberg. Mission accomplished.

Trending Upwards

The Coyotes were competing for a playoff spot last season. Not a position that most of the NHL assumed they would be in before the season started. Chayka allowed the players that didn’t work to leave, and added players to address the team’s needs. The Coyotes will be a playoff team this season.

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