Jordan Martinook

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The Arizona Coyotes should not be this bad

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On Tuesday night the Arizona Coyotes will play their 20th game of the season when they take on the Winnipeg Jets, winners of five of their past seven games.

The Coyotes will enter the game with just two wins on the season.

None of those wins have come in regulation, only defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime back on October 30 and the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout on November 4.

In total, they have collected just seven out of a possible 38 points.

This is not only the worst start in the NHL this season (they are five points behind the second worst team at the moment, a Florida Panthers team that has played in three fewer games than the Coyotes) it is the worst start any team has had in the NHL over the past 10 years.

Only one other team during that stretch has failed to reach at least the 10-point mark through its first 19 games, the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres, also with seven. That was one of the Sabres teams that was going through the scorched earth rebuild that saw the team get torn down to its most basic foundation in the front office’s efforts to tank for draft position.

Even that Sabres team won three of its first 19 games and one in regulation.

The Coyotes are still a team going through a rebuild and with an extremely young roster. They have seven players that have appeared in at least seven games (including six that have appeared in at least 14 games) that are age 22 or younger. A roster that young is almost certain to experience a lot of growing pains and the playoffs were probably not a realistic goal at the start of this season anyway.

It still should not be this bad because there is some real talent on this roster.

Right now they have the leading front-runner for the NHL’s rookie of the year in Clayton Keller, currently one of the top-five goal-scorers in the NHL. They added a number of established veterans (good ones!) this summer including Derek Stepan (a true top-six center), Niklas Hjalmarsson (a strong defensive defenseman), Antti Raanta and Jason Demers. They have a top-tier defenseman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. There was already a respectable core of young players in Max Domi, Christian Dvorak and Tobias Rieder in place.

It is not a totally hopeless situation on paper.

So what is happening here, and why are they off to such a terrible start?

For one, goaltending has been a pretty significant issue due to an injury to Raanta and a revolving door of backups behind him.

Louis Domingue (traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday), Adin Hill, and Scott Wedgewood are a combined 1-10-1 this season and as a trio have managed just an .876 save percentage.

No team has a chance to win with that level of goaltending.

The Coyotes scored at least three goals (including two games with four goals) in five of those 10 regulation losses that the Domingue, Hill, Wedgewood trio has started.

Three or four goals in regulation is usually enough a hockey game, or at least get a point. Teams that score either three or four goals in a game this season have a points percentage of .646. A team with a .646 points percentage over an 82-game season would be a 106 point team in the standings.

When the Coyotes score three or four goals in a game this season (including the eight games started by Raanta)?

They are only at .142 in those games.

With even slightly better goaltending in those games there might have been a couple of extra wins right there. Even just plain bad goaltending would have probably made a difference as a .900 save percentage from those goalies would have sliced nine to 10 goals off of their goals against total for the season.

There is also an element of some bad shooting luck from some of their top forwards, including Stepan.

Prior to this season Stepan has been a remarkably consistent point producer that has always been a lock for at least 55 points and around 20 goals.

Four of the Coyotes’ top-six forwards in terms of shots on goal (Stepan, Domi, Dvorak, Brad Richardson, and Jordan Martinook) currently own a shooting percentage under 5 percent. As a group that quintet  has scored on just six of their 187 shots on goal.

That is a shooting percentage of just 3.2 percent from a group of, mostly, their top forwards.

Prior to this season that group had a career shooting percentage of 9.9 percent.

If they were shooting at their normal career averages on the same number of shots that would be an additional 12 goals from that group alone.

Put all of that together with a young, inexperienced team that still has some holes to fill and you have the worst start in the NHL in more than a decade.

So what are the Coyotes at this point?

They are a rebuilding team that has been hurt by two big injuries to key veterans (Raanta, Hjalmarsson), crushed by bad goaltending, and has had a few of  itstop players start the year on a cold streak shooting.

They should not be an historically bad team like their early season record would seem to indicate. They also are not because there is a chance a lot of these early trends from a percentage perspective reverse.

When that happens the results should start to improve too.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coyotes will once again be patient with Dylan Strome

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The Arizona Coyotes figure to be one of the youngest teams in the league this season and could have more than six players on their roster under the age of 23.

One of those players could be 2015 No. 3 overall pick Dylan Strome, one of the centerpiece prospects of their current rebuild. But just as they have done the past two seasons the Coyotes figure to be extremely patient with their most prized prospect.

Strome received a brief seven-game look in Arizona at the start of the 2016-17 season where he recorded a single assist before going back to the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League where he absolutely annihilated the league for a third consecutive season, recording 75 points in just 35 games. In that sense, he has absolutely nothing left to prove at the junior level because he is clearly a step or two (and maybe more) above the rest of the league.

But the Coyotes still want to make sure he is able to play the sort of game they are looking for at the NHL level before he gets a permanent look in that role. They had no interest in trying to let him play a depth role this past season.

Here is general manager John Chayka talking about Strome’s development and what they are looking for, via Jerry Brown of NHL.com.

“We could have had Dylan here and had him play a depth role or play on the wing,” Chayka said. “He would have been fine doing that, but that’s not what we’re looking for out of him. We’re looking for him to be a 200-foot center who impacts the game in all areas. That’s a very difficult position to play and excel in at a young age. We’re trying to bring him along the right way and do the right thing for the right reason. We are looking for the same thing this year. It could happen for him as early as Game 1 of the preseason, where he grabs a spot and runs with it and away he goes. It’s my expectation that he will have a strong camp.”

First-year Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet has already talked about wanting a creative, skilled team, especially when it comes to the organizations young players, and Strome could potentially be a great — and perhaps even exciting — addition to that roster if he earns a spot.

Along with Strome the Coyotes also have young players Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, Max Domi, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvoak and Anthony Duclair all at forward and all under the age of 23, while Nick Cousins, Jordan Martinook and Tobias Rieder are all 25 or younger. Injured defenseman Jakob Chychrun is also only 19.

The Coyotes have tried to complement that young core with some veterans additions this summer, including center Derek Stepan, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and new starting goaltender Antti Raanta.

Coyotes, Martinook avoid arbitration with two-year contract

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The Arizona Coyotes and restricted free agent forward Jordan Martinook were able to avoid their upcoming salary arbitration hearing by agreeing to terms on a two-year contract on Saturday.

Martinook’s new deal will pay him an average annual salary of $1.8 million per season according to Craig Morgan of 98.7 in Arizona and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“We are pleased to sign Jordan to a two-year contract,” general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team. “Jordan is a hard-working, versatile forward with good speed. He was an effective player for us last year and will play an important role for us this season.”
Martinook had an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 26 but this contract helps the two sides avoid that unpleasantness.

A second-round pick by the Coyotes in 2012, the 24-year-old forward has spent the past two full seasons playing for the Coyotes and is coming off of a 2016-17 season that saw him score a career-high 11 goals and 25 points. He mad $612,500 this past season, so the $1.8 million cap hit over the next two years represents a pretty significant raise for him. He bounced around the Coyotes’ lineup this past season, but he spent the majority of his time playing on a line alongside Tobias Rieder.

 

 

After a ‘rough year’ for Duclair, Coyotes pursue short-term deal

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It’s been an up-and-down two seasons for Anthony Duclair in Arizona.

In 2015-16, he scored 20 goals. He had 44 points. He hit those marks while at the age of 20, a few months removed from Arizona acquiring him as a key and youthful component in the Keith Yandle trade two years ago.

But that impressive production dipped last season to just five goals and 15 points in 58 games with Arizona, and Duclair was eventually sent to the minors for more than a month to re-discover his scoring capabilities.

There were trade rumors. He was a healthy scratch from the Coyotes lineup at certain times.

Duclair is now a restricted free agent, following the completion of his entry-level contract that paid him $832,500 last season, per CapFriendly.

The Coyotes, according to AZCentral Sports, are seeking a short-term deal of only one or two years for the now 21-year-old forward.

“That’s just the reality of the situation,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “I like ‘Duke’ as a player a lot, as a person a lot, but he had a rough year. I think it’s more just about getting him back on the horse, getting him going. For both the team and the player, short-term is the best.”

In addition to trying to get Duclair signed to a new deal, the Coyotes and fellow restricted free agent Jordan Martinook have a player-elected arbitration hearing scheduled for July 26.

It will be interesting to see what impact a new coach, Rick Tocchet, has on Duclair’s play in the upcoming season.

He expressed the importance of creativity with his players, which may help a player like Duclair regain his form from only two seasons ago.

Key players from Penguins, Sabres, Lightning headline salary arbitration list

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The NHLPA released a list of players who are filing for salary arbitration during this off-season on Wednesday.

It’s important to note that arbitration hearings rarely happen, and with good reason, as they can be harsh situations that may lead to hard feelings between a player and his team. Hearings take place July 20-Aug. 2, with a 48-hour window for verdicts to be made.

Also, the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration is set for tomorrow (July 6) at 5 p.m. ET.

Another key note: offer sheets are not an option for players who file for arbitration. Now, onto the list, which began with 30 players and is now down to 28:

TORONTO (July 5, 2017) – Thirty players have elected Salary Arbitration:

Arizona Coyotes

Jordan Martinook

Boston Bruins

Ryan Spooner

Buffalo Sabres

Nathan Beaulieu

Johan Larsson

Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Micheal Ferland

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Nieto

Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar

Edmonton Oilers

Joey LaLeggia

Los Angeles Kings

Kevin Gravel

Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter

Montreal Canadiens

Alex Galchenyuk (signed for three years; more on that here)

Nashville Predators

Viktor Arvidsson

Marek Mazanec

Austin Watson

New York Islanders

Calvin de Haan

New York Rangers

Jesper Fast (signed, read about the deal here)

Mika Zibanejad

Ottawa Senators

Ryan Dzingel

Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin

Conor Sheary

St. Louis Blues

Colton Parayko

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat

Vancouver Canucks

Reid Boucher

Michael Chaput

Vegas Golden Knights

Nate Schmidt

Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck