In a conference loaded with talent up front — especially at center — the Arizona Coyotes are behind the 8-ball.
Just ask their GM.
“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” Don Maloney told Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.
“With our goaltending, our blue line and our coaching, we’ll find a way to score some goals up front.”
The Coyotes broke camp with a projected top-nine forward group comprised of Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker, Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, Sam Gagner, Martin Erat, David Moss and (it’s assumed) rookie Max Domi. It’s not a bad group, but one that’s light on goalscoring ability — Vermette, Doan and Radim Vrbata were the team’s only 20-goal scorers a year ago, and Vrbata’s gone — and bereft of elite-level talent down the middle.
This isn’t a knock on Hanzal, Gagner and Vermette (the latter was very good last year, and finished 14th in Selke voting), but it’s pretty obvious Arizona has a collection of No. 2 and 3 centers, missing a top-line stud — and in a conference that features the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Anze Kopitar, Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, there are difficult matchups on a near-nightly basis.
It’s something Maloney acknowledges. While he said he believes the Coyotes can be a playoff team, he was also realistic about how his club would have to qualify.
“Let’s face it,” Maloney said. “We need a lot of things to go well.”