Tag: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Nick Shore, Mike Smith

Arizona Coyotes ’15-16 Outlook


We’ve often seen that teams committed to suppressing offense can often survive even with a lack of traditional talent.

The Arizona Coyotes know that well, as their better days with Dave Tippett included a three-year postseason run that culminated with a loss in the 2012 Western Conference Final.

Of course, that feels like quite a while ago now, as the Coyotes have missed three straight postseasons.

As mentioned in an earlier post, GM Don Maloney believes they can “compete every night” thanks to Tippett’s game plan and subtle (perceived?) improvements to their roster.

Let’s not kid ourselves, either: the Coyotes conveniently shed some key players in what certainly seemed like a tanking attempt to outside observers. It might not always be pretty, but Tippett teams can at least grind their way to competence.

Heck, Mike Smith even managed a .934 save percentage in 12 games during the month of March, so a mild turnaround isn’t a totally outrageous thought.

Light at the end of the tunnel

That said, the real reason to look on the bright side comes in the team’s youth movement, a trend powered in part by the spoils of tanking.

While fans can bask in the glory of blossoming star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson right now, things could really ramp up in a few years. ESPN’s Corey Pronman forecasts a very different stylistic future for the franchise while ranking the farm system fourth overall.

The Coyotes have long been an organization known for its emphasis on defense and goaltending, but the Coyotes have built a truly elite foundation of young forwards coming up the pipeline. Dylan Strome, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Brendan Perlini, Nick Merkley, and Christian Dvorak, among others, give the Coyotes a ton of projected firepower. Today, the team is known as a boring, trap-and-defend-style club. In five years, the Coyotes could be a run-and-gun team.

Co-owner Anthony LeBlanc backed up Pronman’s sentiment to Yahoo, saying that other league executives are “so envious” of the group they’ve amassed.


Long story short, Arizona might be a little pluckier than its 2014-15 record may suggest.

There’s a bright side even if they flop again, though: that would allow them to beef up their already-impressive prospect pool. It’s as close to a win-win situation as this embattled franchise has seen in some time.

Poll: Will the Coyotes be the worst team in the NHL next season?

Anaheim Ducks v Arizona Coyotes

Arizona GM Don Maloney thinks his Coyotes are “going to be a better team” than the one that finished 29th overall last year.

In fact, he says they’re “entering the season to be a playoff team.”

“I look at our roster and say, ‘OK, we may not have the most pure talent as some of the teams in the West,” Maloney told NHL.com, “but with a great coach and a great game plan and a stable center ice and a better blue line and solid goaltending, we should be able to compete every night, whether it’s the Chicago Blackhawks or the Stanley Cup champions or the bottom of the Western Conference.”

Others look at Arizona’s roster and wonder how anyone can be so optimistic. Shane Doan is 38 now. Sam Gagner and Keith Yandle, their second- and third-leading scorers from last year, are gone. The goaltending remains a big question mark. Besides Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the blue line isn’t overly impressive. Sure, the Coyotes have some excellent prospects in Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Dylan Strome, but their combined NHL experience is practically nil.

At online bookmaker Bovada, the Coyotes are the longest shot on the board to win the Stanley Cup, at 150/1. The Leafs, Sabres, and Hurricanes are next, each at 100/1.

OK, time to vote.

If you don’t think the Coyotes will be the worst team in the NHL, feel free to add your pick below.

Looking to make the leap: Max Domi

Arizona Coyotes Rookie Camp

How good is Arizona Coyotes prospect Max Domi?

His future Coyotes teammates were raving about him back in January after he scored a highlight-reel goal in the Ontario Hockey League.

“Good hands,” Coyotes’ defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson told Sportsnet.ca. “I’m really excited to see him next year. I thought he had a good training camp, but I think it’s good for him to have another year in the junior league and get ready for next year.”

Domi was in contention to make the leap to the NHL last season, but because GM Don Maloney wanted his team to be competitive, Domi was sent back to junior.

“We need to be a playoff team. That’s what’s going to get people excited and in the building,” Maloney said at the time. “Nobody has an appetite to just throw in the towel.”

Of course, the Coyotes weren’t a playoff team. Not even close.

Domi, meanwhile, went on to captain the OHL’s London Knights, scoring 32 goals and 102 points in 57 games. The 20-year-old also starred on the Canadian world junior team, scoring five goals and five assists in seven games while helping Canada win gold.

“How fast will we see Max? Very soon. He won’t need much more seasoning,” said Coyotes player development coach Steve Sullivan. “Going back to junior was the best thing for him. (It was) probably tough for him to go back, but he has passed it with flying colors.”

The 5-foot-10, 194-pound forward knows he’ll have to be able to adapt to the next level, if he is going to be an NHL regular this season.

“There’s a lot of great junior players that don’t end up playing in the NHL. You don’t want to be one of those guys,” Domi told The Arizona Republic in July. “You gotta make sure you adapt on the fly.

“Obviously, Coach (Dave) Tippett has certain expectations that he holds his players to and if you don’t uphold that, then you’re not going to cut it. You gotta make sure you’re doing everything you can to fit in.”

It’s Arizona Coyotes day at PHT

Shane Doan

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Arizona Coyotes.

The Arizona Coyotes struggled both offensively and defensively last season, and as a result they finished 29th overall with a 24-50-8 record.

Their 11-25-5 record at Gila River Arena was their worst home record since moving to Arizona 19 years ago.

Arizona finished 29th overall scoring 2.01 goals-for per-game and allowed 3.28 goals-for per-game good for 28th overall.

“Not only couldn’t we score last year, we couldn’t defend,” GM Don Maloney told NHL.com.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson led the way offensively with a career-high 23 goals and 43 points in 82 games for the Coyotes in 2014-15. His 23 goals were the most by a defenseman last season. The 24-year-old also represented Arizona at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.

Up front, Sam Gagner led all Coyotes’ forwards with 15 goals and 41 points – both were his highest totals since the 2011-12 season while a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Mike Smith carried the load in goal making 62 appearances going 14-42-5 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .904 save percentage.

Off-season recap

The Arizona Coyotes solved their off-ice dispute over a lease agreement with the City of Glendale last month. The new deal will keep the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for at least the next two seasons.

Not surprisingly, the team is already pushing to have the deal extended.

As far as on-ice moves go, Maloney brought back Antoine Vermette after trading him to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the trade deadline. Arizona also signed free-agent forwards Steve Downie and Brad Richardson.

On the blue line, the Coyotes brought back Zbynek Michalek, who was dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline. Arizona also acquired Nicklas Grossmann in the trade, which also landed them the contract of Chris Pronger.

In goal, the Coyotes signed Anders Lindback to back up Smith.

“I think we’ll play better defense in front of [Smith], which is important,” Maloney said. “I think we’ll have a better structure in front of Mike so he doesn’t feel like he has to be all-world every night and he can just do his thing.”

Attention agents: Coyotes are at least $18M from cap floor

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7

For many NHL teams, the most relevant salary cap news for 2015-16 is that the ceiling will be $71.4 million. In the case of the Arizona Coyotes, it may be a strenuous race to the floor.

The floor is set at $52.8 million, which means the Coyotes will need to spend more than $18 million to get there.

(General Fanager has their cap spending at a slightly lower level, but let’s stick with “more than $18 million” to keep things simple.)

Whatever the exact amount may be, this development generated a slew of jokes from those hoping their teams would shed unwanted salaries. Just looking at the replies to that Five for Howling tweet, here are some “friendly suggestions.”

Anyway, you get the point, but there are a few things to consider.

For one thing, the Coyotes have a ton of players they can re-sign.

Granted, some of them might not be worth retaining, like maybe Martin Erat. Still, the likes of Mikkel Boedker should eat up space, and the Coyotes may want to pay extra for a backup in case embattled starter Mike Smith isn’t a pretty good goalie after all.

On the other hand, Oliver Ekman-Larsson ranks among those who are concerned that the Coyotes’ latest off-the-ice saga may hurt their standing in the eyes of many free agents. That, along with a surplus of available draft picks, could indeed mean that Arizona GM Don Maloney may prefer to call up teams suffering from cap crunches.

Long story short: it may be silly too dream too big here, but go ahead and make your Cam Ward/Mike Richards/etc. jokes as needed. A long summer is coming, after all.