Arizona: Incremental Gains and Ongoing Rebuild
Last season, the Arizona Coyotes accomplished precisely what many expected of them: not much. In what was clearly a rebuilding year, they finished 7th in the Central Division with a meager 70 points. While they've been trading away experienced players for draft picks and fostering an excellent prospect pool, the NHL-level performance remains dismal. However, even in a cloudy landscape, there were a few silver linings. As we approach the 2023-2024 NHL season, let's delve into what changes the Coyotes have made and what we can expect from them.
A Look Back at 2022-2023 Season
For the Coyotes, last season was all about setting expectations low and then meeting them. A highlight was their home-game performance at Mullet Arena, where they managed to maintain a winning record. But that was offset by their abysmal road-game statistics, as they managed only 7 wins away from home, making them the worst NHL team in that category.
Andre Tourigny, who guided the team through these ups and downs, will return as the head coach for the 2023-2024 season.
The New Faces
The Coyotes are maintaining their rebuilding mode, and this is evident in their off-season acquisitions. Alex Kerfoot, Zach Sanford, Justin Kirkland, and John Leonard are the top newcomers among the forwards. On the defensive side, Sean Durzi, Travis Dermott, and Matt Dumba have been added to the roster.
It's important to note that these players are mainly third-liners in the NHL context. That's a clear signal that while there might be incremental improvement, no one should be expecting a complete turnaround.
However, keep an eye on Sean Durzi. He could find himself with plenty of power-play opportunities and has the potential to boost the Coyotes in this particular facet of the game.
Another interesting player is Logan Cooley. The 19 year old forward might be already able to make an impact and that would be a huge boost for the Coyotes.
Between the Pipes
In the goaltending department, the tandem of Connor Ingram and Karel Vajmelka will continue. Last season's performance indicated that while they aren’t Vezina contenders, they can hold the fort, especially if the team in front of them shows any improvement.
The Road Ahead
Realistically speaking, the Coyotes are still a team in progress, and progress here might be a slow burn rather than an explosion. Their expected point total for the upcoming season is still hovering only a bit above the 70-point mark, nowhere close to sniffing at the playoffs.
There is of course a small chance that all the prospects take leaps of development and some of the acquired "3rd liners" will thrive on the bigger role. In that scenario Coyotes could be playing meaningful games even after the trade deadline.
While Andre Tourigny has his work cut out for him, the Coyotes have their strategy chalked out, even if it is a long-term one. They might not be a playoff contender this year, or perhaps even the next, but they are steadily building towards a future where they could be.
In a nutshell, the 2023-2024 season for the Arizona Coyotes is likely to be another chapter in a long rebuilding narrative. Expect some sparks, especially from the newcomers and prospects, but also prepare for a season that's more about foundational building than a playoff run.
Arizona fans and analysts will be watching closely, not for miracles, but for those small signs of growth that signal better days ahead. After all, in a rebuild, sometimes the journey can be just as important as the destination.
(Please read our Disclaimer for NHL Team Points Distribution Histograms.)
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