It seems to happen every year. Teams that looked out of it spring back to life. Perennial contenders slide into the “has been” category, and lots of teams simply spin their wheels year after year. So who are the best teams going forward? I am going to spend the next 31 days breaking down each team to sort it all out.
This team by team breakdown separates them into three groups. Contenders, Pretenders, and League Filler Teams. Lets get started
The Arizona Coyotes are an perfect example of both team and league mismanagement for longer than most people can remember. Arizona is a very budget conscious team that has never had a super star player since Teemu Selanne was traded while they were still Winnipeg version 1.0. Year after year they trotted out a blue collar team led by Shane Doan and experienced some success with a few trips to the Playoffs but never making any real noise once they got there with the one exception of making the Conference Finals in 2011-2012.
Since then they have not had a single winning season.
The Coyotes have also displayed a complete inability in the past to draft well. With the one exception of Oliver Ekman-Larsson the Coyotes have not had a single first round pick develop within their system. The closest they have come is Kyle Turris who they rushed into the league and delayed his development. This was followed by a soured relationship and resulted in his being traded to Ottawa for David Rundblad. Rundblad was, at the time, a very high end defense prospect who never developed into an NHL regular.
When it comes to trading, the Coyotes are a team that trades to tinker with the line up more than attempt to make big deals. The closest they came was trading for Olli Jokinen who was coming off a 34 goal 71 point campaign in Florida. To acquire him they gave up Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a 2nd round pick in 2008 (Jared Staal)
The next year Jokinen put up 21 goals and 42 points in 57 games but was then traded to Calgary. The Coyotes acquired Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust, and a 2010 1st round pick (#13 – Brandon Gormley).
With some good draft picks coming into the Arizona system like Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun and Christian Dvorak, it would be easy to start to get excited about the future of Arizona. But is that realistic?
Sadly, Arizona works on a very strict internal cap and it is very likely that they will lose most of their young stars that develop. An inability to pay players what they are getting with the higher cap will result in a constant moving out of talent. In many ways teams like Arizona act as a development team for the rest of the league.
There will also be a constant stream of UFA’s that leave the team to try to play on a winner.
Three Year Prediction: OEL and Derek Stepan will be traded, most likely by the trade deadline in 2018. Goalie Antti Raanta will be resigned as his play has been extremely good and he will be reasonable to afford with the injuries he has dealt with this year. Seeking security he will sign for 5 or 6 years at or around the $4 million mark. The team will sign middle of the road and aging free agents to fill out their roster as they sign all young RFA’s to bridge contracts.
RESULT: LEAGUE FILLER
If everything goes right some years this team could push for a wild card spot. They are not and will never be contenders until their financial limitations change.