Our annual What Went Wrong series examines the teams that failed to make the playoffs. Over the coming weeks, we’ll go through them team-by-team, discuss how their season went and then highlight the players that either significantly underperformed in 2017-18 or that they’ll need more from going forward.
Check out part one of the series here, which features the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators.
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Arizona got off to a terrible start in 2017-18, which cost them a playoff spot for a sixth consecutive year. The Coyotes did not pick up a victory until Oct. 30 in an overtime win over Philadelphia and didn’t earn their first regulation win until Nov. 16. It’s hard to recover from a 6-18-4 record with two months of the season in the books.
Scoring goals was also a problem for the Coyotes, as the team ranked 30th overall with a total of 206. Arizona also placed 29th in the league with 29.9 shots for per game. Rookie winger and Calder Trophy finalist Clayton Keller led the team with 23 goals, 65 points and 212 shots in 82 contests. He was the Coyotes’ lone 20-goal scorer and Derek Stepan was the only other player to top 50 points.
Antti Raanta was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, but he still managed to appear in a career-high 47 contests. A lower-body injury kept him out for most of October, which made the Coyotes’ goaltending situation a mess early in the year. Arizona used six different goalies over the course of the season. Losing defensemen Kevin Connauton, Jakob Chychrun, Luke Schenn, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers for significant stretches due to injuries didn’t help keep the puck out of the net either, but Raanta brought some much-needed stability to the crease following the All-Star break. Once the Coyotes got healthier on the back end and Raanta was back between the pipes the team was much more competitive. Arizona rewarded the goaltender with a three-year contract extension.
Unfortunately, for the Coyotes the draft lottery pushed them back two spots to the fifth overall pick. However, they should still be able to add another valuable piece to a young group that has some promise. Arizona still has a ways to go though, especially up front, before they are ready to challenge for a playoff spot.
Max Domi - Domi only had nine goals in 82 games and he concluded the campaign with 45 points. He was better down the stretch with 18 points in the final 20 games of the year. Domi needs to build on the form he displayed during his rookie campaign when he earned 18 markers and 52 points over 81 contests.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Ekman-Larsson’s 2017-18 performance was not particularly troubling or out of step from his previous efforts at the NHL level. He still managed to top the 40-point plateau for fourth time in his career and he reached double digits in goals for the sixth time. However, he could be doing much better with more productive starts. There was a stretch from Nov. 30-Jan. 12 when he recorded just one assist in 17 games. Ekman-Larsson can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-19 season, which should provide him with plenty of motivation to be more consistent.
Dylan Strome - Strome suited up in 21 games with the Coyotes in 2017-18 and he registered nine points. He had a solid finish to the year with three goals and five assists in the last 10 matches. Strome was a star in his first campaign in the AHL with 22 goals and 53 points in 50 contests. He needs a permanent spot on the Coyotes and he should be able to claim one in 2018-19.
Christian Dvorak - Dvorak didn’t make much progress from his rookie season. He scored 15 goals for a second straight year and went from 33 points to a total of 37, but it’s fair to say that more will be expected from him in 2018-19.
Montreal missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. There were warning signs as early as the preseason that this wouldn’t be a good season for the Canadiens and that carried over into the start of the year when Montreal had two wins in the first 10 games (2-7-1) of the 2017-18 campaign.
Montreal struggled to score goals, especially at 5-on-5 where the team ranked 30th overall with a total of 130. They also ranked 29th in the league with 2.52 goals for per game and they were blanked 12 times over the course of the season. Brendan Gallagher was the leading scorer with 31 goals and 54 points. The closest goal scorer to him was Paul Byron, who potted 20 markers. Jonathan Drouin, who never seemed to look comfortable playing at center, was a disappointment in his first season with Montreal following his acquisition from Tampa Bay. Max Pacioretty was going through his worst season since 2009-10 before a knee injury put him on the shelf for the last 18 games of the year.
Shea Weber sustained a fractured foot in the first game of the year and he was limited to just 26 appearances. He underwent surgery in March to repair tendons in his left foot and hopes to be ready for training camp. Carey Price couldn’t escape the injury bug either, as he missed 15 games because of a concussion. However, even when he was healthy he wasn’t performing up to his typical standards. Even if Price regains his past form Montreal could find it difficult to get back in the playoff picture.
Montreal’s injury issues certainly didn’t help their chances, especially when it impacted key players, but this was a group that struggled mightily when they were all together. The lack of scoring and struggles in their own end were issues throughout the year. Montreal also ranked 30th on the penalty kill (74.1 percent) and they surrendered a league-high 68 power-play goals against.
The Canadiens desperately need help down the middle, especially in the form of an offensive center. Montreal could draft a highly-skilled winger with the third overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and seek a center via free agency. However, luring a big name like a John Tavares could be a tough sell. This is a team in need of a rebuild.
Max Pacioretty - Pacioretty led the Canadiens in points for six straight years before recording a disappointing total of 37 (17 goals, 20 assists) in 64 appearances. He went through lengthy stretches without goals. Pacioretty heated up in January before hitting another wall prior to his season-ending knee injury. His name came up frequently in trade rumors, which is something that could linger over the summer. Still, he will have to put that behind him because Montreal depends on his ability to fill the net.
Carey Price - Price posted a 16-26-7 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He went 2-9-3 after the All-Star break with an .890 save percentage, which is uncharacteristic of him. Price declined to play for Canada at the World Hockey Championship, which could have been an opportunity to gain some confidence going into the 2018-19 campaign. However, a chance to rest and recharge may be just as valuable. Price’s eight-year, $84 million contract kicks in next year and he has to play much better than he did this past season to give Montreal a chance to win. They don’t have much room for error and Price typically masks the team’s shortcomings on defense and offense.
Jonathan Drouin - It was hoped that Drouin would blossom into a 60-point performer with an increased role on the Canadiens, but that was never close to coming to fruition in 2017-18. He actually ended up averaging less ice time in his first season with Montreal than he had in his final campaign with Tampa Bay. He also slipped from 23 goals and 53 points in 73 contests with the Lightning in 2016-17 to 13 markers and 46 points over 77 matches as a member of the Canadiens. Drouin struggled with the transition to center, but Montreal’s limited options in the middle kept him there for the vast majority of the year. The 23-year-old has plenty of talent, but he still has a great deal to prove.
Alex Galchenyuk - Galchenyuk didn’t bounce back the way most were hoping in 2017-18 from his 17-goal, 44-point campaign in 2016-17. His points-per-game actually dropped from 0.72 to 0.62. Galchenyuk recorded 19 goals and 32 assists in 82 matches, with the bulk of his production coming down the stretch. He notched seven goals and 16 points in the last 19 contests of the year. Galchenyuk had to work himself up the depth chart and perhaps he can build off his strong finish next campaign.