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What Went Wrong; Arizona Coyotes

Clayton Keller

Clayton Keller

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Welcome to What Went Wrong where we’ll look at each team that failed to make the playoffs. We’ll also end each article by highlighting some players of particular interest on the squad. Those are players who either left something to be desired during the 2021-22 campaign, have significant untapped upside, or have some big underlining questions surrounding them going into the offseason.

The Montreal Canadiens were the first order of business and now we are on to the Arizona Coyotes.

Expectations for the Arizona Coyotes were very low going into the 2021-22 season. The team decided to go into full rebuild mode after posting a record of 24-26-6 the previous year. Arizona underwent close a complete overhaul of the roster. The Coyotes stockpiled picks through trades, while taking on some bloated expiring contracts. The team could be dramatically different again next year, with plenty of pending unrestricted free agents and other decisions to make on player personnel during the offseason.

Arizona started the 2021-22 campaign with an 11-game winless skid, which tied the 2017-18 squad for the franchise’s longest losing streak to start a season. The first victory for the Coyotes came against the expansion Seattle Kraken on Nov. 6, 2021 and they had six wins through 30 games over the first three months en route to a 25-50-7 finish.

In addition to having the second-worst record of the year, Arizona had the worst goal differential at minus-106. The Montreal Canadiens were the only team that came close at minus-98. The Coyotes also surrendered the second-most power-play goals against (64). Given Arizona’s inability to keep the puck out of the net it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the team gave up the most shots against per game (35.5) and the second-most five-on-five high-danger scoring chances against. It wasn’t an easy job to be in the crease for Arizona and none of the six netminders who played for the team had much in the way of success. First-year netminder Karel Vejmelka saw the bulk of the action between the pipes. In 52 appearances, including 49 starts, he went 13-32-3 with a 3.68 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

The offense struggled as well, while ranking 32nd in the league in goals scored (206) and last in the NHL in goals for per game played (2.51). Arizona also ranked last overall in shots on goal (2,121). The bright spots for the club offensively were Clayton Keller (28), Nick Schmaltz (23) and Lawson Crouse (20), who were the only players on the roster to reach the 20-goal mark and Keller was the lone skater to top 60 points.

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Injuries piled up down the stretch and it was difficult for the Coyotes to string together many successful runs, but there was some improved play in the final part of the season. The Coyotes began the month of March with a mark of 6-1-0 and ended the year with a three-game win streak. Andre Tourigny wasn’t given much of an opportunity to succeed in his first season as head coach, so it is not surprising that there wasn’t a change behind the bench despite the team’s woeful performance on the ice. Tourigny was encouraged by the growth of his players following the conclusion of a year packed with adversity.

The troubles for the organization extended off the ice when the city of Glendale decided not to renew the Coyotes’ lease at Gila River Arena. As a result, Arizona will play home games at Arizona State’s new hockey rink that will hold a mere 5,000 fans. It should make for an interesting atmosphere next season in what has become an ongoing controversial situation for the NHL

The Coyotes will have three first-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft as well as four selections in the second round thanks to all the wheeling and dealing done by General Manager Bill Armstrong. Arizona was a bit unlucky in the Draft Lottery, while slipping to the No. 3 pick even though they had the second-best odds to win. Still, there will be a high quality prospect for Arizona at that spot and the Coyotes have put themselves in a good position to add other pieces for their rebuild thanks to a plethora of picks. If the team finally trades defenseman Jakob Chychrun then that will bring in additional assets. This could be a big draft for the organization, but the opportunity to add a potential franchise player in the 2023 class is also a distinct possibility for Arizona.

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Players to Watch:

Clayton Keller - Keller had a team-high 28 goals and 63 points despite being limited to 67 games. He sat out the final 15 games of the year because of a fractured leg. Keller’s surgery came with an expected recovery time of four-to-six months. That could put him on track to being ready for the start of the 2022-23 campaign. Keller was Arizona’s most consistent offensive producer in what was shaping up to be the best season of his NHL career. He will likely lead the attack for the team in 2022-23 and will probably be overlooked on draft day, but he shouldn’t be forgotten by fantasy managers.

Shayne Gostisbehere - Gostisbehere was one of several members of the Coyotes who entered the 2021-22 season with plenty to prove and that chip on his should led to a big bounce-back performance. He accounted for 14 goals and 51 points in 82 games after he had 14 markers and 32 points in 83 contests across his previous two campaigns. Gostisbehere also racked up 151 shots and 115 blocks, while averaging a career-high 22:11 of ice time per match. There was a great to like about his performance from a fantasy standpoint and he should be a good target next season.

Nick Schmaltz - Schmaltz has established himself as a solid offensive contributor for the Coyotes since his arrival from Chicago. He ranks second behind Keller in scoring, with 150 points (49 goals, 101 assists) in 202 games, since he joined the organization. Schmaltz wasn’t far behind Keller in 2021-22 either with 23 goals and 59 points in 63 appearances. He exploded for 22 goals and 30 helpers in 46 games to finish the year. Schmaltz also had 96 shots on target during that stretch. He may not be a popular selection on draft day, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if his rostered percentage benefited in a big way from the waiver wire again in 2022-23.

Lawson Crouse - Crouse had a career-year offensively in 2021-22 with 20 goals and 34 points in 65 outings. He also tied his previous personal best with 131 shots and he was credited with 181 hits. Unfortunately, his season was cut short because of a broken bone in his hand and he missed the final 16 games of the year. Crouse spent most of his playing time as a top-six forward and should get a longer look in that capacity during the 2022-23 campaign. The soon-to-be 25-year-old forward has plenty of upside and could become a key player for the team if his role continues to expand.