Yes, you can probably take the Arizona Coyotes seriously now
Even if you assume that intriguing young defenseman Jakob Chychrun won’t really be healthy until late in 2017-18, the Arizona Coyotes suddenly boast a remarkably promising defense after acquiring Jason Demers.
(Read more about that significant trade here.)
Demers joins a group including stud blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson, underrated puck-mover Alex Goligoski, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, one of the best pure “defensive defenseman” in the game.
Jamie McGinn has quietly put together a solid career, yet his kind are easier to come by in the NHL, a league where competent top-four defensemen are at a serious premium. Just ask Coyotes GM John Chayka.
That top four has something for everyone, and generally boasts the sort of mobile, talented defensemen that are coveted in the NHL.
Ask yourself for a moment: how many teams, particularly in the Western Conference, can confidently say that they have a better defense corps than the Coyotes do right now? The Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames are immediate answers, while the St. Louis Blues likely boast a stronger group, too.
Things get a little fuzzier once you reach down the conference’s ranks.
The San Jose Sharks boast bigger strengths on the high-end with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns, but the Coyotes might have them beat from a depth perspective. The Winnipeg Jets boast some interesting talent, yet you wonder if Paul Maurice is really harnessing that potential. And so on.
We can quibble over Arizona’s exact place among those groups, yet it’s difficult to dispute that, suddenly, the Coyotes seem respectable in that area.
They have the makings of a team that can make a surge in other areas, too.
If Antti Raanta can covert strong backup work to full-time difference-making (see: Cam Talbot, Martin Jones), suddenly the Coyotes are that much tougher to score against.
Stepan gives that forward group some credibility, while things could get interesting if Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, and Dylan Strome take steps forward. And, really, a signing like this might inspire the Coyotes to push to add a little more offense.
(Maybe older guys [who can be more than mere mentors] like Jaromir Jagr or Denis Zaripov deserve at least an exploratory phone call right now?)
There are a ton of “Ifs,” right down to how well Rick Tocchet can mold what, to many, looks like a roster that’s about as polished as a ball of clay.
Don’t be surprised if the Coyotes become a chic dark horse candidate as previews start trickling in, though, either.