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Season preview: Arizona Coyotes


Season preview: Arizona Coyotes

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Arizona Coyotes

2014-15 record: 24-50-8, 7th in the Pacific

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Dave Tippett (7th season)

Notable additions: D Nicklas Grossmann, C Boyd Gordon, RW Steve Downie, G Anders Lindback, D Zbynek Michalek, RW Brad Richardson, LW John Scott, C Antoine Vermette (sort of, was traded from Arizona to Chicago mid-season and signed back with Arizona)

Notable subtractions: C Sam Gagner, LW Lauri Korpikoski, RW Martin Erat (don't laugh, he still had 32 points last season on a team that struggled to generate offense), RW David Moss

RELATED: Caps get a good deal with Johansson contract

Schedule against the Capitals: Mon. Feb. 22 at Washington, Sat. April 2 at Arizona

Outlook: The Coyotes experienced a horrific season last year, but were denied the light at the end of the tunnel that was either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Despite finishing with the second worst record in the league, they fell to third in the draft after Edmonton won the draft lottery. The Coyotes drafted Dylan Strome and while he certainly has NHL potential, he is not the transformational talent that McDavid and Eichel are. In fact, there's a very good chance that Strome will start the season in the OHL.

So even after a terrible season last year, the Coyotes will head into the fall with nothing to show for it in the short term.

It also doesn't help that the team's offseason has been spent dealing with a lease dispute with the city of Glendale. While the matter appears to be settled for the time being, a two-year agreement does little to instill confidence in any potential free agents.

Arizona's leading scorer last season in both goals and points was Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a 24-year-old defenseman. Ekman-Larsson is an outstanding player who has a long NHL career in front of him, but when your leading scorer is a young defenseman, that's not a recipe for success. Even worse is the fact that the team's second and third leading scorers, Sam Gagner and Keith Yandle, are both gone. Shane Doan is still there and while he will remain a team leader, but at 38-years-old, there's little you can expect from him in terms of production.

The good news is that the Coyotes have some young offensive talent in their system.

Max Domi is the real deal and fans were already getting excited about him last season thanks to plays like this. Because of Arizona's serious lack of offensive depth, Domi looks like a lock for the NHL roster this season. It also would not be surprising to see Anthony Duclair and Brendan Perlini make their NHL debuts this fall as well.

Relying on three players who are not yet old enough to drink to lead the offense may not be the best idea, but this season will not be about winning games so much as getting their young talent NHL experience.

Defensively the team is not starting from scratch. Ekmann-Larsson is turning into a star and Michael Stone looks like he can be a solid top-four, possibly top pair defenseman. The pickup of Nicklas Grossman also adds some veteran leadership. Mike Smith has got to play better in net than he did last season, but there is some definite potential on the blue line.

Expectations: The only thing the Coyotes are going to contend for next season is another high draft pick. The 2015-16 season is not about winning for Arizona, it's about developing the young talent they have accumulated and beginning to build around it.

MORE CAPS: Arbitrator hands down ruling for Marcus Johansson

See more team previews:

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames 8/3 
Edmonton Oilers 8/4 
Los Angeles Kings 8/5 
San Jose Sharks 8/6 
Vancouver Canucks 8/7

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8 
Colorado Avalanche 8/9 
Dallas Stars 8/10 
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20< 
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?


Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

Tarik: The term ‘Stanley Cup Hangover’ exists because, well, it’s a real thing. And the Caps, like all teams that battle into early June, are vulnerable to suffering from it next season.

Why? Think about it. No. 1, the core group just completed the longest season—106 games—of their lives (and, somewhere, the party is still going). No. 2, the top guys aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. No. 3, human nature.

A little more on that last one. Alex Ovechkin and Co. have spent the entirety of their professional hockey careers chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And now they have it. At long last. Hoisting the Cup was as much a moment to cherish as it was a gigantic relief for a team that had been labeled perennial underachievers. Shifting gears from that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment back to hunger and determination is difficult.

Something else that worries me a bit? They don’t have experience dealing with a truncated offseason. Rest and recovery matter. And they aren’t going to get much of either this summer.

All that said, they don’t have to stumble through the 2018-19 season. If you're looking at things from the optimist's point of view, the Cup run did something for Ovechkin and his teammates that none of the previous failures could: It showed them EXACTLY what it takes to play deep into the spring.

Eleven out of 12 forwards from the championship squad are expected back. Five of six defensemen and the goalie are returning, as well. Sure, they’ve got a new head coach, but he’s been here for four years already, giving him a huge advantage over a bench boss who’s starting from scratch. So there’s continuity and chemistry already built in.

I look at it like this: The core guys who’ve been around a while—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby, etc.—have a rare opportunity before them. After coming up short for so many years, they’ve been gifted an extraordinary chance to make up for lost time over the next 12-24 months. In fact, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Eller, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Kempny and Holtby have two more years together, as a core, before the next round of tough decisions will need to be made.

But it’s going to be up to them. Are they going to be satisfied with one Cup? Or will they get greedy? I’m betting on the latter.

Regan: The Capitals could enter next season hungry, motivated, in the right mindset, completely prepared in every way to avoid a Cup hangover and it may still happen. Why? Because the Capitals (and Vegas for that matter) will enter next season with less time to rest, recover and prepare after a grueling playoff run than any other team in the NHL.

First things first, no, I do not think the Caps will struggle because they are are partying too hard this summer and won't be ready for the start of the season.

It took a long time Washington to finally reach the top of the mountain. It won't be lost on Alex Ovechkin, or any of the veterans, that the year he came into training camp early and in really good shape, that was the year he was able to lead his team to the promised land. Considering all the struggles, all the early playoff exits, all the years it took to finally win, I expect the veterans will look at how they prepared last season and take that lesson to heart going into camp. Those players will enter the fall in as good a shape as the time they have this offseason will allow them to be.

But this team is not just composed of veterans of the Ovechkin era who suffered through all of those postseason struggles.

What about the youngsters? Will Jakub Vrana have the same motivation as Ovechkin or a Nicklas Backstrom to show up to camp ready next season? What about Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey? If any of the team's young players aren't exactly in "game shape" by the fall, they won't be the first and they certainly won't be the last to struggle with early career playoff success.

There's also a new head coach to consider. In a lot of ways, I think coming into the season with a new coach in Todd Reirden will help. I don't expect too much adjustment under a coach the team knows very well, but I do expect more motivation at the start of the regular season than you usually see from a team coming off a championship.

There are a lot of reasons why the Caps could actually avoid a Cup hangover, but the fact is that time puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they overcome all the other factors, there's nothing they can do to suddenly give themselves more time to recover and to train. For that reason alone, I do expect a few early-season struggles from the defending champs.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.