The Arizona Coyotes swung for the fences when they acquired Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils in December. Although the ‘Yotes are still currently in a playoff spot, things haven’t been looking too good for them as of late. How concerned should general manager John Chayka be about his team’s struggles?
As of right now, Arizona is sitting in the first Wild Card in the Western Conference with 58 points and 21 regulation/overtime wins in 53 games. Vegas is one point behind them with a game in hand and tied in the first tiebreaker, Regulation Wins. Nashville is three points away with three games in hand and one more RW, and Chicago and Winnipeg are trailing them by four points with two games in hand and 18 RWs each.
Yeah, things are tight in the West. And the Coyotes aren’t doing themselves any favors right now.
They’re in the middle of a four-game winless streak and they’ve dropped seven of their last eight contests. They’ve picked up just four of a possible 16 points during this funk.
Hall has been reasonably productive since moving to the desert, as he’s picked up seven goals and 16 points in 18 contests.
Last night, the Coyotes opened their four-game home stand with an OT loss to the lowly Los Angeles Kings. That’s an extra point they simply can’t afford to lose.
“We’ve got to keep the energy level up, we’ve got to stick together. That’s the way it is,” head coach Rick Tocchet said after the loss to the Kings, per NHL.com. “There’s no other way. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. There’s going to be a lot of negativity around, but we’ve got to stick together.”
If Hall is producing, what’s the problem?
First, they’ve been banged up between the pipes. Darcy Kuemper was having a terrific season, but he’s been out since Dec. 19 with a lower-body injury. Antti Raanta, who is a talented goalie in his own right, has also missed some time since the start of this month. It’s not easy for them to roll into every game with Adin Hill in goal. They need Kuemper back ASAP.
Secondly, other players around Hall have stopped producing. Here’s what we’re talking about:
• Phil Kessel has four points in his last eight games, but three of those came in one night.
• Clayton Keller has one assist in his last nine games.
• Derek Stepan has four assists in eight games but three of those helpers came in the team’s win over San Jose.
• Nick Schmaltz has three points in his last two games, but he had no points in his previous seven.
To make matters worse, top defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson left last night’s game against the Kings with a lower-body injury and he didn’t return.
The Coyotes need to pick up as many points as they can during the remaining three games of this home stand because they’ll be hitting the road in different time zones after that.
Between Feb. 10-20, the ‘Yotes will play in Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Dallas and St. Louis. They’ll have just two home sprinkled into their schedule during that time. In fairness to them, they have more wins on the road (14) than they do at home (12), but their recent play suggests they won’t be able to keep that up.
Chayka now has to decide whether or not he should give up more assets to improve his team before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Does he ride it out with this group or does he shake things up again? He has less than a month to decide.
Thankfully, if they miss the playoffs and win the lottery, the first-round pick they sent the Devils in the Hall trade will transfer over to 2021.