The 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes have made some roster changes, mostly due to salary cap financial restrictions. With very little resources to work with, new general manager Bill Armstrong did his best to improve his roster. It’s clear his direction and goal is to make the Coyotes a tougher and more competitive team. He added players like Tyler Pitlick, John Hayden, Johan Larsson, Drake Caggiula, and Derick Brassard.
2020-21 Arizona Coyotes Want To Be Tough To Play Against
While the five players listed above will not suddenly thrust the Coyotes into Cup contention, they hope they will transform the team in some aspects. While it must be admitted that the Desert Dogs are a weak offensive team, they do take pride in being one of the better defensive teams in the NHL. They tied the Columbus Blue Jackets for the fourth-best goals-against-average and that is an excellent accomplishment.
When you look at the five new players added to the Coyotes’ roster, they know how to hit. Their career hit stats must impress most knowledgeable hockey fans. Larsson has averaged 1.46 hits. Brassard has averaged 1.44. Hayden has the best average at 2.22, and who is surprised by that? Standing 6′-3″, 215 pounds not many enjoy it when Hayden lays his large frame into them. Then, there’s Pitlick with his 2.00 hits per game. Finally, Caggiula has had a 2.07 hits per game average and he’s not that much of a physical specimen at 5′-10″, 176 pounds. Armstrong wanted grit, and he’s got it with these new additions.
As a team according to Yahoo Sports, the Coyotes ranked 22nd in hits during the 2019-20 season with 1,378 or a 19.7 average per game. But, as we all know, just because a team is physical it doesn’t necessarily indicate they will be successful. Case in point is the Ottawa Senators, who led the league in hits with 1,979 or an amazing 27.8 hits per game. The Sens finished with just 62 points, with only the Detroit Red Wings finishing lower.
Salary Cap Issues Has Held the Coyotes Hostage
It began with former general manager John Chayka‘s relentless pursuit to build a strong, young team. Instead, he put the team into the poorhouse by handing out contracts like they were Halloween candy. Does anyone really think that forward Clayton Keller is worth $7.15 million for the next eight years? Highly irresponsible. The team did gather some cap space by unloading Derek Stepan to the Senators for a 2021 second-round draft pick. That cut $6.5 million off the cap and moved the Coyotes from the top of the list of teams with salary cap problems down to 16th with just over $2 million in cap space.
That includes the new players that Armstrong has signed. So, is there still a chance that the team can add a scorer? Hopefully. We are all aware of the Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks trade history. The Chicago club has had some bad news with Jonathan Toews announcing that he will not participate in training camp nor start the regular season. His condition is unknown as to how long it may take for his recovery. That means the Blackhawks will be looking for another centre. It also means that yet unsigned centre Dylan Strome has some additional negotiating power to land a new contract.
To make matters worse up and coming centre Kirby Dach suffered a broken wrist which required surgery curtailing his play for some four-five months. Could the Coyotes entice the Blackhawks to give up a much-needed draft pick if they sent a young centre to Chicago in return? We’ll see.
Line Combos With New Players
One of the most intriguing lines the Yotes may put out on the ice may be that of Lawson Crouse, Brassard, and Pitlick. That line should make things happen. Between Crouse’s increased level of play and that of Brassard’s veteran leadership, it could be a line to watch. One thing is noteworthy… this team the way it is presently constructed will need to score by committee. The only way they are going to win games is to hold the opposing team’s scoring opportunities. When you have Darcy Kuemper in net, you stand a shot in most any game.
The way Armstrong looks at it, he wants an opposing team knowing that the Coyotes won’t back down, and going forward will NOT be pushed around! He added muscle, experience and potential to his roster. Now, it’s up to the players to go out there and prove him right. With the short 56-game schedule, anything can happen. The players will need to come into camp in tip-top shape in order to endure a rough schedule with many back-to-back games.
Barrett Hayton Has a Chance To Shine
The young center may be teamed up with Johan Larsson and either Christian Fischer or John Hayden. The game announcers will need to enunciate names correctly. They must be sure and describe whether it’s Hayton or Hayden and Ekman-Larsson or Johan Larsson, but it’s all good. Barrett Hayton will finally get some ice time to validate the team selecting him fifth overall in the 2018 NHL draft. It’s his time to shine, as it is for Keller, Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland, and yes even Phil Kessel. If Phil ‘the thrill’ can get it together, we wouldn’t need to worry about getting a scorer; he’d be that guy.
The 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes may not win the Cup, but they hope to be in the playoff hunt again. It will take some players to step up and a lot of determination. And if they fail, you can just about expect that this will be Rick Tocchet‘s last year behind the Coyotes’ bench. If that happens could assistant coach Cory Stillman be ready to step into that role? Could be.