Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments of the decade. Here is the Arizona Coyotes decade lineup.
Arizona Coyotes Decade
This decade, the Phoenix Coyotes became the Arizona Coyotes before the 2014-15 season began. The Arizona Coyotes decade shows they have just a .505 winning percentage with a combined 358-349-107 record. They only appeared in the playoffs for the first three seasons of the decade and haven’t gone to the postseason since the 2012 year. They were a more defensive team and really struggled to score.
Here’s a breakdown by position for the Arizona Coyotes decade lineup.
Centre: Martin Hanzal (2010-2017)
Martin Hanzal was injured so much that he only averaged about 60 games a year over his ten-year career in Arizona. He was able to average 0.55 points a game over the last decade, which qualified him for being selected in the starting lineup for the last ten years. Standing 6′-6″, 23 pounds one would think that he would have dominated more, but his lack of staying healthy imperilled that chance.
He was selected 17th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Coyotes thought that the big guy could really help them become more of a physical team. Hanzal did make his presence known with 333 blocks and 1,421 hits. Many times he was assigned to cover the top centres in the NHL and that can take plenty of energy and concentration.
Hanzal’s career has taken a huge dip ever since he was traded to the Minnesota Wild in February 2017. He did manage four goals, nine assists in 20 games, but experienced back injury issues. Hanzal was signed as a free agent by the Dallas Stars in July of 2017. He has only played in 45 games collecting just six goals, six assists. Injuries have decimated his ability to play.
The saga of the Coyotes weak offence can be defined by the last decade with team lineups not containing a dominant high-scoring centre. The team really hasn’t had a top centre of that calibre since Keith Tkachuk or Jeremy Roenick who played for the Phoenix Coyotes when they first arrived here in 1996-97.
Left-Wing: Mikkel Boedker (2010-2016)
Mikkel Boedker was a speedster forward who could fly down the ice. He collected 184 points over the last decade and had his best year during the 2013-14 season when he tallied 19 goals, 32 assists while playing all 82 games. Boedker collected five power-play goals to his totals that year. He was an accurate shooter too with an 11.4 percent shooting percentage.
After signing a two-year $5.1 million contract in 2013, the forward wasn’t getting a new contract from the team and he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Alex Tanguay, Connor Bleackley and Kyle Wood at the trade deadline of 2016. He then signed as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks. Boedker was awarded a four-year $16 million deal. He collected 63 points over the two seasons in San Jose and was then traded to the Ottawa Senators.
Choosing Boedker here wasn’t easy with left wings like Max Domi and Ray Whitney available. Both Domi and Whitney just didn’t play in Arizona very long. Domi had three seasons and Whitney only two. Whitney was definitely an offensive wizard but left as a free agent to go to the Dallas Stars.
Right-Wing: Shane Doan (1996-2016-17)
Selecting Shane Doan for this spot was a real no-brainer. Playing his entire NHL career for the Coyotes is definitely an anomaly. Doan was the Coyotes. He defined the team’s tenacity and was an awesome captain of the team. There is no doubt that Doan is Captain Coyote and his jersey is hanging from the rafters of Gila River Arena to prove it.
Over his 20-year career in Arizona, he collected 402 goals, 570 assists for 972 points. His tough play and firm leadership never got him a Stanley Cup but his play was exemplary. The closest he came was when the team went to the Western Conference Finals against the nemesis Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
Yet, he had other chances, his best in the 2010 conference Quarter-Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. The Coyotes fell 4-3 in that series largely due to an injury Doan sustained by crashing into the boards to avoid knocking over Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. His shoulder injury kept him out of the remaining four games and much to his disappointment as he wanted to play. Head coach Dave Tippett decided to not play him due to the injury.
The way the organization handled Doan’s departure from the team was regrettable. Who knows, he may have a place in the team’s future going forward.
Left Defence: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2010-present)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been with the team the entire decade and actually led the team in scoring from the blueline during the disastrous 2014-15 (43 points), and 2015-16 (55 points) seasons. That also puts into the spotlight the offensive mediocrity of the team.
While Ekman-Larsson did have some competition from Keith Yandle for this spot, Yandle left after eight seasons in the desert. OEL has surpassed Yandle in scoring, so he gets the nod.
One deficiency in OEL’s game is he has awful +/- stats going a combined -92 which means he’s on the ice for numerous opponent’s goals. What has to be considered though is that he’s on the ice a lot. He averages 23:35 minutes of ice time and is a workhorse. When the team around him is as poor as it has been, that number is very hard to keep above zero. OEL is a valuable player and that’s why the team signed him to an eight-year $66 million deal in 2018. If this team wants to shake things up they could see what kind of offensive player(s) they could acquire via a trade.
Let’s face it, OEL had some a tremendous task ahead of himself to replace Doan as captain. It seems while he’s a nice guy and all, he may not be the motivator in the locker room that this team needs. His numbers have really dive-bombed this season with just nine goals, 21 assists in 66 games.
Right Defence: Zbynek Michalek (2010, 2012-2014)
Zbynek Michalek was a steady, defensive blueliner who contributed much to the successful style of defence first in the desert. While only contributing 44 points over the span of this decade, Michalek was solid. He was almost like having a second goalie out there as he blocked an average of 2.29 shots a game. He also was not timid about laying the body on opposing players with over 350 hits to his credit. Being a right-hand shooter, Michalek would let shots fly from the point in hopes of a rebound or deflection.
The organization liked him so well they brought him back on two different occasions. He was signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Penguins in July of 2010. He was then traded back to Phoenix in June of 2012 and then traded to the St. Louis Blues in March of 2015. He then came full circle back to the desert in July of 2015 as a free agent.
“Z” as he was known to his teammates deserves to be on this decade team because… well he just kept coming back!
Goalie: Ilya Bryzgalov (2010-11)
Ilya Bryzgalov only played during this decade for two seasons for the Coyotes. Yet, those two seasons showed the NHL what a quality netminder he really was. His 42-20-6 record during the 2009-10 season with a sparkling .920 save percentage and dazzling 2.29 goals-against-average lands him in our decade team roster for goalies. He followed that up the next season with another good record of 36-20-10. Bryzgalov kept consistent with a .921 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average. He threw in 15 shutouts over that two-year period just for good measure.
Bryzgalov’s play didn’t go unnoticed as he was second in Vezina voting in 2009-10 and sixth the next year. To think he was claimed on waivers by Phoenix when Anaheim let him go is amazing. The magic he experienced in Phoenix came to an end when on June 7, 2011, when he was traded to Philadelphia by Phoenix for Matt Clackson, Philadelphia’s 3rd round choice (later traded to Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh selected Oskar Sundqvist) in 2012 Entry Draft and future considerations.
Still, in those two seasons, he accomplished more than any other goaltender during this decade of play.
Antione Vermette needs some mention at the centre spot. He played for five years for the Coyotes and had 291 games to his credit, along with 149 points. He was an excellent faceoff man and helped the team over this decade.
Radim Vrbata needs some attention as well since he is the last Coyote to score 30+ goals when he netted 35 in the 2011-12 season when they went to the conference finals. He also had 12 game-winning goals. It’s just that he was up against Doan, and that’s a tough act to follow.
Keith Yandle was also considered for left defence. His 311 points are nothing to ignore. It’s just that OEL has been here longer and has better stats.
In net, it wouldn’t be right to go without mentioning Darcy Kuemper. Although his record of 45-37-12 may be weak, he has a sterling .923 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against-average. He got hurt and missed most of this season, or those numbers… as well as the team’s record would have been better.