The 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes have been an obliviously inconsistent team. Even with their 9-8-3 record through Friday’s games holding 21 points and tied for fourth with two other teams in the West Division, questions persist.
Inconsistency Plague 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes
Why can’t this team play a full 60 minutes? Will the 17th ranked power play (19.7 percent) be good enough to get them to the postseason? Will the team’s lack of offence ranked 24th, be their downfall?
While the team did manage to become just the eighth team in history to win consecutive games after overcoming a three-goal deficit, comebacks are rare.
The @ArizonaCoyotes added themselves to a short list.
Arizona became the eighth team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal deficit to win in consecutive games, with only one other club doing so against the same opponent. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/oZD9yeTyla
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 25, 2021
It must be noted that had the Coyotes been playing a highly ranked team rather than the Anaheim Ducks, the comebacks may not have happened. The Ducks have had their problems scoring too with just 1.95 goals a game, ranking them next to last in the NHL. Yet, they were able to gain two consecutive 3-0 leads only to blow them, and eventually, that catches up with you. Playing catchup is not a good strategy and relying on comebacks can be detrimental to your success.
When a team is down sometimes it takes a fight to wake up the team. In the first game against the Ducks, even Darcy Kuemper got into a fray defending his teammate. After the Ducks’ Max Jones scored a goal, he called out Kuemper and Darcy went after him causing a fracas.
Lawson Crouse collected nine minutes in the sin-bin with the highlight being about between Crouse and Derek Grant. If that is what it takes to get your team going, then so be it. Falling behind a team ranked in last place is regretful and shows a lack of preparation. Each game in this condensed season must be viewed as important no matter the opponent.
Then, in the second game against the Ducks on Wednesday night, it looked like goalie Darcy Kuemper was injured. He left the ice and headed to the dressing room. Adin Hill was summoned to take over netminding duties and did he ever. He shut down the Ducks and made a spectacular save in overtime to keep it tied at 3-3. Perhaps that save got him the start in the Friday night clash with the Colorado Avalanche. It didn’t help the weak Arizona offence which didn’t wake up until the last 96 seconds of the game when they again attempted a mad comeback. They fell short this time.
It doesn’t seem the team was ready enough in the Avalanche game and again falling behind to a team like Colorado will give you nothing but grief. This almost has to be blamed on coaching. So many shots from the Arizona team were wide or over the net. Head coach Rick Tocchet needs to have some shooting drills and if they continuously miss the net, use the Herb Brooks method of doing laps till they get it right. This team has potential, and yet they fail to come through when it counts. Sure, they beat Anaheim, but is that a real accomplishment? Colorado showed them that they need to score more often and that’s not happening.
Still In The Hunt…Barely
Despite all of the Coyotes lack of consistency, they still find themselves two points out of first place. They are tied with the Los Angeles Kings and Avalanche, after Friday night’s action, with the Kings residing in fifth place due to one less game played. Things can go south or north quickly. In the next 10 games, the Coyotes have a really rough schedule. They face Colorado four times, and the Minnesota Wild five times (thanks pandemic) with another game against the really scorching hot Los Angeles Kings thrown in for good measure. After that, if they survive… they can look forward to playing the Ducks again with hopes of NOT allowing them to grab an early lead.
While it’s true that this season is as whacky as it can get due to scheduling nightmares caused by COVID-19, each team is facing the same hurdles. Thinking of it on the positive side, the multiple games series can be practice for the upcoming playoffs. The Coyotes already experienced that by being forced to play seven straight games against the 2018-19 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. And, that in retrospect didn’t turn out too bad. They took the series four games to three. That was good to get into the playoff atmosphere since the Coyotes will be moving to the tougher Central Division (remember that?) playing teams like the Avalanche, Blues and Wild will be a regular thing.
The Solution for 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes
It seems obvious that the Coyotes need a first-line scorer. It appeared that Christian Dvorak would grab that role for a bit, but that may have been temporary. They just can’t get behind in this shortened season and expect to recover magically before the season ends to sneak into the playoffs. General manager Bill Armstrong has some decisions to make. Will he renew Tocchet’s contract or fire him? Will they go after a true scorer at the trade deadline to bolster their offence? Two points separate the first-place Vegas Golden Knights and the five teams trailing them. The time to make a move to improve this team is NOW!
When a prolific scorer such as Jack Eichel seems to be available the 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes should consider whatever it takes to trade for him. He could change the entire offensive mediocrity. He averages 0.95 points a game and tallied 36 goals last season on a poor team. It’s time to consider trading Clayton Keller, and even Barrett Hayton to acquire a dynamic forward like Eichel. If they want to be consistent they need a consistent performing player. Of course, we don’t know if Keller and Hayton would be enough to entice the Sabres to let Eichel go, but it’s a start. Jason Demers has been a healthy scratch for a bit. See if Buffalo is interested. Then, you also have Antti Raanta who could be traded. There’s gotta be a way.
One thing is certain… the roster of this team is not going to get them past the Wild, Avalanche or even the Kings to gather that last playoff spot. If it’s coaching, deal with it. Montreal did. If it’s players going out there and not performing… deal the players. Results are paramount. The playoffs are at stake. Come on GM Armstrong, let’s see what you’ve got.