Fans expected to see a season similar to one the Toronto Maple Leafs experienced in 2015-16.
After hiring Mike Babcock, the Leafs played a strong possession based system that saw the team showcase a palatable brand of hockey on their way to the league’s worst record. That Leafs team finished the season at 50.56% Corsi For at even strength with a roster that was nearly glutted of talent.
The expectation was that with a few prospects moving into the NHL and a few tweaks to head coach Dave Tippett’s system, the Coyotes could even out as a solid possession team and show growth in 2016-17…even if that growth came with a worse record than 2015-16.
That hasn’t happened at all.
After sporting the second worst possession numbers in the NHL last season (46.51%), the Yotes are even worse this season (45.18%) with a better roster.
The arrival of puck moving defenseman Alex Goligoski, a player who has had solid to excellent possession stats his entire career, was meant to be a catalyst. Goligoski was expected to round out the Coyotes’ top four defense with a second pairing behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson that could also drive play.
The result? Goligoski’s possession numbers sit at 41.17% at even strength. That’s horrific.
Goose isn’t a fit in Tipp’s lineup. It’s like shoving a square peg into a round hole.
There’s no sugar-coating it.
Through 24 games, he and the team as a whole have been a complete bust.
Clean breakouts and zone entries have become the exception instead of the norm as the team regularly dumps the puck in regardless of situation. Tape-to-tape passes are a struggle, and high-risk stretch passes through the neutral zone are all too common.
Simply put, the Arizona Coyotes cannot get out of their own way.
Fans and coaching staff alike have questioned the effort of players. Decision making has been poor on the ice. Even the bigger stars like OEL, Max Domi, and others have not been immune to the funk that has permeated this team.
Compounding the on-ice struggles is the fact that lineups are in a blender from week-to-week.
Rookies sit and take the blame for small miscues while veterans make the same mistakes and suit up every night. Meanwhile, the few line combinations producing positive results now or in the past are broken up in favor of ill-conceived attempts at jump-starting the team.
As the season spirals down the drain and Arizona is once again in the NHL’s gutter, there are many questions left to be answered.