2017-18 ARIZONA COYOTES PREVIEW
2016-17 record: 30-42-10, 70 points; 6th place, Pacific Division; 12th place, Western Conference
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
Corsi-for rate: 45.0% (30th)
Additions: G Antti Raanta, D Jason Demers, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, F Derek Stepan, F Nick Cousins, F Emerson Etem, D Adam Clendening
Subtractions: G Mike Smith, F Shane Doan, F Alexander Burmistrov, D Connor Murphy, F Radim Vrbata, D Anthony DeAngelo, F Peter Holland, F Jamie McGinn
There are a number of interesting rookies who will join a cast of burgeoning skilled young players, but the hole will be too big for the Coyotes to dig out of this season. The most pressing issues facing the team are a lack of proven center depth and middling defensive depth with Jakob Chychrun sidelined well into the 2017-18 season, and it isn’t clear whether 2016-17 mid-season All-Star Mike Smith’s minutes can be adequately replaced by Antti Raanta, who has never been a clear, number one starting goalie and played behind much stronger defensive teams with better structure in Chicago and New York. Acquiring Derek Stepan was a necessary move to provide a proven, top-six center; beyond him are the likes of Christian Dvorak, Ryan Strome and Nick Cousins, though Dvorak enjoyed a strong rookie campaign and Strome should be expected to stick and continue to add the type of skill associated with being selected third overall. There’s good speed in this lineup, and LAKI has always been a fan of Tobias Rieder, as well as fellow two-way forward Jordan Martinook, both of whom, along with Kings-Coyotes Rookie Game Hall of Famer Brendan Perlini, are among the many Yotes to have a history of regicide. Clayton Keller should be able to generate a quick impact with the club.
Dave Tippett didn’t step down until late June and was replaced by Rick Tocchet in early July, and whether he had the necessary time frame available over a truncated summer to implement his organizational detail and build relationships with his young team will be one of the questions heading into the season. Of course, with Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and three-time Stanley Cup winner Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona should have a well constituted base to build around. But this was a group that was pinned back in its own end to a greater degree than any other team last season and had a tendency to yield high-quality scoring chances over the last two years. It may be a hard slog at times, but the Coyotes are headed in the right direction. Whether that culminates in a significant standings rise will stem from the ability of players like Strome, Keller, Dvorak and Perlini to provide the necessary secondary production past Domi, Stepan and Ekman-Larsson.
For more on the Coyotes, Jesse Cohen consulted with In Goal’s Catherine Silverman for an in-depth look. [howling]
2017-18 SAN JOSE SHARKS PREVIEW
2016-17 record: 46-29-7, 99 points; 3rd place, Pacific Division; 6th place, Western Conference
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost in first round to Edmonton (six games)
Corsi-for rate: 51.1% (8th)
Additions: F Brandon Bollig
Subtractions: F Patrick Marleau, D David Schlemko, D Mirco Mueller
It’s easy to sound the alarm on the San Jose Sharks entering the 2017-18 season given their aging core and dearth of high-end prospects, but Peter DeBoer’s group will remain versatile, structured and committed to checking and should remain a 90-point club capable of keeping the puck out of its own net.
San Jose ranked fifth in the league last season with an average of 2.44 goals-against per game, but there were a few head-scratching numbers. The NHL’s top faceoff team this decade by virtue of a collection of players capable of playing both wing and center and taking faceoffs on their strong sides, San Jose fell to 23rd in faceoff percentage. Another alarming drop: their power play connected on just 16.7% of its chances, the 25th best rate in the league. SJ Sharkie is rolling over in his grave. “You buried me alive, you dummies!” he would yell, if mascots could talk and received ceremonial burial.
The compact but sturdy Timo Meier made the jump from junior hockey, an NHL debut interspersed around stints with the San Jose Barracuda. The former ninth overall pick scored three times in 34 games but doesn’t turn 21 until the first Sunday of the regular season and should be expected to grow into a wider and more diverse role with the club. In his favor is that he doesn’t have to slot in the top-six to be effective. Brooklyn native Kevin Labanc scored eight times on 70 shots but still has a room to grow his hockey acumen and checking. Even though he didn’t get into any playoff games, he still has finishing ability that should make him an intriguing option on a depth line, with the potential to grow into a wider role. The Barracuda finished with a rather impressive 43-16-4-5 record, and while they didn’t boast a collection of high-profile, high-pedigree prospects, still should graduate a number of players to the NHL, including defensemen Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, who will compete to join Dylan DeMelo as young blue liners who can make the full-time jump to the active roster.
But with a plateaued offense, which includes Joe Thornton, who is 38 and coming off knee surgery, and the always dependable (and 33-year-old premier net-front deflector) Joe Pavelski, along with gutsy and gear-grinding sniper Logan Couture, but not Patrick Marleau, who signed a three-year contract in Toronto, there are questions that remain about offensive output. Brent Burns “chipped in” with 29 goals last season and seems to make any wristshot from the point a scoring chance, but if this is a team that wants to dig in and solidify its footing among the upper echelon Pacific Division clubs, they’ll need to get more out of their supporting cast. Joel Ward (who fell from 21 goals to 10), Joonas Donskoi (who fell from 11 goals to 6) and Tomas Hertl (who was injured and fell from 21 goals to 10) are among the players who will need to reclaim their scoring touch, with Hertl the safest bet to do so if he remains healthy. Potential Barracuda graduates Ryan Carpenter and Marcus Sorensen should ultimately carve out a role in which they could serve as secondary contributors.
For more on the Sharks, Jesse Cohen was joined by San Jose Mercury News Sharks reporter Curtis Pashelka.
-lead photo via Christian Petersen/Getty Images