Arizona Coyotes Need to Improve Roster for 2020-21 Season

Arizona Coyotes, Antti Raanta, Alex Goligoski (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images )
Arizona Coyotes, Antti Raanta, Alex Goligoski (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images ) /

It’s no surprise that the Arizona Coyotes will need to make significant changes to their current roster if the playoffs are a legitimate goal in 2020-21.

While the NHL is shut down for the foreseeable future, it allows the Arizona Coyotes organization and its fans to reflect on the 2019-20 season. By virtue of the acquisitions of Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg early on, everyone was cautiously optimistic that the ‘Yotes could possibly make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The trade for Taylor Hall in December was the marquee acquisition, however, and really gave momentum to the idea that this season was not just a carbon copy of past campaigns. Excitement seemed palpable and talk of the postseason wasn’t scoffed at or quickly dismissed by others.

As we all know, “stuff” happened, and the Coyotes’ hopes fell by the wayside. Sure they still had a dozen games to prove their mettle, but if past behavior was any indication of future behavior, the odds were slim. Why is that?

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A partial explanation has to do with the Coyotes’ roster. The ‘Yotes have had the same core of players for a few years now, and some of them are past their primes and declining in productivity.

The future now resides in youthful players like Barrett Hayton, Clayton Keller, Conor Garland, Lawson Crouse, and Jakob Chychrun. Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Ilya Lyubushkin are part of the mix too, along with goalkeepers Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta.

Retaining Taylor Hall is a pipe dream, although the Coyotes are allegedly making him a priority to re-up in the off season.

The veterans of the group, however, haven’t made much impact as a whole. Phil Kessel was a major disappointment this year and shouldn’t be brought back. Yesterday’s news and memories of his glory days won’t mean a thing in 2020-21, either. Perhaps he should continue his consecutive games’ streak elsewhere.

Players like Brad Richardson, Michael Grabner, Alex Goligoski, and Derek Stepan were brought in to supply veteran leadership along with their experience. It’s been said that they make a big difference in the locker room, but it’s on the ice where players are being judged, and they have been woefully underwhelming. Jordan Oesterle is a liability all by himself.

We all have our favorite Coyotes’ players and to think about losing them is uncomfortable. Winning, however, is a priority, and if the ‘Yotes can’t win with the incumbent roster, what are their options?

There’s been talk that the Coyotes wouldn’t get much in trade value in the veterans listed above, and if that’s true, that simply means other teams don’t want them on their rosters either.

John Chayka was adamant (at least publicly) that his current roster was good enough to make the playoffs. He was wrong. Whether he merely said that to provide the team with a vote of confidence at a critical time or actually believed it, they won’t be in the playoffs for an 8th straight year.

The Coyotes mortgaged their future by trading their stable of young guns for Taylor Hall. He most likely will seek employment and enjoyment elsewhere, a place that sports a competitive team with the playoffs in their immediate future. Cha-ching!

It will be interesting to see how the Arizona Coyotes’ “organization” gets themselves out of this pickle. After all, you can’t reach the playoffs without skillful and productive players, most of which come from your farm system. Oops! Let’s go Coyotes!