Arizona Coyotes Circle Wagons vs Minnesota Wild, Fight for Relevance

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Coyotes are taking things one game at a time, hoping to make up some ground in the standings and stay in the playoff hunt.

The Arizona Coyotes organization never expected to put a Stanley Cup contending team on the ice this season. The current roster is just not good enough (yet) to be able to consistently compete with the stronger teams in the Honda West Division. Both management and the players know it’s a work in progress and that there’s still plenty of work to do.

The hockey operations group will continue to evaluate player personnel during the second half of the season to determine which are “keepers” and which will move on, either voluntarily or otherwise.

The players are essentially battling for a playoff spot and roster spots simultaneously, and for those wanting to remain with the Coyotes, that’s a very good thing. Competition is healthy, and can reveal the character and value of a person.

The Arizona Coyotes took some major strides this season in signing impressive players like Tyler Pitlick (28GP 6G 3A 9 pts), who played for the Philadelphia Flyers last year and has playoff experience. Pitlick’s numbers don’t tell the whole story, and his value is exhibited in ways that aren’t always on the score sheet. His hustle and willingness to do some of the dirty work in the corners is obvious, and flashes of Number 17 are seen on both ends of the ice. He cares, he works reliably hard, and is thus an asset to the team.

Johan Larsson (26GP 4G 1A 5 pts) is another impressive player that is big, strong, and willing to go toe-to-toe with his opponent. Like Pitlick, he plays in the dirty areas and is willing to take the physical abuse inherent in standing in front of the blue paint on offense.

It is no wonder why Pitlick and Larsson often play extensive minutes. Those two newcomers are fast and physical, and when playing with incumbents like Conor Garland, Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz, and Christian Dvorak, it makes everyone better.

Journeyman Derick Brassard (28GP 4G 6A 10 pts) has also played extensive minutes for the Coyotes. He’s another hard-nosed worker that has helped improve the overall competitiveness of the Yotes. Drake Caggiula (21GP 1G 6A 7 pts) last played for the Chicago Blackhawks and is another big body willing and able (after an early-season injury) to “muck it up” with the opposition.

John Hayden (12GP 0G 0A 0 pts) has just begun to play more minutes for Coach Rick Tocchet, and he is a bruising 26-year-old center that takes the ice at 6’3″ and 225 lbs. Dryden Hunt (7GP 1G 1A 2 pts) is another 25 year-old forward that stands at 6′ and 195 lbs, and may have a bright future for the Coyotes.

When all is said and done, both the incumbents and the newcomers will be critically assessed to see if they should be retained for next season or not. Hopefully, with some acquisition money being freed up, the Coyotes will make changes and take additional steps to make the team more viable in 2021-22.