Happy Tuesday! We are weeks into the offseason and the Arizona Coyotes are in preparation for the start if the 2022-2023 season.
There still is work to do.
Being a team in a rebuild might seem like there is not much left to do regarding the roster, but the Coyotes should at least be hoping to put a respectable team on the ice each night. The secret is out, to the outsider they appear to be tanking.
As a team they no doubt look around the locker room and know that they are not expected to win. Again, this franchise has a very Major League feel to it. Owners hoping to finish dead last in the league. The prize this time is not moving the Cleveland Indians to Miami, but securing the top pick in the draft, who should end up being Connor Bedard.
Cue the NHL draft lottery conspiracy theories.
Maybe it will not matter if the Coyotes finish dead last. The NHL does not want a team like the Coyotes to have the top pick. Would it be better for hockey to have a team like the Chicago Blackhawks be awarded the top pick?
Oh, You betcha.
Fans need to remember that we have the Ottawa Senators to thank for the NHL having the draft lottery. Entering the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, the Senators purposefully tanked to make sure that they would have the top pick in the Alexandre Daigle sweepstakes. The league implemented a draft lottery to prevent teams from tanking.
There was some sort of justice as Daigle never lived up to his hype, and players taken around him had hall of fame careers. In truth, who could have lived up to that hype playing for those Senators? They were so bad.
If you have not viewed the players that Ottawa missed out on, have a look. You will be amazed.
The Coyotes do not need to tank, as they are not guaranteed the top pick in the draft. Period. This rebuild should be about developing the young talent on the team and in the system, while playing respectable hockey. No player will develop if the team is being blown out each night.
Young players need to log NHL minutes and get that experience.
The team needs two big things to consider this offseason a win, and continue heading in the right direction. The first is to build a coaching staff that will develop all of the young talent. Too many years have the Coyotes drafted highly talented kids, and failed to develop them.
The team thinks that they may have addressed this with the signing of former New Jersey Devils player, now coach, John Madden. This signing implies that the team is trying to address their terrible special teams last season.
This could be a win. I have a friend, a former NHL player and AHL coach who has told me that John Madden was the worst coach that he has ever worked with. I am interested to see how this turns out. I am crossing my fingers that Madden’s coaching days with the Cleveland Monsters are not the same in the NHL.
Madden replaced Jared Bednar in Cleveland and was more or less a .500 coach (101-99-4-4). Not really that impressive. I am hoping he has grown as a coach. If he has, this will end up being a great addition to the staff, as a player he was solid.
The second issue left to address is bringing in a veteran goalie to help mentor the younger goalies and provide stability in the crease. Karel Vejmelka played very well in his first season with the team. An unexpected surprise that could have answered the need for a franchise goalie, long-term. Entering free agency, almost all hockey experts agreed that the Coyotes needed another veteran goalie and that the mess in the crease last season could not happen again if the team was going to take steps forward.
The team passed on many NHL veteran goalies, instead signed Jon Gillies from New Jersey. No slam to Gillies, but the team needs a veteran who “has been there before”.
There were plenty of guys out there that the team could afford, and who were looking to continue their playing careers. I had really hoped that the team would have signed Martin Jones, or bring back former Coyote great Mike Smith.
Jones signed with Seattle. Either goalie could play 25-30 games, give the team a chance to win, but most importantly, mentor the younger goalies in the organization. Vejmelka, and Ivan Prosvetov would benefit from Smith’s tutelage.
Hell, at this point Gillies could learn from Smith as well.
Would Smith want to come back as a 41 year old goalie? Maybe. If the team threw him enough money, something they have a lot of.
The team is on the up and up, but there is work to do. The Excitement is building!