The Arizona Coyotes Can Play the Role of Playoff Spoilers

Without playoff hopes of their own, the Arizona Coyotes now have the opportunity to spoil the hopes of some of their rivals.

Arizona Coyotes v Montreal Canadiens
Arizona Coyotes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

With the Arizona Coyotes all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, there comes the typical shift to looking beyond this season. That means reaping draft assets - however underwhelming - for pending free agents at the trade deadline and calling up young prospects to see what they can offer at the NHL level.

Since there are still games to be played (and because rooting for your team to tank in favor of an improved draft position just feels dirty), there is fun to be had in the spoiler role. With 13 games remaining and a young roster that could benefit from learning how to win, the Coyotes will look to play spoiler against a number of playoff contenders over the remainder of the regular season.

In fact, Arizona has already proven to be a thorn in the side of some postseason hopefuls. In recent weeks, they've done a number on the Detroit Red Wings' hopes for a playoff berth, earning a pair of one-sided wins - 4-0 at Mullett Arena and 4-1 at Little Caesars Arena - during a home-and-home series.

Nick Bjugstad
The Arizona Coyotes stunned the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last week. / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

As the Coyotes get set to face a number of teams looking either to qualify for the postseason or improve their playoff positioning, let's break down some of the club's biggest spoiler opportunities down the stretch:

March 24, vs. Dallas

The Dallas Stars are jammed in amidst a trio of teams that are neck-and-neck in the Central Division race, hoping to ward off the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche. While Arizona was unable to handle Dallas in the Stars' 5-2 win on Wednesday night, Sunday offers an opportunity for a little payback. And if the Coyotes were looking for further motivation, they'd be wise to check their opponent's X/Twitter feed.

March 28, vs. Nashville

The problem with embracing the idea of playing spoiler is that NHL teams really have no rooting interest beyond their own success. Why should the Coyotes care who gets in and who doesn't when they, themselves, are no longer playoff contenders? That being said, the positive impact that slowing the momentum of a scorching hot Nashville Predators team could have is significant for the young 'Yotes roster. Arizona would love to be the team to end what is currently a 16-game points streak for the Predators.

Filip Forsberg
Can the Coyotes take down Filip Forsberg and the surging Arizona Coyotes? / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

March 30, vs. New York

Arizona's last game against the Eastern Conference this season comes next Saturday, as the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers come to town. While the Blueshirts will surely be mostly focused on holding off the streaking Carolina Hurricanes for the division crown, the Coyotes will undoubtedly recall the last game between the teams, a 2-1 Rangers' win which ended in a post-game melee.

April 3 & 10, Vancouver

The Coyotes did their best to hold the Pacific Division-leading Vancouver Canucks in check back in January, coming out on the losing end of a tight 2-1 game. Now, they get two more chances down the stretch to show that they can hang with the cream of their division, hosing the Canucks on April 3 and visiting Vancouver a week later.

April 5, vs. Vegas

You won't find a more glaring contrast in cap figures than the difference between what the Coyotes and the Vegas Golden Knights are paying out. At the moment, Arizona carries a roster and buried cap hit figure of roughly $67.5 million, which is over $30 million less than the Golden Knights' $97.7 million figure. How good would it feel to see one of the league's poorest franchises keep one of its richest from reaching the playoffs??

April 12 & 17, Edmonton

The last time that the Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers, the COVID-19 global pandemic was roughly a month away. Indeed, it's been a long four-plus years since Arizona managed to score a win over Connor McDavid's Oilers, going 0-6-1 while being outscored 39-17 in seven games since. Now, the Coyotes have two chances to snap that dubious streak in the season's final games.