Arizona Coyotes Month Of Transition Awaits


In a month that started full of promise and intrigue has ended with the Arizona Coyotes in the midst of a transition period. The month of March should be full of opportunity for the unproven youth that the Coyotes organization has to offer.

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This past month Arizona started off with improved play, winning their first two contests. However, they were unable to maintain their level of play and are currently mired in a nine-game losing streak. In total, February brought a performance that resulted in a 3-10-1 record. Arizona is 28th in the NHL with 47 points, leading only Edmonton (46) and Buffalo (43).

Keith Yandle led all Coyotes last month in points (9) and assists (9). Mark Arcobello, a overachieving waiver pickup, led Arizona in goals (5). Oliver Ekman-Larsson led the Coyotes in average ice time (23:40) and pitched in four goals and four assists. Michael Stone added a nice month for himself with 5 assists and nearly 21 minutes of average time on ice.

Feb 1, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Arizona Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle (3) skates with the puck against Montreal Canadiens during the first period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The first event in March that the Coyotes will have to endure, even before their first game, is the NHL Trade Deadline. This past Saturday Arizona traded first-line center Antoine Vermette to Chicago for a 2015 1st round pick and prospect Klas Dahlbeck. On Sunday, Arizona traded Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and 4th round pick to NY Rangers for a 2016 1st round pick, 2015 2nd round pick, prospect Anthony Duclair and John Moore.

As I’ve stated earlier, players that could also be leaving the desert include (but are not limited to) Martin Erat and David Moss. Players that are older in age and especially those that are pending free agents are not necessarily in Arizona’s plans to keep.

The potential departure of some of these skaters will give opportunities to some of the younger members of the Arizona locker room.

With Vermette off to Chicago, the first line center position is open. Sam Gagner is likely to join Lucas Lessio and captain Shane Doan on the first line. The 25-year old Gagner has 12 goals and 18 assists on the season.

Arcobello’s scoring ability may also warrant some time on the first line. The 26-year old Arcobello, who’s on his fourth club this season, has scored 13 goals this season.

Feb 24, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Sam Gagner (9) shoots during the first period against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Henrik Samuelsson, who saw brief action with the Coyotes this past month, may soon return to Arizona depending on some potential departures at the NHL Trade Deadline. Newly-acquired Klas Dahlbeck could also see time in the dessert.

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The schedule for March features four matchups with Pacific division opponents (Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vancouver twice). The Coyotes will also have to encounter strong teams such as Detroit, Montreal, Nashville and Pittsburgh (twice). The relief in the schedule may come against Colorado, New Jersey and two games against Buffalo.

The beginning and of the end of the month both shared one goaltender in common, Louis Domingue. In fact the end of January and the end of February both featured Domingue on mop up duty. It’s possible that the 22-year old may see some more action in favor of Mike Smith.

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Max Domi poses for a photo with team officials after being introduced as the number twelve overall pick to the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

March could also be the NHL debut of highly-touted prospect Max Domi. Domi led Canada to a World Junior Championship in January and is currently tearing up the Ontario Hockey League.

In 50 games, he has 27 goals and 65 assists for the London Knights. Domi’s teammate on the Knights, Christian Dvorak, has 40 goals and 63 assists in 59 games. Both could see time in Glendale.

With the Coyotes currently with the third worst record in the league, the NHL Draft seems like an ideal place to commence their rebuilding efforts. With the improved play of Buffalo and Edmonton as of late, the order of the NHL Draft is still uncertain.

With franchise-changing talents like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel on the board, it does seem like there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Coyotes faithful. March will offer time of transition with new faces in Glendale, but with a plan that is set in motion.