It’s been a tale of two halves for the Arizona Coyotes through their first 10 games this season.
After opening the 2018-19 campaign with just one win in their first five games, the Coyotes have exploded, collecting eight of a possible 10 points over their last five matchups. The early season storyline that described this Coyotes team as offensively inefficient has pivoted conclusively, as the Yotes have scored 22 goals over their last five contests and sit just four points out of the division lead.
The catalyst that has sparked the early season offensive corrections for the Coyotes has been none other than head coach Rick Tocchet. Coach Tocchet has demonstrated numerous times this young season a willingness to shuffle his lines, constantly moving guys up and down the team’s lineup in an effort to find chemistry and offensive production from his young team.
Let’s take a look at some of the moves made by Coach Tocchet that have sparked the Coyotes offense:
1.) Creation of the SPF Line
When it was announced that the Coyotes massive offseason acquisition Alex Galchenyuk was expected to make his season debut last Tuesday, the move to pair him on the top line with star Clayton Keller was an obvious one to make.
The subsequent move, however, was not as clear-cut. Derek Stepan, who had been centering the Coyotes top line through their first five games had failed to collect a point over that span and had struggled to generate any sort of chemistry between him and his linemates. Struggling wingers Christian Fischer and Brendan Perlini were anything but the obvious choices to play with Stepan, as they both had suffered similar strifes in terms of chemistry creation on their respected lines.
However, since Coach Tocchet decided to pair the three together, the SPF line has been sensational. In their first game playing together the trio combined for seven points, including a hat-trick from Fischer. Before the move by Coach Tocchet, the three forwards had just one point combined in the Coyotes first seven games. Since joining forces Stepan, Fischer & Perlini have combined for four goals and five assists in just three games.
2.) Lawson Crouse Promoted to the Keller Line
The Coyotes offense is largely centered around the success of Clayton Keller. So when the young-star came out of the gate with just one point in his first five contests, it forced Coach Tocchet to re-evaluate who he paired with his 20-year old superstar.
Several candidates were prognosticated to be the right fit, however, not many saw the promotion of Lawson Crouse as the obvious choice. The skating ability and size of Crouse made an immediate impact of the offensive success of Clayton Keller.
Since Crouse was promoted to the top unit, Keller has five goals and six points in his last five games. Although the two youths weren’t paired together for Saturday nights matchup against the Lightning, it is obvious that move sparked Keller’s offensive output and has given him a ton of momentum going into Tuesday nights game against the Senators.
3.) Jordan Oesterle‘s Addition to Top 6
One of the more understated moves made by Coach Tocchet this young season has been the implementation of defensemen Jordan Oesterle into the team’s top six.
The 26-year old defenseman has shined with the Coyotes on both sides of the puck. In seven games this season Oesterle has one goal and three assists, including two points on the powerplay. Although the veteran blueliner has produced points wise for the Coyotes thus far, what has helped spark this offense more then anything has been his ability to move pucks out of his own zone.
A trend that has plagued the Coyotes this season has been an inability to sustain an effective breakout, the basis for any offensive success. The decision by Coach Tocchet to keep Oesterle in the lineup has provided the Coyotes with a skillset they desperately needed, one that ensures defensive responsibility and the consistent ability to get pucks out of their end, and onto the sticks of their forwards.
The turnaround that has taken place offensively for the Coyotes is directly associated with the creativity and willingness to take risks by Coach Rick Tocchet. Four goals in their first five games to 22 in their last five games is all the evidence one needs to demonstrate that whatever Coach Tocchet is doing, he should keep doing it.