Arizona Coyotes 2015-16 End of Year Review, Positional Grades, Analysis
Very few people expected the Arizona Coyotes to be competitive in 2015-16 with a transition towards a younger core group.
Surprisingly, the Yotes were in the playoff hunt for a significant period of time, but eventually lost key players to injury.
A team expected to add several key additions from the Junior ranks next season, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Arizona Coyotes ownership fired General Manager Don Maloney (the man responsible for drafting those players who promise to be core pieces for years to come).
Will Arizona’s next GM put an early stamp on this team by trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson or one of Dylan Strome/Christian Dvorak in an attempt to move up to the first overall pick? The opportunity to draft a hometown kid from Scottsdale, Arizona may never happen again, suggesting this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Question Marks in Goal
Prior to the 2015-16 NHL season, Arizona Coyotes signed backup Anders Lindback to a one-year deal in hopes of added support for veteran Mike Smith, who was looking for a bounce back season.
Long story short, Lindback was extremely disappointing and won’t be missed after collecting five wins in 13 starts with an ugly 3.11GAA and .894 save percentage.
Through the first couple of months, Mike Smith was playing well enough to keep his team in the playoff hunt. It wasn’t pretty at times allowing three of more goals in 12 of his first 22 starts before going down in December.
It wasn’t until Mike Smith returned in March that his numbers began to soar, and he started to resemble that goaltender we remember from a Coyotes deep playoff run a few years back. He only allowed 18 goals over those last 10 starts, with a .956 save percentage over six appearances in March, and a .925 save percentage in April’s final four games.
Smith carries a $5.67 million dollar cap hit, and is signed through 2018-19. His full no-movement clause turns into a no-trade clause in 2016-17.
At this point, it’s clear the 34-year-old netminder is not the long-term answer for the Arizona Coyotes. With the team very much in the middle of a rebuild, it makes sense to attempt to find a trade partner for Mike Smith. If you have to retain salary, so be it, the future stars won’t be seeking pay raises for a few years anyways.
A fifth round pick in 2010, Domingue just finished his fourth year of pro hockey, seeing a significant NHL workload in 2015-16. Louis spent parts of the past three years bouncing back and forth between ECHL Gwinnett and AHL Portland/Springfield.
He wasn’t overly impressive in the minors this year, going 6-6-1 with a 2.55GAA and .919 save percentage before stepping in for an injured Mike Smith. It was more a matter of necessity with limited options at hand. Surprisingly though, Louis Domingue impressed over 39 appearances for Arizona.
Domingue went on to capture Rookie of the Month honors in January after posting an electric .925 save percentage. He stumbled during an increased workload in February, posting an .890 save percentage over 13 starts, but bounced back nicely in March with a .938 save percentage over eight games.
While Domingue’s performance in 2015-16 is promising moving forward, there’s little worth getting excited over (for now at least). Can he be a quality starter for Arizona in the future? Possibly. Is he ready to take the reins next year? Probably not.
Moving forward, the Coyotes have a few options. First, they can keep Mike Smith, and let Louis Domingue battle for time in the crease as part of a tandem. Second, they can trade Mike Smith, make room for Domingue to be starter (and possibly sign a backup for insurance?). Lastly, they can scour the league for that long-term answer via trade.
Personally, the latter may be the best option. While Domingue shows promise, it’s more likely he winds up being a career backup at best. An elite goaltender can go a long way to helping secure a future Stanley Cup Championship.
Potential Options on the Trade Market: