The Arizona Coyotes face a very long offseason after being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in embarrassing fashion.
The Arizona Coyotes made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012. However, they shouldn’t be overly proud of their effort in the postseason. Yes, the Coyotes upset the Nashville Predators in the play-in round. But the Colorado Avalanche humiliated them in many ways, beating them in five games.
It wasn’t just that the Coyotes got blown out by the Avalanche that was humiliating. The Avs are one of the best teams in the NHL and have the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup. That doesn’t happen by accident. They’re an elite team. Elite teams are supposed to beat teams like the coyotes.
Rather, it was the way the Coyotes lost. In the final two games of the series, Arizona got outscored by Colorado 14-2 in consecutive 7-1 losses. The Coyotes only scored 8 goals in five games. Four of those came in their lone win in Game 3. So for the rest of the series, the Yotes only averaged a single goal per game. That’s not good enough to beat anyone, let alone one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
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On defense, which was supposed to be a strength for the Coyotes, they allowed 22 goals in five games. And they would have allowed a lot more had it not been for Darcy Kuemper, who deserved a far better fate. In 258 minutes of playing time, Kuemper saw 171 shots against. That’s far too many, even when you’re playing a team like the Avalanche.
Worst of all, the Arizona Coyotes didn’t even put up much of a fight in the final two games. You’d think their win in Game 3 would get them going, but it didn’t. If anything, it woke up the Avalanche. After their humiliating 7-1 loss in Game 4, you’d think the Coyotes would come out in Game 5 with a fire in their bellies. But they didn’t.
Again, there’s no shame in losing to the Avalanche. They’re a Stanley Cup favorite for a reason. But to simply give up as the Coyotes did is completely unacceptable. It shows a lack of leadership and accountability. The Coyotes have no pride or confidence and it showed, especially in Games 4 and 5.
Changes Are Needed
Losing to the Avalanche is a good experience for the Arizona Coyotes. It should show them the kind of hockey they have to play in order to be Stanley Cup contenders. For the front office, it should show them how far the Coyotes have to go just to be in the discussion for the Stanley Cup.
This series loss exposed the Arizona Coyotes for what they are – a team without an identity. Their leadership group failed. The players they brought in to make a difference were invisible.
Jakob Chychrun, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, and Phil Kessel combined for one goal and one point. Derek Stepan had a goal and two points. Carl Soderberg had just one point.
Taylor Hall had a goal and two points, and that goal was an empty netter. Christian Dvorak had zero points. When your nine highest-paid players combine for six points and three goals (only two of which were scored on an actual goalie) in five games, you’re not going to beat anyone, let alone the Avalanche. Conversely, Kadri, by himself, had 10 points. The Avalanche’s second-best center outscored the Coyotes nine highest-paid players by himself.
If the Arizona Coyotes want to be taken seriously, they have to make some serious changes to their roster. Kuemper and Antti Raanta aren’t the problem. If anything, they’re the duct tape keeping the Coyotes’ flawed roster from completely imploding. Eventually, the duct tape will break. And it did. When it did, the Coyotes were exposed.
Not only do the Arizona Coyotes need to overhaul their roster, but they also need to find a new general manager. Maybe John Chayka knew something we didn’t. Perhaps he saw what was going on and didn’t want to be a part of it.
Whatever made Chayka want to leave, the Arizona Coyotes need to have an experienced general manager come in and evaluate the organization from top to bottom. Everyone’s accountable for what happened against the Avalanche. That includes head coach Rich Tocchet.
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Where the Coyotes go from here is up to them. But one thing’s for sure – if the Coyotes want to be taken seriously, the status quo has to change. Making the playoffs during a pandemic isn’t good enough.