When the Arizona Coyotes made the big decision to fire Don Maloney, who had helmed the team since 2007, they sent a clear message that changes were going to be made. And change they did, hiring 27-year-old John Chayka to replace him. Chayka stands to reap the rewards of a harvest Maloney had been planting over the past several seasons, with a glut of extremely talented forwards and defensemen developing in Arizona’s system.
Last season, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair combined for 96 points as rookies. They will almost certainly be joined by one of Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak, who are both coming off of consecutive 100-plus point seasons in the OHL. And right behind them are Brendan Perlini, Clayton Keller, Conor Garland, Christian Fischer, Nick Merkley, Anthony DeAngelo, and Jakob Chychrun, to name a few. The Coyotes continue to get younger, and they continue to get better.
Will the Coyotes have enough talent on defense to match their large group of talented forwards?
Is Mike Smith an NHL-caliber goalie when healthy?
Will the skill of Arizona’s young prospects translate to NHL success?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Domi, Duclair, and Dvorak become the Western Conference’s version of the Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov line in Tampa Bay. Alex Goligoski relieves some of the power play and back-end pressure on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who goes on to receive his first Norris Trophy nomination. Smith plays above league average and the Coyotes become the team nobody wants to play in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And the day before Game 1, Coyotes fans gather to watch as ownership breaks ground on a new arena in the East Valley, far removed from the political hijinks of the City of Glendale and far closer to their base of support.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Strome goes back to the OHL after not being ready for primetime this year, while Dvorak struggles to adapt to the larger, faster, and tougher professional game. Goligoski can’t stop the bleeding for what has been a very vulnerable defensive corps over the past few years, while Smith continues to disappoint in net. Ultimately, the Coyotes miss the playoffs and horror of horrors, someone at a Canadian newspaper writes a column about how the Coyotes disprove the value of advanced stats, triggering yet another pointless internet debate with two camps talking past each other and affirming their own intellectual and moral superiority. What fun.