Coyotes optimistic despite record


Nicholas Tirella/SCC

Coyotes players prepare to continue a drill during practice

Sarah Hall, Reporter/SCC

The Arizona Coyotes are off to a historically bad franchise start to the 2017-18 season with the record of 0-7-1, as of Oct. 23, which puts them last in the NHL with 1 point.

Keep in mind, most of the team is new this season.

The new forward core includes addition center Derek Stepan, acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on Jun. 23, has never missed the playoffs in his career. He will most likely miss it this year if the Coyotes do not step up on this next big road trip starting Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Stepan spoke after the loss against the Dallas Stars on Oct. 19, one of the teams better efforts this season.

Stephan was optimistic about the team when asked by Todd Walsh of Fox Sports Arizona if confidence was building-even though the team had not made it happen yet.

“Honestly, I feel so confident in this group, that they got good things to come,” Stepan Said. “We haven’t taken any steps backwards, which says a lot. Like I said, there are good things coming with this group, we just got to find a way to outscore the other team.”

The team had a tremendous turnover in the last year in both coaching staff and players. On paper, the team should be better than their record, but the Coyotes have played better with each game they have played, even though they haven’t seen the results they are looking for.

Defensively, they are still struggling with head coach Rick Tocchet’s new system, most of all Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes star defender, who played his entire career under former head coach Dave Tippett.

Ekman-Larsson spoke after the 6-2 loss to Boston on Oct. 14 to Walsh about the second period of that game.

“Feels like we’re doing too many mistakes. We don’t play smart enough. That’s why we’re losing games right now,” Ekman-Larsson, a native of Sweden, said. “But at the same time, we have to keep doing what we doing good and improve the things we doing not so good and stay positive. I know it’s frustrating right now, but have to stick together and try to get better.”

Sarah McLellan of asked head coach RickTocchet about the confidence of the team going into the third period of their 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 21.

“I thought we were confident all game. There was a couple of key moments here and there, but I thought for most of the game we were stride for stride. They [The Chicago Blackhawks] have some high-end players over there and we were pretty good.” Tocchet replied during the said during media availability.

Goal tending has been a bit of an issue for the Coyotes this season with earmarked starter and new addition, Antti Raanta out with a muscle strain. He did skate for the first time since his injury against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 12 on Friday. Louis Domingue was a standout against Chicago, only really allowing one bad goal of the three he let in.

Adin Hill shone brightly in his starts against Dallas on Oct. 17 and Oct. 19.

“To me, he looked like he was doing everything he’s been taught to do so far. He was making good reads, he wasn’t coming out too far to challenge [shooters],” Cat Silverman, a goalie expert from InGoal Magazine and The Athletic Chicago said about Hill’s first start.

“He wasn’t staying out, he was doing really good in the decision-making zone, he was pulling himself back in when he realized, no, his team wasn’t going to help him out.”

Jakob Chychrun, last year’s 18-year-old surprise on the blue line, had knee surgery in August and has skated for the first time since surgery Friday, Oct. 20. This is a huge progression in his recovery and once he returns to the line-up, the defense should be stronger.

Clayton Keller, the seventh overall in the 2016 draft, is showing what a special player he is. He is currently leading rookies in goals, with six, and is second in scoring with eight points. Will Butcher of the New Jersey Devils has nine assists, just one point ahead of Keller.

The young team has potential according to many and even though there are no wins in eight games-there’s a long season ahead and many chances for team cohesiveness.