Arizona Coyotes: 2018/19 NHL season preview

With some new faces added to the lineup, can the Arizona Coyotes become a playoff contender?

Arizona Coyotes: 2018/19 NHL season preview
Arizona Coyotes: 2018/19 NHL season preview (Photo: hockeypngs.com/Ty Fisher Vavel.com)

The 2017/18 version of the Arizona Coyotes started the season on a sour note by not winning a regulation game until their 12th game and won that one in overtime.

As the season progressed, things started to turn around, especially in their last 32 games where their record showed a respectable 17-12-3. That could be a playoff contending record without the terrible start.

Their final record was 29-41-12 for 70 points and an eighth place finish three points behind the Vancouver Canucks.

And... it could have been worse if not for some stellar play in between the pipes by starting goalie Antti Raanta. Had he not been injured so much, he may have been able to lead the Yotes to greener pastures.

So, President of Hockey Operations/GM John Chayka went to work (again) to improve his lineup by acquiring three formidable forwards and a backup defenseman just for good measure.

Projected lineup

Forwards:

Richard Panik, LW; Derek Stepan, C; Clayton Keller, RW

Brendan Perlini, LW; Alex Galchenyuk, C; Vinnie Hinostroza, RW

Michael Grabner, LW; Christian Dvorak, C; Dylan Strome, RW

Lawson Crouse, LW; Brad Richardson, C; Christian Fischer, RW

Extra forward: Nick Cousins

Defense:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers

Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jakub Chychrun, Kevin Connauton

Extra defenseman: Jordan Oesterle

Goalies:

Antti Raanta

Darcy Kuemper

Best case scenario

-Newly acquired forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Michael Grabner all have good seasons and score goals which has been the downfall of the Coyotes over recent seasons... and one of the reasons they have not qualified for the playoffs since the 2011/12 season.

-For once, the Coyotes have three competitive starting lines who can keep up with the tough teams in the West.

-Another important factor will be if Raanta can continue his stellar play in net AND stay healthy. He showed he can play like a starter near the end of last season, and he needs to pick right up where he left off and avoid a disastrous start like last season.  

-The defense plays an improved game much like they finished off last season along with the rest of the team. With Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson both receiving contract extensions and young Chychrun recovering nicely from his second knee surgery, the hopes are for a more stingy defense in front of Raanta.

-Young Hinostroza gathers 20 goals and sparks the second line along with Galchenyuk's revitalized play at center ice... where he insists he needs to play. Can Alex throw in 25-30 goals? We'll see.

-Clayton Keller continues to show he is for real by scoring 30 goals. It can happen.

Worst case scenario

-Hinostroza plays only average hockey (doubtful, but possible).

-A major injury to Raanta or a key defenseman like Demers can really crumble any hopes of playoff games for the Desert Dogs.

-The young, but maturing players like Dvorak, Perlini, and Fischer stumble without really picking up their statistics. 

-Galchenyuk turns out to be a prima dona who constantly wants the puck, but is inept at making plays which score goals. His experiment at center is a bust and is moved back to wing where he pouts endlessly.

Prediction

The changes which Chayka made and the money he is spending shows a more aggressive approach towards winning than from recent past seasons in Arizona.

If the new players acquired have really upgraded this team, then the results should show up in the standings... and the attendance. The key here is IF the Coyotes can play at the level they should with the talent they possess, the results will show abundantly.

If the team plays to its capabilities, they should be in the 85-90 point range, but could still fall short of a playoff spot. Remember, the St. Louis Blues finished with 94 points last season and missed the playoffs by one point.

Not since the last time the Coyotes were in the playoffs have they had such a good shot at getting there again... but (there's always a but) if they stumble this season, they had better be there the next season.

Speaking of being there, the other huge issue is WHERE WILL THEY PLAY? The Gila River Arena lease for the team runs out after this upcoming season, and there has been no word as to what the plan is for where the Coyotes will hang their skates after that.

Will there be endless one-year extensions of a lease for an arena that the management/ownership of the team has stated they'd rather not use to play NHL hockey? Or will they FINALLY end the speculation and release plans for a new arena in the East valley? 

Just like making the playoffs, at this point we have no clue.

How do you think the Arizona Coyotes will do in 2018/19? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (@VAVELNHL_ENG).