The St. Louis Blues will meet their Central Division rivals 26 times during the regular season, which includes three matchups against the Arizona Coyotes. As the Coyotes continue their rebuilding efforts, the focus now turns to their competition and how they will fare against their division rivals.
2021-22 Record: 25-50-7 (57 points, missed the playoffs)
Notable Additions: Zach Kassian, Nick Bjugstad, Patrik Nemeth, Josh Brown, Troy Stecher, Jon Gillies, Laurent Dauphin
Notable Losses: Phil Kessel, Jay Beagle, Alex Galchenyuk, Anton Stralman, Antoine Roussel, Dmitrij Jaskin
2021-22 Season Series Against Blues: 1-3, outscored 19-12
Coyotes Continue to Rebuild
The Coyotes are projected to remain one of the bottom-dwelling franchises this coming season. The team looks to be on the upswing as several of their top prospects should be making their NHL debut over the next few seasons. On July 26, 2022, the team announced John Madden as the team’s newest assistant head coach. Of the hiring, general manager Bill Armstrong stated, “We are very pleased to add John to André Tourigny’s coaching staff. John is an experienced coach and a three-time Stanley Cup champion. He’s a proven winner who had a very good NHL career as a defensive specialist. I’m confident that he will be able to help our penalty-killing unit, and he will be a great addition to our staff.”
The team has filled their roster with veteran players, allowing their top prospects the time they need to grow and mature into capable NHLers. With the changes to their forward group and bringing in individuals such as Zach Kassian and Patrik Nemeth, the club seems to know they will lose plenty of games but wants to go down swinging. They are moving forward with a gritty veteran approach rather than a fast, skilled approach, attempting to compete and keep up with the rest of the NHL’s style of play.
This coming season, the Coyotes should see 24-year-old Jack McBain earn a middle-six position after 10 games in the NHL last season. The former third-round pick from Boston College had 33 points in 24 collegiate games last season and two goals and three points in the NHL before the end of the season.
At some point in 2022-23, fans could see the team’s 2021 first-round pick, Dylan Guenther, earn a spot in the NHL. After a terrific Western Hockey League (WHL) season ended with a playoff knee injury, he’ll be ready for the preseason. Guenther registered 91 points in 59 games, along with 13 goals and eight assists in 16 playoff contests. It is hard to imagine he has anything left to prove in the junior leagues and should fit into a second or third-line role for the team this season, whether it’s in October or as a mid-season call-up.
Barring a last-minute trade, the season looks like it will again play out amid speculation that 24-year-old Jakob Chychrun will be traded. Last season, there was widespread certainty that he would be moved by the trade deadline. When the deadline came and went, Chychrun was still a member of the Coyotes. The defenseman had a down year, scoring only seven goals and 21 points in 47 regular-season games.
The Coyotes will hope for a repeat performance from their top point-producing defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. After acquiring him from the Philadelphia Flyers, the 28-year-old found new life in the desert by scoring the second-most points of his career and his highest in four years. If the team’s defense stays healthy, there should be optimism that they will do a better job at keeping the opposition contained.
After experiencing his first season in the NHL, Karl Vejmelka may steal a few victories for the Coyotes this season. The 26-year-old netminder appeared in 52 NHL games in 2021-22, with a 13-32-3 record, a .898 save percentage (SV%), a 3.68 goals against average (GAA), and a -14.8 goals saved above average (GSAA) rating. While the box scores suggest that the Coyotes could do better, the Czech goaltender showed flashes of brilliance, suggesting there was more to come as he settles into the NHL.
During the offseason, the Coyotes also brought in goaltender Jon Gillies on a one-year contract. After appearing in only one game for the Blues, Gillies was traded to the New Jersey Devils. He appeared in 20 games in 2021-22, securing a 3-10-2 record, a .887 SV%, a 3.70 GAA, and a -10.9 GSAA rating. He should compete for a backup goaltending position or even a starting role should Vejmelka struggle.
How Do the Blues Match Up?
On paper, as they should on the ice, the Blues outmatch the Coyotes in every way. The biggest challenge they will have this season will be competing with the hard-nosed, gritty style that should be played throughout the campaign. The team should have no trouble scoring goals and preventing scoring attempts but will have their mental toughness tested when the bodies and fists begin to fly.