Just past the quarter-pole of this NHL season, numbers do not add up for the Arizona Coyotes. Not only are the Coyotes near the bottom of the NHL’s power rating, the real numbers remain low.
Perhaps the number which means the most is 20, as in standings points. Coming into Thursday’s home game with Calgary, that was the number the Coyotes generated in the league standings. That was the second lowest in the league and far below any postseason consideration in the competitive Pacific Division.
While players continue to say the right things and stay positive, the reality of play on the ice is not difficult to decipher. Despite a 2-1 loss in overtime to the Flames before the smallest crowd of the season, 10,210 in Gila River Arena, coach Dave Tippett said the way the Coyotes competed was, “a good first step to get out of this rut.” The one point earned because of the overtime was the first standings point the Coyotes gathered in their past three games. They have not won since beating the Oilers in Edmonton, 2-1 on Nov. 27.
Still, the bottom line was another loss and this 14th defeat of the season is the most of any NHL team. Several whom management counted upon to help carry this team forward have disappointed. For one, Anthony Duclair, who energized the Coyotes and the league last season, has all but disappeared.
Coming into Thursday night’s home game with Calgary, Duclair had tallied only one goal this season, and that was at home Nov. 3 against Nashville. Also missing in action is Max Domi (four goals in his first 25 games), captain Shane Doan (three goals in his first 25 games,) Martin Hanzal (five goals in his first 20 games), and defensemen Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn, Michael Stone and Alex Goligoski. Combined, the four blueliners have combined for zero goals.
Against the Flames, the situation remained steady.
“We did some things which were positive, but we lost and that’s all that counts,” Doan told The Hockey Writers. “We’re shifting lines, and trying to do anything that will get us going.”
In an effort to get Duclair jumpstarted, Tippett took Duclair off the line with Domi on the left wing and Hanzal at center. Against the Flames, Tippett kept Duclair on the right wing, but placed center Christian Dvorak between Duclair and Tobias Rieder. For his effort, Duclair, benched for a large portion of this game, played only 8:21 and had one shot on net.
Overall, the effort against Calgary was better, but could not overcome a red-hot Flames club. For the game-winner, Dougie Hamilton slid a backhander behind Mike Smith 1:09 into overtime. That gave Calgary its fifth straight win and goalie Chad Johnson recorded his 11th win in his last 13 starts.
“I thought we showed some swagger,” said Smith, who stopped 33 of 35 Calgary shots. “At the same time, we need to have more fight. We need to develop a different mindset.”
Whatever the Coyotes are seeking these days, it’s elusive. Coming into their next game, at home Saturday against Nashville, they have the fewest wins of any team in the NHL and seem to gradually slip off the NHL radar screen.
Add More To The Record Book
With an assist on Domi’s first-period goal, Doan recorded his 554th career assist. That’s the most in Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona franchise history. Previously, Doan was tied with Thomas Steen for the franchise lead in assists.
Doan is now the fifth player in NHL history to own his entire franchise’s records. He tops all who played for the previous Jets and Coyotes in games played, goals, assists, scoring points, game-winning goals and power play goals.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.