It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that last season the Phoenix Coyotes had their best season ever. Because that’s a fact.
The Coyotes had their best season since moving to the desert. They won a division title and advanced past the first round of the playoffs. Both were firsts for this franchise. They made a deep playoff run that shocked most and looked like they could be a real danger heading into this season.
That was something that this club is unfamiliar with: expectations. That’s not to say that the early season struggles of the Coyotes are related to the high expectations, but they have been extremely unimpressive in their first few games of 2013, with only one win to their credit.
Injuries are playing their part in that, of course. Martin Hanzal was hurt for a spell and Mike Smith still hasn’t returned from his injury, leaving Jason LaBarbera to man the crease. Matthew Lombardi, fresh off of his return to the desert, is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury (but probably a concussion).
Aside from injuries, just what is it that is plaguing these Coyotes and causing them to struggle so badly?
For one, it’s the inconsistent play of their defense. A blue line that was lauded for its depth has struggled. They have had issues holding onto the puck, playing in their own zone, and particularly keeping the opposing team out of the slot. It could also be a matter of the Coyotes not playing with that same chip on their shoulder that we saw last season.
When it comes down to it, though, is this a team capable of competing for a title? They have defense, sure. But they also lack offensive firepower. There are some young up-and-comers, such as Mikkel Boedker, but there are no real difference makers up front for the Coyotes. That’s another issue for this team. Perhaps the loss of leading scorer Ray Whitney was understated.
The Coyotes are a team that rely on defense and grit to win hockey games. When those two aspects of their game aren’t showing, they have a much tougher time finding those two points on a nightly basis. Even with their lack of offense, though, if they can get their play on the defensive end sorted out, and get healthy, then they are still going to be a tough team to knock out when the spring rolls around.
Until they do get it together, though, this isn’t going to be the same Coyotes club we saw last year. They’ll need to find some traction and piece together some consistency quickly.