Quite a few hockey fans believed coming into the 2019-20 NHL Season that the Arizona Coyotes would take a step forward and finally make it back to the playoffs after adding top goal scorer Phil Kessel. They barely missed last year despite being the most injury plagued team in the league. Although their season is only two games in, there are already signs of concern for the 'Yotes.
The Coyotes were 27th in the league for "goals for" as a team. This was one of the biggest reasons why they missed the 2019 playoffs. When your top player in points only puts up 47 while your top goal scorer only pots 19, there's a huge issue when the season is 82 games. Brad Richardson was one of two players to score 19 goals for Arizona, which is a great contribution from a bottom-six forward, but on the flip side, that's concerning when the so-called top guys aren't outscoring a grizzled veteran.
Clayton Keller's rookie year in 2017-18 was impressive, putting up 65 points, but his regression to just 47 points in the same number of games in 2018-19 hampered the team significantly. He hasn't been the same type of dangerous player very often since his rookie year. Maybe Keller isn't a franchise level talent, or maybe it will take more time, but he needs to increase his production in order for the Coyotes to have any sort of chance at a playoff spot.
Through two games this season, Arizona has scored just one goal. Yikes. It's early, but when you're not putting the puck in the back of the net, just like last year, trends point towards the same issue of not enough scoring. Thankfully, they lost just 2-1 to Anaheim and 1-0 to Boston, so their goaltending from Darcy Kuemper looks good, just as it was last year. With great goaltending, they will keep themselves in plenty of games, but where are they going to get goals from?
Looking at their roster, there's just not a lot of playmaking forwards to create high danger, open net type chances. Sure, Keller has the potential, but as mentioned before, he hasn't looked great in awhile. Kessel should be the guy to score, but he doesn't usually create his own shot in normal 5v5 play as he did in Toronto; he's 32 and isn't as good of skater. Can guys like Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz (both hurt most of last year), Conor Garland (had some good stretches last year), and Christian Fischer step up? Will Oliver Ekman Larsson take another step forward to add even more production from the blue line?
The Coyotes will have to be aggressive on the forecheck to create defensive breakdowns for their opponents. If they're able to do this, they will have wide-open chances more frequently. They will have to be better on the power play, which ranked 26th at just 16.3% last season.
It's quite early, so my concerns may be a bit of an overreaction, but if they don't get their goal scoring problems figured out quickly, they will be quite far out of a playoff spot, making it incredibly hard to get back in the race.