The Runner Sports

Arizona Coyotes Defense Analysis

Finishing 28th in goals against

If one were objective in an analysis of the Arizona Coyotes defense this past season, the big question would be what went wrong? They allow 260 goals, averaging 3.17 goals against a game. That statistic alone shows that the team is still in their rebuild with young, inexperienced defensemen manning the blueline.

Will it get better? It must.

After all, no team desiring a playoff position next season will be able to give the opposition that much of an advantage and expect to be playing in the post-season. It seemed that when the season began the Arizona Coyotes’ defense would improve from past seasons. That didn’t happen. Comparing this past season’s defensive statistics to the last time the team qualified for the playoffs proves the theory that defense matters. During that successful 2011-12 season, the team gave up a stingy 204 goals, which placed them seventh in the NHL. Allowing just an average of 2.49 goals a game can bring you wins, and they showed that by winning 42 games with 97 points.

Of course, that was a different team then, lined with veterans like Ray Whitney, who lead the team in scoring with 77 points. The team hasn’t had a player break 55 points since then, showing their offense isn’t that effective either.

Breaking down the Arizona Coyotes’ defensive lineup

  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Any team would love to have him on their blueline. But, OEL had an off year playing with a broken thumb and losing his mother to cancer. Still, his 39 points placed him second in scoring. His +/- was the lowest on the team with a dismal -25. Many of his turnovers could have been attributed to his mind being elsewhere, which is understandable. He will be back next season, and if the Arizona Coyotes can improve their puck possession, as well as adding a stronger offense, OEL’s numbers will escalate.

  • Alex Goligoski

When the Arizona Coyotes signed Goligoski to a lucrative five-year, $27.375 million contract it was predicted that the Coyotes’ defense would immediately be upgraded. That didn’t happen. Early on, Goligoski’s play was sub-par, but he picked it up in the second half of the season to at least show his potential. His +/- statistic was the worst of his career at -9. Compare that to the previous season with Dallas where he had a respectable +21. Two different teams, same player shows that the Coyotes’ puck possession and turnover rate were factors in their lack of success.

  • Jakob Chychurn

General Manager John Chayka’s adept move to acquire Chychurn showed what he thought of the well-chiseled defenseman. His performance as an 18-year-old in the NHL was nothing short of inspiring. He was physical, and showed signs of offensive capabilities and skating prowess which will leave Coyotes fans smiling for years to come. Was he rough on the edges? Of course, but his potential is unlimited, and he made his mark as a young prospect spewing with confidence and ability. Next season should be a banner year for the youngster. He’ll have a year of NHL experience, and watch him flourish.

  • Connor Murphy

Murphy signed a five-year deal worth $19.25 million, so he knows he must perform. He’s a reliable defensive blueliner who knows his role. His game is to be as physical as possible, and he proved that this past season by finishing second on the team in hits with 201, behind team leader Luke Schenn, who had 286. Murphy is a solid defender, and should improve each season. He needs to watch out for another youngster in Tucson by the name of Kyle Wood, who burned up the AHL with impressive statistics. Wood’s size doesn’t hurt ( 6’ 5”, 235 lbs.), and could make his debut next season. Murphy could become expendable in a trade down the road.

  • Anthony DeAngelo

DeAngelo made an impression on the Arizona Coyotes due to his good puck handling skills, and offensive flair. Speaking of flair, he needs to mature a bit in his temperament if he intends to make it in the NHL. He has some soft hands that lead to awesome passes to streaking forwards, and that is the part of his game which allowed the Coyotes to trade Michael Stone. DeAngelo may get more playing time next season, it’s up to him. His 14 points in 35 games showed he can make a difference.

  • Luke Schenn

This guy is a hitting machine, and someone you do not want to tangle with in the corners. At 6’ 2”, 229 lbs. he makes his presence known to opposing players. He’s solid and led the team in hits with 286, or 3.67 hits a game. He was second on the team in blocked shots with 134. His physical presence is strong, and needed on a team who wants to improve their puck possession numbers. Schenn will remove you from the puck anyway he sees fit, and should be an integral part of the Coyotes’ defense next season.


Final analysis

It’s really quite simple. Head coach Dave Tippett’s system was very effective during the last successful season the Coyotes experienced in the 2011-12 season. They won numerous close games by playing tight defense and scoring by committee. As the young players advance and their experience in game situations improve, the results will be rewarding. That’s not to say the GM John Chayka won’t look at ways to improve the defense or goaltending. He will, it’s his job. If the defense can step up next season, the offense is quite skilled enough to fortify that improvement.

Let’s see… good offense and a strong defense are ingredients for post-season success. It’s a formula that all the playoff teams currently playing this post-season used, and guess what?

It works!