We’re about a third of the way through the 2022-23 BEARD Hockey season, so let’s check in on how the Desert Boys are doing!
The Coyotes currently sit in a tie for 10th in the West with 32 pts in 27 GP, meaning they have a game or 2 in hand against most other teams. However, recently they have hit a rough patch, only picking up 3 wins in their last 10 games after leading the west at one point.
So what’s changed?
No doubt, the #1 cause has been lack of discipline. The Coyotes lead the league in PIM per game at a tick over 18, and the entire top line has been a problem, with Sebastian Aho and Pavel Buchnevich each over 50 PIM and Vladimir Tarasenko being near the top 5 in the league at a whopping 92 PIMs.
This was so unacceptable that Tarasenko has been demoted to the 2nd line, a move that was made even before the megatrade that landed Jonathan Huberdeau. The Yotes HAVE to get more disciplined and not take so many dumb fighting penalties!
Going hand in hand with that, they lead the league in shots against, undoubtedly brought on by the myriad powerplays they face. And while their penalty kill was once top 3 in the league, it now sits at 8th, which is still great, but facing so many PKs means more shots, which means more goals, and indeed their defense has slipped to 21st in GA.
This has also affected their offense, as more time on the kill means less time at even strength which means fewer good chances, and this is again reflected in the stats: 13th in shots for, but only 26th in goals to this point.
It all points back to discipline.
To try and fix this, some changes the Coyotes have made include replacing Tarasenko with Huberdeau on the top line while sending Tarasenko down to the 2nd, and swapping Nino Niederreiter and Alex Iafallo on the 2nd & 3rd lines to try and give the 2nd line some more defensive presence.
Huberdeau is likely on the top line to stay, as is Tarasenko on the 2nd, but we’ll see what happens with Iafallo as his defense may be better served on line 3 since they have worse defensemen backing them up.
Ultimately, we still have two-thirds of the season to go so there is still some time for experimentation. No matter what, the offense should certainly see a boost with the arrival of Huberdeau, so they mainly need to get back to good defense.