Coyotes Scratchin’ and Clawin’ Taking on a New Meaning

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 05: Lawson Crouse #67 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates his second goal of the game with Ilya Lyubushkin #46 and Antoine Roussel #26, to take a 2-0 lead, during the third period in a 4-1 Coyotes preseason win at Staples Center on October 05, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A motto coined a few seasons ago when the Arizona Coyotes were battling injury after injury and somehow remaining in a playoff hunt looks to be taking on a new meaning. This season, the Coyotes Scratchin’ and Clawin’ is showing a different side early on in the preseason.

While the roster won’t jump off the page and scream success, the team is going to be a thorn in the side of opponents. It more than likely won’t add up to racking up points on the board but this Coyotes team is showing early on that they’re not going to get pushed around.

This certainly has not been the norm for this organization. While the grittier players have existed in the lineup during season’s past, the Coyotes largely have relied on a small speedy attack. Granted that style never balanced well under former head coach Rick Tocchet, the Coyotes look to be turning a new page in more ways than one.

From the Rookie Faceoff on through to the preseason, the Coyotes have been a pain for the opponent. There have been notable standouts like Lawson Crouse using his size to his advantage. After having a difficult season last year, he certainly can use the bounce back to re-establish himself as “the law firm”.

Other incoming players have also impressed early on. Shane Gostisbehere is one who has never found success with the Philadelphia Flyers since his rookie season. Injuries and inconsistency plaguing his career, he looks primed for a fresh start in the desert. Eearly on he has looked strong on both sides of the puck.

After parting ways with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta backstopping the net, the Coyotes brought in veteran Carter Hutton. While not the same caliber as Kuemper or Raanta when healthy, Hutton has largely looked solid in net for the club. Stoning the Los Angeles Kings who featured a fairly close to opening night roster, Hutton turned aside over 30 shots in a dominating victory.

While breaking down every player and analyzing the preseason in significant depth is frivolous, one can still be optimistic about the season. With everything else going on off the ice and the off-season the club has had in the mass exodus of players, any possible optimism for the season is a great step forward.

Once the switch flips on October 14th to open the season we will see how the club carries over from this impressive preseason. While the action on the ice will undoubtedly toughen, I wouldn’t expect the clear identity of the Coyotes to change much. This team appears ripe for being a pain to play against. While that may not translate to a lot of wins or a playoff berth, there will at least be a battle each night on the ice.

For Coyotes fans that were disappointed or disjointed at the prospect of a terrible season, there are positives to be seen. The Coyotes early on are showing an identity, something that has lacked cohesion over the past few seasons. The foundation of the rebuild is solidly planted and we saw glimpses of the future that was exciting to see. Watching Dylan Guenther for instance with his elite shooting abilities shows a tremendous level of promise moving forward.

With the foundation of the rebuild solid, promising prospects either in juniors or reporting to Tucson, and a bevy of draft picks to come, the future is incredibly bright. In the interim, the immediate on-ice product shows the potential for at least an entertaining season. Whether that translates once the puck drops on the regular season in the difficult Central Division remains to be seen.

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