Direction Hangs in the Balance For Coyotes

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 27: Phil Kessel #81 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Clayton Keller #9, Nick Schmaltz #8 and Jakob Chychrun #6 after scoring an empty-net goal to complete a hat-trick during the third period of the NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on March 27, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 4-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes enter their final matchup of March with 35 games played sporting 16 wins, 14 losses and 5 OT losses. Their record has given them 37 points which puts them 1 point back of the St. Louis Blues for the 4th and final playoff spot in the west division. Fortunately for the Coyotes, they and the Blues have played the same amount of games so there is no large advantage of pending points left on the board to be had for the Blues to further the gap.

With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching on April 12th, these next 7 games of a 9 game road trip will just about decide the direction the Coyotes go in. While the top 3 spots of the division are fairly strong in their footings, the Blues have tripped up quite a bit during the season including during their extended series against the Coyotes where the Yotes snapped up 9 out of the possible 14 points in the 7 game gauntlet. We knew the series was big at the time but with only one game between the two left for the season, it is ever apparent just how large those points are now.

For the rest of the way, the Coyotes will face the Colorado Avalanche tonight and then just one final time on trade deadline day, long after the deadline closes at league offices. They will have three big matchups against Minnesota and two with the Vegas Golden Knights. That leaves 11 remaining games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. If the Coyotes are going to make a run of this, they have to pull out all the stops on grabbing as much of the 22 points that are well within reach. We’ve seem them so far sport a .750 win % against the Ducks, a superb .875% against the Sharks and an even .500% against the Kings so to seem them run a winning percentage north of .700 combined against those teams is not unrealistic at all. While they’ve had great success there, they have not faired well at all against either Vegas or Minnesota. With five games left between the two including a three out of four set with the Wild that could just about make or break the season, the Coyotes have to take of business in these next week and half to set themselves up for a possible run to make it in to the playoffs.

With the playoffs on the horizon and not fading as they seemed less than a month ago, the Coyotes front office has even more difficult decisions to make. They have a plethora of veteran defenseman coming off contracts at seasons end and it would be enticing to make trades to try and stockpile draft picks in the depleted pool. There is also the decision on Conor Garland who has been rumored to be a potential trade asset. Aside from Garland, there is a decision on what to do with Oliver Ekman-Larsson as well as other veterans up front. Phil Kessel has had a bounce-back season and could draw significant interest from teams needing an extra piece for a cup run. To add a two time Stanley Cup champion to your roster at the deadline to bolster your lineup is going to be a juicy bait to dangle in the trade waters. Should the Coyotes look to move him if it brings back a haul that could possibly get you back into the first round or add additional prospects and picks for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft?

The decisions on what to do will likely not be made any easier for GM Bill Armstrong as they would have been had the team fallen to the mat and not rallied off 3 straight wins and 4 of the last 6. With the team right on the brink, it would be a hard sell for management to start blowing things up if the team can make a fight of it and get into the postseason for the second straight year. Now if they fall flat to the Kings or Ducks before facing 6 of your next 7 against the top 3 in the division that decision will be more clearer. For the fans, the thought of packing it in and moving out some pieces may be a tough pill to swallow rather than making the playoffs. Whether that is worth drawing either Vegas or Colorado and having a repeat of last season is a whole other story.

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