New-look Coyotes looking for turnaround
LAST SEASON: 30-42-10, 70 points. Sixth in Pacific Division
COACH: Rick Tocchet (first season, third NHL season).
ADDED: C Derek Stepan, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, G Antti Raanta, D Adam Clendening, D Jason Demers.
LOST: F Shane Doan, F Radim Vrbata, G Mike Smith, D Connor Murphy, D Anthony DeAngelo, F Jamie McGinn.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Raanta. He was a solid backup to Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers, going 16-8-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average last season. Now he gets a chance to carry the load of being a No. 1 goalie after the Coyotes acquired him and traded away Mike Smith, their No. 1 goalie the previous six seasons. How he handles it will determine how quickly the franchise can turn around.
OUTLOOK: The Coyotes made drastic changes during the offseason, trading away Smith, parting ways with coach Dave Tippett and deciding not to re-sign longtime captain Shane Doan. Most of their moves appear to be upgrades, particularly the additions of Hjalmarsson, a steady defenseman and three-time Stanley Cup champion, and Stepan, the top-line center they’ve been seeking for years. If everything comes together, the Coyotes should at least make a push toward ending their five-year playoff-less streak.
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