Coming into this year, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney believed this year's team would challenge for a playoff spot and get in. There are a couple of reasons why.
The acquisition of Olli Jokinen at the draft resulted in the first time a legitimate No. 1 center had been in Phoenix for a long time. He was brought in to be the spark for Shane Doan and Peter Mueller, who both had good years last year, and make them better.
So far, he has played well with six points, one goal and five assists, in only five games. I'm sure they would like for him to put up some more goals, but Jokinen knows that.
Having a No. 1 goaltender to start the season was another reason. Getting Ilya Bryzgalov off waivers about a third of the way through last year was a divine miracle for the Coyotes, who are now looking at a great future in net.
Bryz had a good year last year with the Coyotes, going 26-22 with a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save percentage, and was a reason that Maloney and Co. were excited about this coming year. Having a legitimate No. 1 goaltender for the first time since Nikolai Khabibulin was in net for Phoenix is important, especially in a tough division like the Pacific.
Other reasons include young players like Kyle Turris coming in along with returning players like Mueller, Doan, Dan Carcillo, and so on.
But have the expectations been stacked too high? The Coyotes started off the season with two good wins over the Blue Jackets and Ducks, but have really lost it on this road trip, falling to the Blackhawks, Senators, and Canadiens.
Of course, those are three very tough teams, and losing to them is not a shame. However, the Coyotes were seriously run over in these games, losing 4-1, 6-3, and 4-1, respectively. The lack of offense is something that needs to be addressed, as well as the defense. Teams are getting way too many good chances against the Coyotes defense, and that is making it very hard for Bryzgalov to keep them in games like he did last season.
One thing that has certainly picked up is the physicality and toughness of this team. Doan has been an animal recently, and physical play from guys like Kurt Sauer is destroying the notion of the Coyotes as pushovers (yes, Habs fans, Sauer's check was clean).
The point here is that management needs to understand that this team is very young and it will take time to gel. The season is still very new, so the panic button should certainly not be in sight, but if things continue the way they are going, look for Maloney to be angling toward the draft by acquiring some draft picks for veteran players like Steven Reinprecht, Derek Morris, and Mikael Tellqvist at the deadline.
The tough schedule continues for the Coyotes, as they come home for the Capitals, Flames, Penguins, and Wild. I hate to be a negative Nancy, but the season for these young guys could be over by the All-Star break at this rate.