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2014-2015 NHL preview: Arizona Coyotes

Mike Smith may need to repeat his magical year for the Coyotes to make the playoffs.
Mike Smith may need to repeat his magical year for the Coyotes to make the playoffs.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Coyotes no longer merely represent Phoenix. They represent all of Arizona, that most hockey loving of states. It's the most interesting thing that happened to them this offseason. It may be the most interesting thing about this team.

Last year, the Coyotes finished ninth in the West, just outside the playoffs. However, that was owed in part to 15 overtime losses, and they only had 31 regulation wins as well as a minus-15 goal differential. So, you know, they weren't exactly good. Although, they actually scored more goals than I anticipated, because I always feel like this is a team that has nobody who can score goals.

This year, Mike Ribeiro is gone, and Sam Gagner is in. This is, at best, a lateral move. Radim Vrbata, who had 20 goals last season, is also gone. Maybe they will have a young player step up, but even if somebody does, I imagine that Shane Doan may drop a bit, because he's 37. This team really just has Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. They also have a couple young defensemen, such as Brandon Gormley. There is also a question in net. Mike Smith had his one amazing year, and then the last couple of years, he has been a bit below average. Last season, he was actually outplayed by Thomas Greiss, but Greiss is gone, and Devan Dubnyk is the backup. Smith probably needs to be better than last season if this team is going to make the playoffs.

However, I don't see that happening. To be honest, when I look at the West, I sort of see eight teams, fittingly the teams that made the playoffs last year, and then the rest. Sure, one of these "also rans" might surprise, but if anybody does, I don't think it will be the Coyotes. A team like Nashville or Edmonton, with young talent and real additions this offseason, I could see. Vancouver could bounce back. Calgary added Jonas Hiller even. Honestly, I think the Coyotes are more likely to finish at the bottom of the West than they are to make the playoffs. Sorry, Arizona. This isn't just Phoenix's problem anymore.