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Looking ahead for the Arizona Coyotes: More goal scorers required

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, along with three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for what next season will hold.


What went wrong

Injuries, injuries and more injuries. The Coyotes were in the top three in man-games lost this season (with only Anaheim and Dallas ahead), and for a team that doesn't exactly have championship depth to begin with, that was a crusher.

Goalie Antti Raanta, expected to backstop the Coyotes, was limited to 12 games. Defenseman Jason Demers, who played over 21 minutes on average last season, played 33 games. Center Christian Dvorak was limited to 18 games. Offseason free-agent coup Michael Grabner played 39 games. Derek Stepan played 70 games, but was injured at a critical time late in the season, and so on.

Those who weren't injured couldn't find the net. At one point, the Coyotes were last in the NHL with a 1.7 shooting percentage. Clayton Keller saw his production drop by nearly 20 points. Through 80 games, the Coyotes didn't have a 20-goal scorer, and were third-worst in goals per game, at 2.54. By Dec. 22, they were 15-18-2 and already seven points out of a playoff spot.

Then Darcy Kuemper happened. The 28-year-old goalie, acquired last season from the Kings for Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood, went 14-3-3 in January and February to lead a Coyotes comeback in the Western Conference, one that unfortunately fell just short of the wild card.