The Arizona Coyotes were expected to end the 2015-16 season in the draft lottery mix, but kicked off the season with three decisive wins by a combined margin of 10-2, thanks in large part to rookie forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Given their undeniable talent, are the Coyotes a few lucky breaks away from surprise playoff contention?
There's absolutely no question the Coyotes are starting from a very deep hole. Despite combing through 87 sets of published predictions, I could find only two pundits who didn't place this team dead last in the Pacific Division -- and they were both for a narrow second-to-last. Arizona's bleak outlook is the single greatest consensus for any team, and for any divisional position.
The lack of optimism is really no surprise, given that Coyotes finished second to last in the NHL last season, and did very little to improve, compared to teams like Buffalo and Edmonton. This season, Craig Custance's panel of experts ranked Mike Smith tied for 22nd among the league's 30 starting goalies, and when using analytics to rank each team's coaching, Arizona's was one of the few staffs that could defensibly be placed in the bottom tier. Quite frankly, the team's abundance of hot prospects could be the only positive light, but how far can those prospects lift this team out of the basement?