Over the last week or so, I have been counting down the top five reasons a person should be excited about the Arizona Coyotes 2018-19 season.
This has taken slightly longer than anticipated due to a bit of crazy week on my part - work was busy, there was overtime, then there was a family outing, and then a couple days where the wife and I pawned the kids off on the in-laws in order to do things such as substitute alcohol for meals, negate the wearing of pants, and live on a steady diet of sushi and chinese food.
Good times where had by all, but now the blogging resumes, the pants go back on and the kids come home - which is good, I missed them.
Anyways, the #5 reason to be pumped for this season was OEL re-signing, the #4 reason was a salute to the best young GM in the NHL, John Chayka.
Today is #3 and I'm going to say that the #3 reason for the Coyotes' fans to be excited is that this is the best roster the team has ever assembled, and one of the best in the NHL.
Antti Raanta is a potential superstar in goal. His half a season last year was ELITE and he will be looking to be healthy for the entire season and lead the Coyotes to their first playoff birth in what seems like decades.
Darcy Kuemper is probably the best back-up in the NHL and if Raanta falters or can't stay healthy, Kuemper could find himself in a starting role and the Coyotes would probably be fine.
On Defense, the Coyotes boast one of the NHL's best blue-lines. They've got OEL and Demers, forming an ultimate duo. They've got Chychrun who is still just 20 and who will be looking to rebound after a bad season where he was beset by injury.
Nick Hjalmarsson remains one of the best defensive players in the world, while Goligoski can still move the puck and is impressive for a fifth-best defenseman.
Then the Coyotes boast some nice depth with Kevin Connauton whose 11 goals last year were impressive from a third pairing perspective, and Jordan Oesterle who is effective and underrated.
The Coyotes do not have the star power of the Predators. They aren't as dynamic as the Ducks, and they sure as hell don't have the depth/potential combination that the Hurricanes do, and they can't brag about having three near-elite players like the Flames.
But what they can do, that arguably no one else in the NHL can do, is have seven above-average NHL defenseman.
There is no reason that OEL/Demers shouldn't be among the best pairings in the NHL. Add in Chychrun and Hjalmarsson, and you have legitimately terrifying top-four.
Then there are three good choices for the bottom pairing, and top(ish) prospect Pierre Oliver Joseph possibly pushing for a roster spot in camp. The Coyotes blue-line, overall, may just be the best in the NHL. And, if the star power of Nashville and Carolina pushes them down to third, well that's pretty damn good too.
As for the forwards, what they lack in high-end game breakers, they make up for in overall depth.
The Coyotes secret weapon is that they'll ice twelve above-average NHL forwards, where as most rosters in the league feature a black-hole or two. (You'll find no Ryan Callahans or Matt Martins here).
Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller might end up being absolute superstars. Richard Panik, Alex Galchenyuk, Vinnie Hinostroza and Christian Dvorak will give you solid minutes, and the potential for more points than you might think.
Then there is the potential of Crouse, Perlini, Fischer or Dauphin.
You know exactly what you're getting out of Derek Stepan and Michael Grabner, while Archibald, Richardson, and Cousins represent one of the most solid (if unspectacular) bottom of the rosters in the NHL.
From top to bottom, the Coyotes have a balanced roster, and one that has a wide range of players from rookie to prime to vet. They've got a solid base of players who can all provide an acceptable floor with a high ceiling. They've got breakout candidates, blue chippers and potential superstars. They've got balance, skill, speed and not a single loser on the roster.
The one thing they lack is a McDavid/Hall/Matthews type offensive superstar, but in Keller and Strome they've got that potential.
They do, however, have one of the best rosters in the NHL. No one is going to notice for a while, but it's true. Almost all teams have a severe weakness, and the Coyotes don't. Most teams dress one, two, or several terrible players. Not the Coyotes.
Most people are going to look at the Coyotes and not even pay attention. Their 'assessment' will involve a cursory look at last years standings, and they'll completely ignore the injury factors and the fact that when healthy they were an excellent team. Then they'll ignore all the subtle and smart ways they've improved and declare them a non-playoff team.
What they won't do is have the balls to tell you the truth: This is the best team the Coyotes have ever iced, and it's going to be one of the best teams in the NHL. The reason I requested to switch from covering the Capitals back to the Coyotes is that I want to witness their ascension to the top of the NHL first-hand.
The Coyotes won't just make the Playoffs, they're going to compete for a division, and maybe even a conference title.