Season Preview: Three questions with Coyotes blog Five For Howling

We’re previewing the season by asking the experts - other SB Nation blogs!

Three divisions down, one more to go — it’s on to the Pacific Division in our Three Questions series! Brendan Porter of Five For Howling answered these for us:

1. The Coyotes made waves this summer by hiring the NHL's youngest GM ever. How have you felt about John Chayka's moves so far?

So far, so good with John Chayka. He's  been surprisingly bold for a very young GM, trading for Alex Goligoski's  rights rather than letting him get to free agency while getting  defenseman Connor Murphy to sign a relatively team friendly six-year  deal. He selected or traded for five puck-moving defensemen in this  year's draft, which suggests he has a good handle on the direction the  game is taking. He even traded up to get Jakob Chychrun, a defenseman  whose draft stock in my opinion suffered more from recency bias than any  other deficiency in his game.

The  big question will be how well he gets along with the other GMs in the  league, especially when the Trade Deadline rolls around. I think he did a  good job this summer demonstrating he has a serious vision and  direction for the team, the question will be how much older GMs want to  play ball.

2.  The Yotes have a lot of solid young forwards, and a good mix of youth  and experience in the defence. Do you think the team's current  goaltending tandem is good enough to compete in the future? What is the  team's long-term plan in terms of its goalies?

Mike Smith has never really been able to  live up to his long-term deal, but when he returned from injury in March  he looked way more like the Smith that got the Coyotes to the Western  Conference Finals in 2012. In 10 appearances at the end of this season,  he allowed two goals or fewer seven times. That's what the Coyotes need  from him.

As  for the future, Louis Domingue took a big step forward with a .912 save  percentage in 39 appearances. He'll have to be better if he wants to be  a consistent starter, but at 24 he still has plenty of time to improve.  The best prospect in Arizona's system is Portland Winterhawks  goaltender Adin Hill, who posted a .917 save percentage in 65 games  played. Given the WHL is not exactly known for stingy defense, that's  not bad at all. He'll start the season backing up Justin Peters in the  AHL, but at 20 years old the only way for him to go is up.

3.  Chayka's moves this summer seem to planning for the future, but  depending on how the young players develop, the team could surprise in  the West. What are you expecting from the team in 2016-17? When would  you like to see them become a serious contender?

I think it's reasonable to expect the  Coyotes to be in the Wild Card conversation in the Western Conference  down the stretch this season. Adding Alex Goligoski should give the  Coyotes some blue-line and power play depth they really haven't had  since the departure of Keith Yandle. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair will  have another year of experience, while at least one of Christian Dvorak  or Dylan Strome should land a full-time NHL now that former Senator  Antoine Vermette is plying his trade in Anaheim. It wouldn't surprise me  if they miss the postseason again, but if they're healthy they should  be giving Los Angeles, Winnipeg, and Minnesota a run for their money in  the playoff push.

Ideally,  the Coyotes would really start being competitive before 2019. which is  when Oliver Ekman-Larsson's contract expires. He will only be 28 then,  which means he has plenty more seasons competing at a high level. If the  Coyotes are close to a Cup, it would be a lot easier to convince OEL to  keep his considerable skills in the Valley rather than join another  team somewhere else in the league.

Three  years is not an unreasonable timeline given the realities of the NHL.  At that point, both Strome and Dvorak should be playing full-time, along  with Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Nick Merkley, and maybe even  Conor Garland. On defense, OEL, Goligoski, and Murphy would be joined by  the likes of Jakob Chychrun, Anthony DeAngelo, and possibly Cam Dineen.

That's  a lot of firepower up and down the lineup, and all of it would be  maturing at roughly the same time. That's basically the model that  worked for Chicago, Los Angeles, and Tampa Bay. Should all go according  to plan, Arizona's window should be wide open right at the time that the  windows of major powerhouses like Washington, Los Angeles, and Chicago  are closing.

Or  all of this could backfire horribly and Arizona could become another  Edmonton, squandering highly talented players in the primes of their  careers. Either way, we'll find out soon.

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