It's good to be a 77-percenter.
The NHL announced today that 24 of its 31 teams (77%) will be included in its adjusted playoff format, which is set to see the puck drop in late July or August. The Coyotes - who are included in that bunch - are scheduled to play the Predators in a best-of-five qualifying series.
That is a huge boon for an organization that has been hit financially due to coronavirus shutdowns, and has struggled to reach its potential after adding Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall via trades. Hope is what the Coyotes needed.
Here are three more reasons to be hopeful about Arizona's impending playoff appearance:
1. Darcy Kuemper should be fully healthy - After missing just over two months with a lower-body injury, Kuemper came back in late February, but didn't look like himself. He allowed 10 goals in 4 starts, with the Coyotes going 1-3 along the way. Kuemper's now had nearly three months to get back to 100%. If he's healthy, it should serve as aid to a team that yearns for consistency between the pipes. Kuemper's save percentage ranks 7th in the NHL at 92.8%.
2. A clean slate - The Coyotes have undeniable upside, but were never able to harmonize in a meaningful way. Their longest winning streak was 4 games, and they were 7-14 in their last 21 appearances. Maybe the chemistry playing field will be leveled now that every team has lost momentum, and will be, in effect, starting from scratch when training camps open up in July. Pure skill usually wins when a lack of coaching or coordination persists. My theory has always been that if you dropped the 2019 Cleveland Browns on a dirt lot with the 2019 Patriots - minus the culture and coaching - the Browns would dominate with better athletes at most positions. Maybe the NHL's "dirt lot" approach to restarting the season will eliminate the chemistry advantages teams like, say, the Predators - who were 13-8 in their last 21 games before the stoppage - would've enjoyed over the Coyotes.
3. A chance at redemption in the hunt to re-sign Taylor Hall - Taylor Hall is the best hockey player the Coyotes have employed since the days of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk. He'll also be a highly coveted free agent after this season. Can the Coyotes afford to pay him? That remains to be seen. They do have special privileges to tack on an eighth year to any deal, which no other team boasts, but that only applies if he wants to be in Arizona. Hall arrived in Arizona 30 games into the regular season, but the Coyotes remained uneven thereafter. Then, the season was stopped due to coronavirus and the team parted ways with team president Ahron Cohen. Not exactly a smooth landing. Hall will have options this offseason, and Arizona needs to give him a reason to come back. A deep playoff run, where pure talent can reign supreme, could be the perfect prescription.