Arizona Coyotes Alex Goligoski (33) skates with the puck away from Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek (93) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Coyotes: Don’t Write Off Alex Goligoski Yet

Published On March 6, 2017 | By Jason Harrison | Editorials

John Chayka signed Alex Goligoski to much fanfare from Arizona Coyotes faithful this offseason. In the months since Goligoski has become a familiar punching bag for shortcomings real and perceived.

Every year there’s a new punchline with the Arizona Coyotes. There are also the familiar ones.

Martin Hanzal, the man of glass. Mike Smith, the fragile goaltender. Oliver Ekman-Larsson isn’t a “real” defenseman (whatever that means).

Some are true, others exaggerated, but they are constant refrains among the fandom.

New signing Alex Goligoski has become a bit of a meme of his own in the 2016-17 season, and like every good tall tale there’s always a kernel of truth hidden within.

Goligoski arrived in Glendale with a long track record of driving possession for his teams. First with the Penguins, then with the Stars, Goose was a man with a puck-moving reputation and the bonafides to back it up. He didn’t put up a ton of points every season, but he was a very useful contributor offensively.

It’s been a bit of an adventure for Goligoski with the Coyotes, however.

While he is fourth on the team in points (27), a recent article by Sarah McLellan of AZCentral touched on the heart of Goli’s troubles. Prior to Sunday night’s game against Carolina, Arizona has faced 220 more shot attempts with Goligoski on the ice.

#33 was brought in specifically to drive possession and correct a several seasons old issue, but instead he has exacerbated the problem.

The question for John Chayka and Dave Tippett is what to do about it.

For Tipp’s part, he didn’t seem all that concerned when talking to McLellan.

“We put him in a lot of hard situations that have been hard on everybody, not just him,” Tippett said. “He’s a little bit like Oliver (Ekman-Larsson), up and down a little bit and a little bit of a byproduct of our team, but still a really good pro. It’s hard to find guys that chew up minutes like he does. So there’s lots to like about his game and hopefully as our team gets better, you’ll see improvement in his game.”

A top-four defenseman who has driven possession throughout his career doesn’t suddenly lose the ability to hold onto the puck or provide a crisp pass in one offseason.

It’s easy to see many of Goligoski’s woes are products of his environment.

For starters, Dave Tippett hasn’t had a solid possession team for several years. That’s part Tipp’s system and part talent, but it’s worth noting yet again.

Another issue arises from the gutting of the middle of the lineup.

Antoine Vermette was bought out. Martin Hanzal was traded. Brad Richardson has missed most of the season with a broken leg. Dylan Strome wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Even Christian Dvorak, who is coming on strong in recent weeks, was a mere passenger for a good portion of the season.

The center position has a major impact on the defensive play of the team and the Arizona Coyotes are trotting out two or three career journeyman at that position every night. To overlook the impact of such a hole in the roster would be folly.

Finally, and for me perhaps most importantly, Alex Goligoski doesn’t have a natural fit for a partner on the Coyotes’ blue line. He’s a bit of a man without a country out there. Repeatedly he’s been paired with guys like Tony DeAngelo or Michael Stone, and unfortunately those players do not play a solid defensive game.

When you consider the fact that Goligoski himself is an offensive defenseman, you can begin to see how badly the cards have been stacked against him in his first season in the desert. He has no coverage to allow him to do his thing offensively because his partner is trying to accomplish the same goal. There is no synergy, at least not yet.

Has he played poorly compared to his standard? There is absolutely no doubt.

There’s also little doubt that this situation has been a poor one for a man of his unique talents.

As the Arizona Coyotes’ young offensive skill comes online, and presumably begins to possess the puck more, Alex Goligoski’s value should become more apparent.

In the meantime, sure, knock the guy for a bad season. He deserves it. But don’t write him off just yet.