Since Arizona Coyotes long-time captain Shane Doan will not be playing in the desert, a new captain is needed.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be the new captain
It’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that since former captain Shane Doan was unceremoniously not signed to a new contract to play for the Arizona Coyotes, that Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be his replacement.
Nothing formal has been announced, but even before it was decided that Doan would not be returning, the team was grooming OEL to take over for him. It is a difficult act to follow since Doan was loved by the community for his work on and off the ice. “Doaner” was as loyal as they come. He committed his entire career to the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise.
Ekman-Larsson will just need to take over and be the captain every player on the roster admires and relies upon to lead the team. He’s a proven All-Star player and will take on the new responsibilities without a hitch.
OEL had a difficult season last year, and if he can bounce back, his role as captain will be all the easier. Even though he led the team in scoring the two previous seasons, he was still second in scoring with a respectable 12 goals and 27 assists in 79 games.
He would have played all 82 games if not losing his mother near the end of the season and going home to be with his family in Sweden. It was a trying time for him, and his play was noticeably affected by his personal struggle.
He will have a new partner on the blueline
With the acquisition of Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks, Ekman-Larsson looks set to bring his statistics back to the level they were previously.
“Hammer” is a left-handed shooting defenseman who has played his entire career with the Blackhawks organization.
He is a “stay-at-home” defenseman who will complement Ekman-Larsson’s offensive style of play. He can play the right side, and along with OEL will upgrade Arizona’s blueline extensively. The Swedish duo have also played alongside each other for their country, at the 2014 Winter Olympics and most recently the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Seeing that OEL has had 30 power play goals over the last three seasons, that sort of contribution will help the Coyotes score more often. They were 26th in the NHL last season with a lowly 16.1% power play goal scoring ratio.
With Hjalmarsson staying back, OEL can do his thing and score more goals, or feed a forward who may be open near the front of the net. The Coyotes could only manage 2.3 goals a game last season, while letting in 3.1 goals a game.
That needs to change if they wish to be included in the post-season, and Hjalmarsson can definitely help in that respect. He is a three-time Cup winner and knows what it takes to win.
If he can instill that winning culture with the young players in Arizona, the Coyotes may be considered a dark horse team to make the playoffs.
The Arizona Coyotes need to keep Oliver Ekman-Larsson around, as he is an elite player in the NHL. That not only includes making him the next captain of the team, but renewing his contract with a healthy increase. He currently has two years remaining on his contract with a salary cap hit of $5.5 million. If the team wants to build a winner in the desert, they need OEL to lead the way.
After his trying personal loss last season, he will more than likely come back to play some of his best hockey.
And, he’ll do it all in honor of his mother.
Do you agree that Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have a breakout year? Do you think he will make a good captain? Let us know in the comments section below.
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