GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s strange that when Canadian teams visit the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena, they’re often accompanied by a sense of what might have been.
When the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs visit, they bring the two franchise centers the Coyotes could not land in the past two draft lotteries: Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. When the Winnipeg Jets visit, they bring high-scoring wing Blake Wheeler, whom then-GM Don Maloney could not convince to sign here while Wayne Gretzky was still the coach.
And when the Ottawa Senators visit on Thursday, they’ll bring center Kyle Turris, the Coyotes’ No. 3 overall pick in 2007, who so alienated himself in their veteran-laden locker room that he became persona non grata.
Turris held out to start the 2011-12 season (the same year the Coyotes went to the Western Conference Final) over a contract dispute. His agent, Kurt Overhardt, eventually requested a trade that was granted on Dec. 17, 2011.
With the trade of Martin Hanzal to Minnesota, the Coyotes’ center position has come under scrutiny once again. Twenty-year-old rookie Christian Dvorak has improved by leaps and bounds, veteran Brad Richardson will provide stability when he returns from broken bones in his right leg, Arizona still has Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller (Keller may be better suited to the wing) in the pipeline and the Coyotes will have another high draft pick this summer. But none of those choices provide the certainty of the No. 1 center this franchise has needed since Jeremy Roenick left town.
Which begs the question: Would the Coyotes be better off with Turris in the lineup? The simple answer is yes.
Turris, who will turn 28 this summer, has morphed into a good NHL player. He was tied for the Senators team lead in goals (22) heading into Wednesday’s game in Dallas.
He was third on the team with 44 points (on pace for 56) despite sometimes playing without suitable wings, and he has helped the club’s surprising climb to within six points of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, with three games in hand.
Turris’ career high in goals is 26, scored in the 2013-14 season, and his career high in points is 64, posted in 2014-15. He recently reached the 300-point plateau for his career.
That sort of production would clearly help the Coyotes, who are 27th in the NHL in goals per game at 2.34. Arizona is still desperate for a creative center that can hold the puck and make plays.
On the flip side, Turris’ underlying numbers are not overly impressive, he will be 28 this summer, which makes you wonder if his peak years will be behind him by the time the Coyotes’ young core matures, and he is still not a true No. 1 center, even if he leads all Senators in time on ice per game at 19:20.
He would clearly be playing on the Coyotes’ top line right now, but it is hard to envision Arizona being a playoff team with Turris in the lineup. He’s a good player — he’s not an elite player.
If your goal is to make the playoffs and maybe even win a round, you can live with Turris. If your goal is greater, he’s not the guy. Turris would have helped the Coyotes, but he would not have pushed them over the hump, so the eternal search continues for “that guy.”
If you’re a Coyotes fan looking to shed a tear about what was lost from that 2007 draft, take a look at some of the players taken after Turris went No. 3 behind Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk.
Jakub Voracek (479 career points) went seventh; Logan Couture (367 career points) went ninth; Ryan McDonagh (205 career points) went 12th; Kevin Shattenkirk, gasp, (286 career points) went 14th; Max Pacioretty (402 career points) went 22nd; P.K. Subban (310 career points) went in the second round at No 43; and Wayne Simmonds (388 career points) went No. 61!