It’s been a year to forget if you’re the Arizona Coyotes. Summing up the past year for the Coyotes, The continuing uncertainty whether or not the team will remain in Arizona, a bad year on the ice during the season, being one of the worst teams in the league having a somewhat good chance to land Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid and missing on that chance then pretty much getting kicked out of their home arena, Gila River Arena. I’d say that’s enough to drive any owner mad.
As long as the Coyotes are in the desert questions will remain. Will this team stay, and if they stay for how much longer are they here for? Dangerous situation. The Coyotes have trouble getting new fans and getting fans in general to come to their games. Getting new fans has to be incredibly hard simply because hockey isn’t a popular sport in that region. Add the fact that people have to say to themselves now, why should we support a team and spend money on this team when they probably won’t be around much longer.
A good way and really the only way these days to get new fans to invest both emotionally and financially is to win games. The Coyotes can’t say they have done much of that since the 2012 NHL playoffs. A season that saw the Coyotes win the Pacific division over teams like the San Jose Sharks and eventual Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings. A weaker division that season, but a division win nonetheless. Their season didn’t end there, eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators in rounds one and two and a trip to the western conference final. Losing to the soon to be champion Kings some people felt good about Phoenix (at that point Phoenix Coyotes). If the team can keep this kind of success maybe the city can get behind them.
The success hasn’t followed. Since that conference finals trip, the Coyotes have yet to make the playoffs and this past season on their way down made a pretty good thump to the bottom of the league. In a season where the word “tanking” made it’s rounds I find it hard to believe this was an option for Arizona entering the season. A fairly decent team that I don’t think many people had doing much good but not many people had as bad as they were.
To save you some time, I think the Coyotes season can be broken into years, 2014 they went 14-19-4, a total of 32 points. Not awful, but clearly not a good team. Turn the calendar to 2015 and the Coyotes went nowhere. A seven game losing streak in January, a ten game losing streak in February and into March and another eight game losing streak in March. Bottom line, 2015, 10-31-4. In their first thirty-seven games the Coyotes earned 32 points, in their next forty-five games, just 24 points.
Maybe the team didn’t try to tank at the start of the season, but during the awful ten game losing streak the team started shipping valuable trade assets away, Vermette and Yandle were traded along with Zbynek Michalek, at this point you could tell the team was going to try to get the best draft position possible to land Eichel or McDavid. Finishing last in the western conference which is an accomplishment these days with Edmonton around, and second worst overall behind only Buffalo I’m sure Arizona management liked their chances at getting one of the generational talents.
Skip ahead to the draft lottery and the Coyotes miserable season continued getting jumped by the Edmonton Oilers and falling to third overall out of contention for a possible franchise player. There were definitely great players in the draft other than the obvious two, but getting a player like Eichel or McDavid taken from you had to hurt in an already bad year.
Even leading up to the draft there was question whether or not the team was going to keep that draft pick or not or trade down and get more picks. The Yotes decided to keep the pick and take Dylan Strome with their third overall pick. The current and future center the teams needs was enough to convince them to take Strome over defenseman Noah Hanifin considering the team already has young stud dman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the possibility of putting Strome and prospect Max Domi as your top two centers wasn’t a bad pick.
As terrible a season as it was Coyote fans have the right to be a little excited for the future. It will still take some time and who knows what will happen in that time but the organization has some building blocks, Strome, Domi, Duclair, OEL, Boedker if they can get him long term things don’t look that bleak for the on ice product. As for the next season and this offseason, the team got back veteran plays who seem to really like Arizona in Vermette returning via free agency as well as Michalek and Boyd Gordan coming back to the team after a couple of seasons in Edmonton, getting Nicklas Grossmann for the defense and Steve Downie brings a bug the crap out of you player who can get himself some goals too. Coyotes also signed John Scott for whatever reason, but he seems like a fun guy so whatever.
This team still isn’t a playoff team and is probably the worst team in their own division but another bad year and another high pick could make the future even brighter for a franchise looking for some light at the end of the tunnel.
If Coyote fans need anything else to be excited about, they got some sleek looking uni’s for the next season. Just saying.