Better luck next year: When will it get better for the Arizona Coyotes?
There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel at some point.
Welcome to Better Luck Next Season. As each NHL team gets eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for them. The Arizona Coyotes were the fifth team to be eliminated from playoff contention, and this continues to be the most cursed fan base in the NHL.
Arizona Coyotes fans (and yes they do exist and yes they are just as passionate about their team as you are about yours) have never been given a chance.
Constant ownership problems. Arena chaos. Canadian fans trying to poach their team every chance they get. A current team that is mostly used as a dumping ground for other team’s bad contracts or retired players in paper transactions.
The whole thing has just been a constant nightmare before you even get into the ongoing 11-year run that has produced just a single playoff appearance.
This year the Coyotes became a league-wide punchline for current arena situation that saw them play their home games (as they will for another two years) in a 5,000 college arena while they await a more permanent solution. But I have to be honest, the games I saw on TV seemed like a fun environment and the Coyotes actually had a really stroong home-ice advantage, going a very respectable 20-12-4 at home (as opposed to 7-23-9 on the road). I said at the beginning of the year that a completely full 5,000 arena is going to produce a better environment than a 3/4 full or half empty 19,000 seat arena. I kinda dig it for now.
That improvement on home ice, as well as a strong finish to the season (14-10-8 over their past 32 games) has led to a modest improvement in their overall record.
There are some good young players here, and after having 19 picks in the previous two drafts, they already have 37(!) over the next three draft classes. That is 56 picks over a five-year span. That is a gain of 21 picks over what teams are given annually by the league. Of those 56 picks, 33 of them will be in the first three rounds, including 17 in the first two rounds.
Obviously you still have to make the right picks, but given the overall crapshoot that the NHL draft tends to be, especially after the first 10 or so picks, the best way to improve your odds of finding an NHL player is to simply give yourself as many rolls of the dice as you can get.
The Coyotes are alreardy starting to see some returns from some of those picks, as 2021 picks Dylan Guenther (No. 9 overall) and J.J. Moser (No. 60 overall) are already contributing at the NHL level.
Logan Cooley, the No. 3 overall pick in 2022 is the guy they are really going to be counting on, but they have at least given themselves a lot of prospects to bet on.
It is just going to be a very long process before they get anywhere even remotely competitive, especially in a Pacific Division that has rapidly gone from the worst in the league to one of the best.
What went wrong for the Coyotes?
In terms of their record or what they have actually done on the ice I am not sure anything went wrong beyond “being a young rebuilding team that has been gutting its roster for two years.”
They were expected to lose.
They have lost.
They are not noticeably worse than expected, and if anything they might even be a little better than most of us expected them to be.
They lack a true superstar, they lack depth, they do not have great goaltending, and they are extremely young. Of the 37 players that skated in at least one game this season, 11 of them are age 23 or younger. That includes six players that skated in at least 20 games this season. Any one of those things would have been a big hurdle for a team to overcome. All of them together is quite simply a recipe for a bad season.
Anything more than this would have been a minor miracle.
If anything went wrong, I think it was the underwhelming and anti-climactic ending to the Jakob Chychrun trade situation.