In the world of professional sports, it is not uncommon to witness a team go from the top to the bottom of their league standings in a matter of years. However, what is rare is to see a team turn their fate around and climb back to the top. This is exactly what the Arizona Coyotes, a team in the National Hockey League (NHL), have managed to do in the past seasons.
With a long history of disappointment and underachievement, the Coyotes were one of the most struggling teams in the NHL for years. However, a newfound determination and strategic changes have led them to become one of the most talked-about teams in the league. Let’s dive into the transformation of Arizona Coyotes and how they have become a team to watch out for in the recent seasons.
The Struggle of Arizona Coyotes
The story of Arizona Coyotes dates back to 1979, when they were originally known as the Winnipeg Jets. However, in 1996, the team relocated to Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes. Throughout their history, the team has had moments of success, including reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2012. However, their overall performance has been marred by consistent failures.
From financial struggles to on-ice struggles, the team was considered a laughing stock in the league. Despite having a talented roster, the Coyotes consistently failed to make it to the playoffs, with only three appearances between 2009 and 2018. This led to a lack of fan support and a negative reputation within the league.
In 2018, the team saw a change in ownership with Alex Meruelo, a successful businessman, taking over. This change in ownership brought a new focus and determination to turn the franchise around. One of the first major changes they made was hiring John Chayka as the general manager. Chayka, at the age of 26, became the youngest general manager in NHL history.
Chayka’s philosophy was clear – to build a team from the bottom up. He focused on developing young players through the draft and making strategic trades. This brought in new talent, such as Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun, who have become key players in the team’s success.
Another major change was the hiring of Rick Tocchet as the head coach. Tocchet brought in a new style of play and instilled a strong work ethic in the team. He also emphasized the importance of building chemistry within the team, which helped create a strong bond between the players.
The Impact of Analytics
One of the factors that played a significant role in the Coyotes’ turnaround was the use of analytics. With the growing popularity of advanced statistics in sports, the Coyotes were quick to adapt and make use of them. Chayka, with a background in analytics, used data and statistics to make informed decisions about player acquisitions and strategies.
One example of this was the signing of goalie Antti Raanta, who was perceived as a backup goalie by many other teams. However, analytics showed that he had the potential to perform better, and he became a crucial player in the Coyotes’ success.
The Coyotes’ transformation has been evident in their performance in the past seasons. In the 2019-2020 season, they had their first winning record since 2012 and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. While they were ultimately eliminated in the first round, it was a significant achievement for the team.
In the current 2021-2022 season, the Coyotes have been on a strong upward trajectory. They currently have a record of 19-8-2, putting them at the top of the Pacific Division and among the top teams in the league. This success can be attributed to the changes made by the team’s ownership, management, and coaching staff.
The turnaround of Arizona Coyotes serves as a testament to the impact of strategic changes and determination in the world of sports. With a new mindset, the team has gone from being a struggling franchise to a top contender in the NHL. As they continue to build a strong team and establish a winning culture, the Coyotes are sure to make their mark in the league for years to come.