For the previous entry in this series of 2022-23 season previews where I cover the expectations of the Anaheim Ducks, click here.
Arizona forward, Clayton Keller (Norm Hall/NHL/Getty Images)
Where to begin with the Arizona Coyotes? Even if you don’t follow hockey, I doubt you aren’t aware of their most recent struggles on and off the ice. From having only made the playoffs once in their last 10 years of play, to constant relocation rumors, to — most notably — their move from the 18,000 capacity Gila River Arena, to the 5,000 capacity ASU’s Mullett Arena. You heard that right, a $400 million professional sports franchise will be playing in front of a crowd of 5,000 people for the next three seasons.
The Coyotes were pretty much forced out of Gila River Arena after it was reported mid-season last year that the team had amounted so much debt, that they were unable to pay their bills at the facility. Gila River Arena officials threatened to lock the team out right in the middle of the season if their debts weren’t paid. Fortunately, the Coyotes were able to avoid being locked out of their own arena and were able to finish the season in Glendale.
Fans of the Arizona Coyotes are sick of the slander. They want fans of other teams to stop pointing and laughing at them. Coyotes’ fans swear that much like other pro sports franchises like the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays etc. that low attendance numbers can simply be chalked up to arena location. The Coyotes faithful vow that their team has a very large, passionate, and dedicated fan base, and that will show when their new, privately-financed $1.7 billion Tempe Entertainment District is completed, the future home of the Arizona Coyotes.
The struggles of being an Arizona Coyotes fan in 2022, and how the Coyotes franchise will be resurrected into one of the more popular United States based hockey teams in the near future is all outlined here on the PHX Coyotes Podcast.
But that’s enough about their internal front office struggles and the identity crisis that their fan base is currently facing. Let’s take a look at how the Coyotes will fare on the ice this season.
The Arizona Coyotes are in complete and total rebuild mode heading into 2022-23. After finishing last season as the second worst team in the league, they’re looking to build from the ground up through scouting, drafting, and developing their own homegrown talent. Arizona had three first-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, and will have 18 picks in the first three rounds of the 2023, 2024 and 2025 drafts.
Arizona hopes to be able to build around their young bright star, Clayton Keller, who scored 63 points on 28 goals and 35 assists last year, and received an All-Star nod, the second of his career.
The Coyotes remained relatively quiet during the offseason, some of their small moves being a trade for Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian, and New York Rangers’ Patrik Nemeth (who did not perform well last year with New York)
The Coyotes let veteran forward, Phil Kessel, walk as he became an RFA, signing a 1-year deal with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Most notably, Arizona signed 25-year old forward, Lawson Crouse, to a 5-year, $21.5 million contract. Crouse scored 34 points on 20 goals and 14 assists with Arizona last season.
It’s been long speculated since last year’s trade deadline that the Coyotes could possibly entertain offers for defenseman Jakob Chychrun. If you ask me, with Chychrun not yet being moved, it seems as if the Coyotes are content with their slew of first round picks over the next few years, and maybe they’re looking to build around their young and talented nucleus of Chychrun, Keller, Crouse and Nick Schmaltz.
2018’s fifth overall pick, Brett Hayton, looks to have a breakout season this year, after scoring 24 points on 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games played last season. Arizona also has solid veteran defenseman, Shayne Gostisbhere, to rely on after his stellar 2021-22 campaign.
2022 third overall pick Logan Cooley said it best about the future of the Arizona Coyotes:
“They have such a bright future with Keller, future draft picks, draft picks they had in the past. They’re heading in the right direction.”
Obviously, don’t look for the Coyotes to have a sneaky good season this year, because they’re more than likely going to end up finishing toward the bottom of the standings again. Instead, if you are going to pay attention to Arizona, keep an eye out for all the aforementioned young names in this article. Any one of those guys could be in for great individual seasons.