Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes. The 1971 David Bowie song is well known today in our culture, but what is even more fascinating is that the song started out as a throwaway and didn’t ever break the Top 40 on the billboards. So, why does this relate remotely to hockey? Well, the Phoenix Coyotes have never won the Stanley Cup. Never has the club won a Presidents Trophy for best in the NHL during the Regular Season. And never have the Coyotes even made an appearance in hockey’s ultimate competition. But ‘the tides have changed’, and the Coyotes are emerging as top competitors throughout the League.
Historically, the Coyotes have been the joke of the Western Conference; failing to qualify for the playoffs year after year. The Coyotes have had one season in franchise history where they had won 50 games. Their failure preceded them, and their on ice performance even worse. The 2004-05 lockout was geared to assist teams like Phoenix in gaining ground on the large-market franchises that were dominating the NHL. With the addition of a salary cap, the Coyotes began to win more frequently, and they eventually hit the 50-win mark in 2009-10; the franchise’s first postseason appearance in seven years. But, despite the Coyotes’ success on the ice, the organization’s struggles off of the ice became the focus. The team filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and began the owner’s saga in Phoenix that would last four years.
In spite of the problems surrounding the ownership, the Coyotes surged to the Western Conference Finals in the Spring of 2012. The victory in the first round of the 2012 playoffs happened to be the first ever playoff series win for the Coyotes. After a loss the the Kings in 2012, the Coyotes took a step-back, and failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013. After a season of disappointment for the organization; the longterm owners of the team were finally secured, and the front office went out to add to their already solid roster.
The 2013-14 Coyotes have exceeded the hockey world’s expectations through their first seventeen games. The team is in 5th in the Western Conference, and recently snapped a five-game winning streak. The Coyotes are scoring more consistently than usual this season, especially as the team is ninth in goals for. The Coyotes have become a competitor with each team in the National Hockey League. Some teams in the NHL have Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos, while the Coyotes have thrived on scoring distribution; with 18 skaters having at least one goal so far in 2013-14. The Coyotes rely on their defensive scoring, and with the top point scoring defense in the National Hockey League.
Even Mike Smith has scored.
The combination of offseason moves, and stellar coaching by Coyotes’ winningest coach, Dave Tippet, have paid dividends. The Coyotes are on a roll, and hope to make this the 4th time in 5 years they make an appearance in the playoffs. The Coyotes are a new club, with new ownership, and a growing fan base. The time is now for the Coyotes to make the jump to elite status in the National Hockey League. The Coyotes may have started out at the “bottom of the billboards”, but their changes are slowly giving the organization a chance to “Face the Strange”, and become champions.
-Tyler Jones, Howlin’ Hockey