Ever since the Alex Meruelo, Xavier Gutierrez, and Bill Armstrong era began they’ve painted themselves as different than the past. They repeated the same lines as previous ownership, staying in Arizona, committed to bringing a Stanley Cup to the desert, a new state-of-the-art arena, building a contender, and so on. They have even made steps none of the previous ownership seemed capable of doing, getting an actual arena deal on the voting ballot in Tempe.
I supported the move to the Mullett after the bitter ending to their tenure in Glendale. The media and the city council liked to make the Coyotes the bad guys, but in reality, it was a mismanaged mess on both sides. The location was never truly viable, as most fans in the Valley are located near Tempe and Scottsdale, not the West Valley. The investment level in the arena by the city was minimal, and the City of Glendale made it clear their commitment to the fans and the team was only surface level when they voided the long-term agreement. They liked to paint the Coyotes as uncommitted and financially unstable in the media even though they have their own history of not honoring original commitments and having to settle disputes for millions of dollars.
Did the Coyotes mismanage their operations and owe back taxes and management fees? Absolutely, you can’t deny the facts. But somehow coming out of the pandemic, they paid what they owed, found a longer-term solution at Mullett arena, and have done a great job at making real progress toward a new arena and entertainment district where the fans actually are.
So while the team has not performed well, I have been optimistic that things were different. Even at the start of this trade deadline, they were nailing trades and seemed committed to their original demands. But then the house of cards they built fell with the Chychrun trade and it became clear: New dogs, same old tricks.
For years the Coyotes have been known as a salary dumping ground. They could put a cup-winning caliber lineup on the ice of players who never suited up for the team but had checks cut to them. Aside from a year or two under former GM John Chayka, this team has been “rebuilding” or “retooling” ever since the Western Conference finals loss in 2012. This team’s core of young talent had such potential and was starting to gel. They came out of the gate hot to start the second half of the season and instead of demanding a king’s ransom and holding firm, ownership panicked and held a fire sale. They took on salary dumps and picks and sent off high-upside talent that could have helped anchor the roster.
They will paint this as “part of the rebuild” and try to sell the fans that stockpiling tons of picks is the way to go. That it was all part of the plan, and they got what they asked for, even though we know that’s not the case. The last team that was this bold in tanking and trying to pass off minor-league caliber talent as a roster worthy of the top level was the Philadelphia 76ers. “The Process” was mocked and ultimately a failure, as most of the picks they stockpiled and used were non-factors. When did they start winning? After a new GM came in and actually built a roster around their star player Joel Embiid, who was just about the only top pick that panned out.
The plan became clear the minute the trades of Ghost, Bjugstad, and Chychrun were announced. They have no interest in competing for years until, they hope, the new arena is built. The goal is to be as cheap as possible while compliant with the salary cap. All while telling fans to spend $150+ a night on tickets alone to watch the Tuscon Roadrunners wearing the NHL logo. That’s a lot of money to watch 20-25 minutes of NHL-level hockey when the Keller, Schmaltz, and Hayton line is on the ice.
Coyotes fans have been long-suffering and patient. They have shown support for years when frankly, it’s been undeserved. Now again they are being told by ownership, “trust us” without any real proof of progress on the ice. New dogs doing the same old tricks.