What a year it has been for Coyotes hockey. When 2014 began, they were the Phoenix Coyotes. Now they are the Arizona Coyotes, a move that still bites a number of announcers. Nevertheless, another 365 days of Coyotes hockey moments. As we prepare for the next 365, here are some of our favorites from 2014:
#5 Boedker hat trick
Remember when Mikkel Boedker led the NHL in goals? Three games in, Arizona's favorite Dane wowed Coyotes fans with an impressive week, scoring five goals in three games to start the 2014-15 season, with three of them coming against Edmonton on Oct. 15. The caveat is that he would take 11 games to get his sixth goal. Sure, it was unreasonable to expect Boedker would score the 136 goals he was on pace for after that week, but that moment of thinking he would is one of my personal favorites of 2014.
#4 Rieder two shorty shift
Part of the reason fans have been clamoring for an injection of youth is that there are guys like Tobias Rieder in the system. Since his call up, he has not disappointed. But worth special notice is his performance Dec. 1 against the Oilers, when he scored two short-handed goals IN THE SAME PENALTY KILL. Sure, it was against Edmonton, but it was still a peak in a season with many valleys.
#3 Training camp festivities
When the 2013-14 Coyotes season ended the way it did, it was clear that change was on the way. And for the first time in a long time, that change was to come from within. Enter the short-lived "Era of Good Feeling" for the Coyotes, with center-stage being rookie and training camps. Guys like Justin Hodgman, Max Domi, Tobias Rieder and Henrik Samuelsson were at the forefront of fan's attention. Even the most recent first-round draft selection Brendan Perlini got to strut his stuff for coaches and fans in attendance. And for a while, fan's appetites were satiated with the climax occurring that first week, when the Hanzal-Domi-Samuelsson line wreaked havoc, notching nine points between the three of them. The entirety of the training camp was indicative of a bright and shining Coyotes future, even if it will come a little later than fans would prefer.
#2 Coyotes in the Olympics
Five Coyotes partook in the Sochi festivities; three of which received medals for their contributions. Whether it was Zbynek Michalek and Martin Hanzal for the Czech Republic, Lauri Korpikoski for Finland, Oliver Ekman-Larsson for Sweden or Mike Smith for Canada (who didn't play but still got a medal), it was nice to see the Coyotes well-represented at one of hockey's highest stages. Even if Radim Vrbata and Keith Yandle got (unfairly, in this fan's eyes) snubbed. But that's another Oprah show.
#1 Coyotes honor 1980 USA Olympic Gold Medal team
Any fan of American hockey (and really sports in general) knows the story. Before their Feb. 7 game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Coyotes honored Mike Eruzione and the rest of the 1980 Soviet-beating gold-medal-winning Miracle on Ice squad. It marked just the third time the team had been together since those Olympics and the first time an NHL team had honored them. And to make the moment even better, the Coyotes ended up winning that game with a score of 2-0.
Mike Ribeiro buyout
It is unfair to call this moment a happy one, but it was as impactful a transaction as any the Coyotes made this past offseason. Although the Coyotes struggles in 2014 aren't primarily of an offensive nature, Mike Ribeiro came in with as much fanfare as any other Coyotes signing in recent memory. So for the biggest signing to also be the biggest disappointment is a significant moment, albeit a negative one.
Despite starting the season in a funk, Arizona's franchise defenseman has turned things around and has been his usual self in 2014. Most specifically, he is starting to develop some cold blood; four of his eight goals this season have been game winners, with three of them overtime walk-offs (the most exciting coming in the second game of this season against the hated rival Kings). Even as the Coyotes struggle, OEL continues to develop and is definitely someone Coyotes fans should be thankful for.
Ownership saga revisited
The Coyotes are staying in Glendale, at least for the immediate future. Nothing has changed about that. But when Philadelphia businessman Andrew Barroway approached the current ownership group with an offer they couldn't refuse, many were worried about what that meant for Arizona. Even if the talks have temporarily stalled, another year has passed and the whispers of the Coyotes' future are still present.