It hasn't been the easiest season for fans of the Arizona Coyotes. After poor on-ice performance, the departure of many beloved veterans, and the lingering sideshow of off-ice issues, the 2014-15 campaign has not been for the faint of heart.
But perhaps the most painful departure for Coyotes fans to stomach this year has little to do with the team on the ice.
Earlier this morning Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan announced via his Twitter account that because of a change in Fox Sports' overall strategy, he will no longer be writing stories for the Coyotes beat. While media platforms have been changing in various ways for years now which has led to mass layoff across the industry, here's why Morgan's departure is so significant to the Coyotes community.
Arizona fans over the past few years have developed a profound sense that they are universally disrespected by North American hockey media, especially in the wake of the Coyotes' ownership troubles. While some of the anger is more emotional than logical, in some cases it may seem warranted.
With Fox Sports Arizona - and Craig Morgan specifically - Coyotes fans felt that they had a reporter on the ground who had his finger on the pulse of what was going on in Arizona. Given that there were very few outlets reporting on the Coyotes in Arizona, Morgan swiftly became the number one source for all things ownership.
But not only was Morgan one of the only voices in town, he had a knack for timeliness and an impeccably accurate record. He was among the first to report on developments surrounding the City of Glendale and various ownership groups, from Greg Jamison to George Gosbee to Andrew Barroway, and his account of how Renaissance Sports & Entertainment completed an agreement with the City of Glendale to lease Gila River Arena remains one of the most comprehensive and detailed insider reports on the ownership group anywhere on the Internet.
Yet for all of his tremendous work covering the Coyotes, Morgan rarely got the credit he deserved outside of the Valley. He was all too frequently passed over or dismissed during discussions about the Coyotes' off-ice situations, solely because Fox Sports Arizona was the Coyotes' broadcast affiliate, and that somehow precluded Morgan from providing anything but "shill" commentary for the ownership group.
Coyotes fans knew that wasn't true. Morgan was not shy to level criticism at the team when their play did not measure up to their expectations. But he always did so with careful attention to the facts on the ice, and never with malice or to serve his own narrative.
As a result, Craig Morgan became more than just a beat writer for Coyotes fans. In some of the darkest moments of NHL ownership, Coyotes fans far and wide would wait with bated breath for Morgan's latest Tweets and articles to provide clarity on where things stood between the team, the league, and the City of Glendale.
Fans across the Coyotes community similarly appreciated Morgan's candor and willingness to share his insight and information with everybody. We here at Five For Howling benefited on multiple occasions from Craig Morgan's participation in Roundtables and other discussions on social media.
Craig has been immensely helpful to a number of our staff, including Associate Editor Jordan Ellel, former Managing Editors Carl Putnam and Jaime Eisner, and our current Managing Editor, yours truly. All of us are incredibly grateful for all of the times Craig Morgan answered questions and steered us towards the right information or the right ideas for articles.
Everybody here at FFH owes a lot to Craig and the work he has done on the Coyotes beat over the past few years. We look forward to reading the work he continues to write for the main Fox Sports site. We wish him the best moving forward, and hope he still finds time every now and then to share his knowledge and love of the game with us in the future.