Fast-forward to April of 2017, and the team still seemed to be stuck with the same plaguing problems impacting their performance, fan base, and arena situation.
This summer, however, has given birth to a total makeover: new owner, new president, new coach, new captain.
Andrew Barroway took no time to mold the club the way he saw fit once buying out the rest of the old IceArizona management group last month. Out are Shane Doan, Dave Tippett, and a whole host of other long-tenured servants to the team. In step Rick Tocchet, Steve Patterson, and a trio of high-profile acquisitions via trades.
The real Coyotes 2.0 starts now.
After initial scares that Barroway’s massive makeover was rooted in relocation desires, the new owner has doubled down on his commitment to making sure this new era of Coyotes hockey stays in the Valley.
“I want to be here. I love being here. I live here now, I want to be between periods giving out bobble heads to the kids,” Barroway said during Thursday’s introductory press conference. “Failure is not an option. We are going to get a new stadium here.”
Patterson, the new president and CEO, echoed those sentiments, teased at his plan to use his experience and relationships to solve the team’s most pressing problem.
“We and everybody associated with this franchise are committed to a great and long term future in this Valley,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t have come back here if that wasn’t [Andrew Barroway’s] vision of what we are trying to create here.”
While past iterations of ownership have preached a similar message, the power structure of Barroway’s Coyotes should allow these crucial decisions to be made quicker, cleaner, and easier.
“Consolidation of the ownership is a real plus,” Patterson commented. “It allows us to align behind a singular strategy and a vision to build a solid franchise both on and off the ice.”
“I think this is a tremendous market, there is good corporate support here. It’s a good hockey market; you’ve got fans who have stuck with this franchise for more than 20 years,” he added. “There are a lot of the tools that you need provided we can find a deal that works for all parties involved to make a great fan experience night after night.”
Despite not specifying their plans in exact detail, the duo of Barroway and Patterson made it known that their focus will be to finish the job so many before them have failed to do: find a functional, permanent home for the Coyotes.
In addition to clearing up and questions regarding his commitment to the market, Barroway also addressed the most emotional move made in this summer of change: declining to offer Doan a new contract.
“What happened with Shane (Doan), I have to take some responsibility for,” Barroway admitted. “I think we made the right hockey decision…[but] I should have met with him myself and told him that.”
Beyond Doan, Arizona also parted ways with long-time goalie Mike Smith and coach Dave Tippett, all moves scrutinized by an unsure fan base. The way Barroway sees it though, these departures are necessary sacrifices along the path of progress.
“It’s time to move forward and I think we are trying to build a winning team,” he said, “not a situation where we put out some players that some of the fans might like, but we aren’t going to be competitive anyway so who cares. We’re here to win now.”
A key part of this renewed effort to build a Stanley Cup contender is the change of philosophy on how the team should play. Gone is Tippet’s defense-first approach, exchanged for the high-speed, high-skill tactics that will be employed by Chayka’s hand-picked replacement behind the bench.
Rick Tocchet’s return to the Coyotes coincides with the entire franchise’s shift of focus. His job will be not only to win, but to do so with a style more attractive and exciting than the one Tippett relied on over the last decade.
“I think that is what this fan base wants. They want exciting offense, they want to see some skill,” Tocchet said, before adding, “It’s commitment, it’s a new start. [The front office] wants to create a freshness around here. This is a hockey market, it’s an underrated hockey market…They are just starving for a winner.”
Under the new front office alignment, Chayka has been freed up to take total control of everything hockey related and was promoted to President of Hockey Operations this week as well.
Barroway and Patterson’s promises of a new arena are inspiring, yet still easier said than done. Chayka, on the other hand, has put into motion his guarantees of building a winner. His boss called him the best GM in the league, and for good reason.
As a new sun rises on the Arizona Coyotes, Chayka has embodied the hope of his team’s fan base. If he can continue to strike gold with his roster decisions and transactions, then why can’t Barroway and Patterson strike gold in the hunt for a new arena?
The staleness of five postseason-less years has been banished by the influx of new personnel in nearly every department of the organization. Optimistic hopes for a new arena have been restored by some brazen predictions.
As the Coyotes venture into a new chapter in their, so far, star-crossed story, the necessary ingredients for success seem to be in place. The future of the franchise is brightening by the day, and hopefully, will avoid the pitfalls of the past in its pursuit of becoming a legitimate contender, with a permanent home in the desert.