After a surprise 7-1 win on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning the Arizona Coyotes have a record of 5-5-0 which means the Coyotes are a .500 team again! While some people may not think this is special, it is a long time coming for the Arizona Coyotes.
In an article for The Athletic, Craig Morgan noted that the last time the Arizona Coyotes were a .500 team after ten games was in the 2015-16 season. That’s pretty bad, but a more interesting question for me was when did they last have a .500 record at all?
The last time that happened was after the October 18, 2016 game when Louis Domingue was in net against the Ottawa Senators on the road. The Coyotes lost 7-4 giving the the team a record of 1-1-0. Two nights later the Coyotes headed to Montreal and lost to the Canadiens 5-2 in what would be the second game of a five game losing streak. It has been 172 games since the Arizona Coyotes had a .500 record.
How did this happen?
Its important to remember two things when looking at the Coyotes’ history, namely that for the last few seasons they haven’t been very good and they tend to start fairly slow. This season it was getting shut out in three of four games, last season it was the first 11 games. A bad start is a pretty big hole to dig out of, and until this season the Coyotes haven’t been a team that had the tools needed to dig themselves out of the hole.
How did that season end?
Badly, the Coyotes finished second to last in the division and twelfth in the Western Conference. Their final record was 30-42-10 and they had a -63 goal differential.
What changed after that season?
A lot: Dave Tippett stepped away as coach, the team elected not to re-sign captain Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata who lead the team in goals and assists was not re-signed, and the Coyotes traded starting goaltender Mike Smith. Martin Hanzal was traded partially through the season with Ryan White and a 4th round pick for Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 2017, 2nd round pick in 2018, a conditional 4th round pick in 2019 and Grayson Downing.
Looking back the 2016-17 season feels like the last gasp of the General Manager Don Maloney era of Coyotes hockey, a year after John Chayka took over. During the offseason GM Chayka would acquire Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan from the New York Rangers and the next season Clayton Keller would start with the team.
How does this season compare to the last time this happened?
Well it's definitely off to a better start. In the 2016-17 season the Coyotes didn’t get to ten points until their twelfth game against the Colorado Avalanche. Arizona also never scored 7 goals in a single game during the 2016-17 season. And while the 2018-19 Coyotes got to .500 with a three game win streak the 2016-17 Coyotes didn’t string together a three game win streak until halfway through the season when Mike Smith lead the team to three wins in January.