Does anybody have any idea what the Arizona Coyotes are doing? Do they even know? We are almost a quarter of the way into the season and the Coyotes just won their first game in regulation. They have three wins in 21 games and are on pace to finish with about 30 points. The Coyotes are the Cleveland Browns of hockey with worse uniforms and more disgruntled employees.
The 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche had the worst NHL season in nearly two decades and found a way to get to 48 points, and the Coyotes are nearly 20 points behind that pace. The Avs won 22 games; the Coyotes are on pace to win eight or nine. While the Coyotes hired a new coach in July, the Avs were hamstrung by an overgrown baby that decided to quit in August, which forced the team to hire a new coach at the end of August.
It's inexplicable that the Coyotes suck so badly. And they seem to be getting a pass for it, perhaps because nobody gives a shit about the Coyotes. That can't be ruled out. But GM John Chayka was doing the Hey Look How Young And In Charge I Am Media Tour throughout October and it was odd because if you want to talk to someone who is young and doesn't have any success in hockey you could interview me (and have a very loose idea of what is considered young).
If you point out the Coyotes are the shittiest franchise in sports, some people will tell you they are tanking this season. But, the thing is, they're not. At least, not intentionally. The Coyotes traded a first-round pick and defense prospect for veterans Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta, added Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Blackhawks in June, and were gifted Jason Demers from the Panthers in September. Teams that are tanking don't add good players making a fair amount of money if the plan is to take an 82-game dump the following season.
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It's quite possible that Rick Tocchet is overmatched as a head coach. Having had the honor of already watching three Coyotes games in person this season, I can tell you they look like a .500 beer league team. Forwards flying the zone, no discernible plan for breaking out of their own end. You're going to get some bad luck no matter how bad you are when you fail to get a regulation win through 20 games, but the Coyotes always look like their players just met each other for the first time 15 minutes before each game.
Maybe you want to blame the Coyotes' troubles on missing Raanta for a few weeks with an injury. But, buddy, if your team can't sustain the loss of Antti Raanta for three weeks, maybe your team shouldn't be in the NHL. Maybe a few years of AHL play can give your organization the confidence and stability to overcome something like that.
Besides, the Vegas Golden Knights are in playoff position and they've been starting randomly chosen season-ticket holders in net for most of the season.
Let's just say this is a tank and the Coyotes are openly tanking. It would go against everything the organization has done in recent years when it comes to tanking. Remember when they announced they were tanking a month before the trade deadline a few years ago, that Keith Yandle and everything not nailed down must go, then immediately got word out that it wasn't true, then tanked extremely hard at the deadline anyway? The organization knows things are so fragile with the fan base that by announcing a tank one month in advance may keep the 11 or 12 fans away during that month. But now they are executing a full-season tank?
Here's a conspiracy theory—what if the Coyotes secretly know this is their last season in Arizona and that they will be in Seattle or Quebec next year and it would behoove them to throw this season away for a top pick? Or if there's a shadow ownership thing happening, like when Judith Light was holding shadow court in her chambers in that mafia case on SVU? Who cares if fans stop coming (and they really aren't anyway, as Arizona ranks last in the West in attendance) if you've got new ones in a new city just over that horizon! Or if that will be someone else's problem next season? Let's sell off all the spare parts and save as much money as possible so a fresh start is possible in a new town next season.
How else do you explain the team trading goaltender Louis Domingue for 243-year-old Michael Leighton? Did you even know Leighton was still in the NHL? I thought it was a different Michael Leighton or they traded for a literal ghost, which would have been neat. According to TSN's Frank Seravalli, this trade was to save money. How much money? About $500,000. That's it. Why trade one bad goalie with potential, only because he's younger, for another bad goalie unless you don't care about this season? What sort of financial straits are you in if $500,000 is causing a problem for your bottom line?
Speaking of being desperate to save money, what in the world are the Coyotes doing with Dylan Strome? This is where the whole "are they or are they not tanking" question becomes so hard to answer.
If you're not tanking, and the addition of veterans this summer and Alex Goligoski last summer are indications of a team trying to be good, why is the third pick of the 2015 draft in the AHL crushing inferior competition (15 points in 10 games) instead of helping you win on a team that's icing Zac Rinaldo regularly? So is Strome buried in the AHL so the Coyotes can tank? Or are they such a dysfunctional, cash-low franchise that they don't want to start the clock on his entry-level contract despite him being too good for the AHL? Because if $500,000 is a lot of money, maybe you shouldn’t have a franchise at all, and maybe that's why it's being relocated or sold behind the scenes (at least it should be).
Want more evidence the Coyotes are a company that doesn’t have the requisite money to function properly and maybe shouldn't exist? The National Labor Relations Board has investigated the organization twice in 13 months due to allegations of spying, union busting and withholding money from an employee who worked overtime. Hating unions and underpaying people? Do I believe the person alleging this or the organization that would do anything to save a dollar? Boy, it's really tough to say. Although the spying part is more difficult to believe, because this is an analytics-driven team and spying is the eye test of espionage.
Chayka was hired in May 2016 as an analytics guy nobody in the analytics community knew anything about. But he was 26 and owned a calculator, so let's all get out of his way while he builds this team. And so far, the results aren't great. Yeah, it's early, and maybe he's hamstrung by a cheap ownership group that probably charges players to park at the arena and co-pays on MRIs, but man this has not been an impressive start.
It's just impossible to get a bead on why the Coyotes are this legendarily shitty. Is it a shitty coach that doesn't know how to coach? Or are the players shittier than anyone (even me) ever realized? If so, isn't that the shitty general manager's fault, since it's his job to add players and choose a coach? Or is ownership so shitty that it's spreading shittiness on people that wouldn't be all that shitty without all that shit trickling down on them at all times?
No matter the root cause you choose to believe, the 2017-18 Coyotes are way shittier than anyone ever thought they could be.
Editor's note: This post was updated Friday to reflect that the Coyotes secured their first regulation win of the season.