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Following their mid-1970s run in the WHA, the Winnipeg Jets were one of the fortunate teams to make the leap into the NHL. The franchise lasted in the Canadian city until 1996, when they ditched the cold weather for the dry heat of Arizona, where they were reborn as the Phoenix Coyotes. Now known by the more regional moniker, the Arizona Coyotes, this team has found a permanent home, but still seeks its first championship.
One of the most successful teams in the now defunct WHA, the team did not find the same achieve the same level of accomplishment in the NHL. Some of this adversity was due to the incredible play of Western Conference powerhouse teams of the day, which included the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
Financial issues plagued the team throughout the 1990s and eventually forced the sale of the team to a group that prompted relocated them to the US, landing them in Phoenix, Arizona. Under their new identity, the Coyotes continued to struggle on the ice, working hard but still coming up as mediocre in the standing.
The early years in Phoenix are remembered, primarily, for the talent that was brought in to help spur the team. This would include great players such as Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, and Rick Tocchet. Shane Doan emerged as a young star and Nikolai Khabibulin was steadfast in goal. And while the team did make the playoffs five times in their first six seasons in the desert, they could not find a way out of the first round. In fact, following their second round loss in 1987, the team did not win a playoff series until 2012, when the Coyotes shocked the Blackhawks in six games.
Wayne Gretzky, part owner of the club, moved into the head coaching role in 2005. Though memorable for the legend behind the bench, the four Gretzky years in Phoenix did not produce a winning record or playoff appearance. Upon passing the coaching baton to Dave Tippett, the Coyotes immediately saw a change, reaching 50 wins for the first time in their history. Three straight playoff appearances would follow, but resulted in little to no success. Tippett stayed on as coach, even through the team’s financial struggles, but after the strike shortened season of 2012-2013 he could not bring his team to the same level of play. The Coyotes have not made the playoffs since 2012 and parted ways with Tippett in the summer of 2017.
Also leaving the team in 2017 is the last player to have come over from Winnipeg, Shane Doan. Serving as the team captain since 2003, Doan decided in August of 2017 to retire from the NHL. Undoubtedly, a new era is beginning in Arizona. Former player Rick Tocchet has been chosen to lead the team as the new coach. He will be tasked with bringing his team into the new season and finding a new captain. In addition, the Coyotes will be without their leading point scorer from a year ago in Radim Vrbata. He has signed a new deal with the Florida Panthers.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and young gun Max Domi are part of the new class that will take this team into the future. Tocchet and the Coyotes faithful hope that Anthony Duclair can get back on track after a tough season last year and be a big contributor to the club. Either way, expect Arizona’s roster to see some changes as management is sure to want to bolster the lineup.
Some of the greatest players to suit up in Arizona include Shane Doan, Keith Tkachuk, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph, and Mike Smith. Additional information about the Arizona Coyotes hockey club can be found by clicking here.