The Arizona Coyotes could use a Christmas miracle.
Sure, the holiday season is a bit different in the desert. Cacti and palm trees are adorned with lights, as opposed to the traditional pine trees, and folks will likely not see a white Christmas unless they find themselves at the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff. The holiday spirit has a unique shine in the southwest, and though Santa may bring his golf clubs with him as he flies over TPC Scottsdale, he’ll still be delivering joy to all of the kids on the nice list in The Valley.
Happiness is abound in Arizona, but the Coyotes could use a few things from Santa to help make their season (and future) merry and bright.
There’s No Place Like Home
Arizona needs a home. Enough of the relocation rumors and drama with Glendale and its city manager, Kevin Phelps. Coyotes fans all around The Valley have the same thing at the top of their lists: A new, sparkling arena.
The team’s proposal of a $1.7 billion mixed-use sports entertainment development in Tempe is still under review by the city council, and a decision on its future is not expected until after the new year. In many ways, it almost feels like it’s the last chance for the Coyotes to establish their future in the Phoenix area, and the town’s pending decision feels like the equivalent of waiting to see if there’s a lump of coal in your stocking. Fans have been jerked around quite a bit since the team’s arrival in 1996, and an approved arena deal would be the first step in establishing a true Christmas miracle.
Even if the deal is approved, however, Arizona still needs to find a temporary home for the next few seasons. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has reiterated multiple times this season that he’s not concerned, but considering the team’s completely fractured relationship with Glendale, uncertainty surrounds its near-term future. There are a myriad of options, including Chase Field (From, ‘Chase Field being considered as temporary home for Arizona Coyotes once they leave Glendale,’ azcentral.com, 12/18/2021), and the angst won’t be lifted until a new home is established.
What happens next in this ever-evolving saga is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt the team’s future hinges on both short-term and long-term deals.
Build Around Keller & Chychrun
The arena drama on its own has been enough to make fans feel like the Grinch is right around the corner waiting to steal Christmas, and then rumors of Jakob Chychrun’s impending departure started circulating around the internet.
Here’s a novel idea: Instead of dealing a promising 23-year-old defenseman, build around him! Chychrun’s lack of offensive output in 26 games this season (seven points), combined with his minus-29 rating, make him an obvious target for clickbait rumors. At the end of the day, though, Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is unlikely to move the blueliner unless he’s presented with an absolutely obscene offer, and should that happen, it will likely feel like Christmas morning all over again.
Clayton Keller, also 23 years old, is putting up strong numbers in an otherwise-depressing season, and together the pair should be the cornerstone of the Coyotes’ rebuild. The team has a little talent waiting in wings (see: Dylan Guenther), not to mention it’s currently the odds-on favorite to win the top overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, and both Keller and Chychrun provide a luxury that most rebuilding teams don’t have — budding superstars as the foundation for a from-the-ground-up rebuild.
Winning the Shane Wright Sweepstakes
This has been a challenging season for the Coyotes, but somehow it would feel completely worth it if luck worked out in the team’s favor — if only just this once. Winning the draft lottery feels almost impossible given the team’s previous luck (or lack thereof), but the ability to draft the 17-year-old Canadian center would likely create a transformation of Arizona fans’ jaded attitudes more dramatic than what Ebenezer Scrooge experienced after visiting with the various Christmas ghosts.
Yes, there is plenty of talent beyond Wright in the draft, but after such a drab season in the desert, it’s safe to say the team and its fans deserve something to smile about. Moreover, the forward has just recently started receiving buzz relative to generational talent expectations (From ‘Shane Wright taking on ‘generational’ expectations as the 2022 NHL draft’s top prospect’, ESPN Plus, 12/21/2021), and that’s something that’s yet to be experienced in The Valley.
Please, Santa, if you’re reading: Deliver the No. 1 pick to the Coyotes for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night
Heading into the holiday, the Coyotes and their fans hope to get some true Yuletide cheer, and nothing would be a better gift than a new home, stability on the roster (even if it’s just a little), and a little lottery luck. Fans’ patience with the organization knows no bounds, and they deserve to be rewarded with peace of mind as the rebuild presses on.
What do you hope Santa brings the Coyotes for Christmas? Sound off in the comments below!
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.