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Let’s not waste a lot of precious Bulletin space here.
It’s time for the NHL to mercifully pull the plug on the Arizona Coyotes and move them somewhere where the hockey franchise will be cherished, rewarded and ultimately supported enough to flourish in a permanent home.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an NHL-influenced move to Houston, which is clearly where the league wants to go next given the massive TV market, corporate dollars and potential fan base revenue that would await them there. Or even if Quebec City were to somehow finagle a relocation there just as Winnipeg did 10 years ago leaving behind a misbegotten Atlanta Thrashers franchise that in many ways is a kissing cousin to the Coyotes.
Or even somewhere else like Oklahoma City could be a dark horse candidate. Heck, we’d love to see a return of the Whale in Hartford at this address even though it’s unlikely to happen given the proximity to both the New York and Boston markets.
But let’s start at the beginning of the latest Arizona relocation brouhaha. A Forbes report quoted an anonymous banking source as saying the Coyotes, who have been a big-time revenue loser no matter who owned them in the desert, were up for sale with an eventual plan to relocate to the desirable Houston market.
This didn’t exactly send shockwaves through the NHL given some of the embarrassingly dysfunctional stories that have emerged about the Coyotes recently or documented instances when the organization seemed to be having trouble paying their bills on time.
Despite all this, the Coyotes sent a fairly thorough denial of the story in the hours after it was released.
“This is false. Totally false," the Coyotes statement read. "We're not selling. We're not moving. The Coyotes are 100 percent committed to playing in Arizona.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also chimed in with a firm denial as well saying it was "completely false."
So they’re not moving right now, but shouldn’t they be?
Obviously, the development of Auston Matthews into a bona fide NHL superstar from a Scottsdale, Arizona kid is proof that there are undeniable positives to unconventional locations for hockey franchises. But let’s be honest here: The Coyotes are pitifully bad this season (dead last with a 5-18-2 record and a horrendous minus-49 goal differential) and they have been through a forgettable carousel of executives, owners and head coaches over the last 30 years unable to elevate them into a consistent Stanley Cup contender.
Even Wayne Gretzky as head coach and part owner of the franchise for a four-year span couldn’t move the needle for the Desert Dogs during his years there. I mean, the Great One hasn’t even been that much of a presence on the TNT broadcasts this season and he’s already elevated things just by his involvement.
But it's never taken in Arizona.
At this point the Coyotes have become the Island of NHL misfit toys with a 34-year-old Phil Kessel playing out the string, and once-promising young defenseman Jakob Chychrun somehow racking up a minus-29 already just a few months into the regular season.
Kessel will most likely be traded before the deadline, but unsurprisingly the Coyotes will need to pick up a corresponding contract just to stay above their annual limbo with the salary cap floor.
For players like Andrew Ladd, Loui Eriksson and Alex Galchenyuk, Arizona has become like NHL purgatory and their last stop on the senior tour before they’re asked to get off because they simply can’t play anymore. Just look at this ridiculous thing they came up with to commemorate Loui Eriksson's 1,000th NHL regular season game while he's posted three assists and a minus-10 in 23 games.
In essence, that’s what the entire team feels like as they continually cut costs, eat salary cap space to save payroll and have no tangible design to build a consistent, winning hockey team.
Perhaps the final nail, though, will be the lack of a home for next season and beyond.
Last August, the city of Glendale announced it was opting out of the joint lease agreement it has with Arizona to play at Gila River Arena, thereby making the NHL franchise in Arizona homeless starting with the 2022-23 season. The city's decision to terminate the year-to-year agreement came after long-term negotiations fell through due to multiple notices of outstanding balances by the team.
Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez said back in August that the Coyotes were "disappointed" Glendale broke off negotiations and reiterated their desire to find a suitable NHL-quality home rink in the area.
"We are hopeful that they will reconsider a move that would primarily damage the small businesses and hard-working citizens of Glendale," Gutierrez said. "We remain open to restarting good-faith negotiations with the city. Most importantly, the Coyotes are 100 percent committed to finding a long-term arena solution here in Arizona, and nothing will shake our determination to do what is right for our organization, residents of the entire valley and, most important, our fans."
Let’s be honest, here.
Doing what’s right for everybody would be putting the Arizona Coyotes out of their misery and transporting them to a place where they might have a legitimate chance to succeed. Atlanta moving to Winnipeg and thriving there is the model here, even if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is stubborn when it comes to giving up on his vision of an NHL success story in the desert.
The Coyotes had 25 years’ worth of chances, went to the playoffs nine times and advanced out of the first round just once in 2011-12 behind a legit hockey team with Shane Doan, Mike Smith, Ray Whitney, Keith Yandle and a young Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
That’s the high-water mark for the Coyotes with a lot of lows on either side of it.
If that’s the proud history of an NHL franchise with a quarter century enduring as an NHL doormat and a dysfunctional one at that, it’s time to give it a legitimate shot somewhere. The rumors of an Arizona relocation may not be true this time around, but maybe they really just should be in the very near future.