The Phoenix Coyotes are off to a hot start. Points-wise, they are tied for the second-best record in the NHL. Thursday night, they hit the road to face one of those teams with which they are tied, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Thursday that he’s impressed with how competitive his team has been this year.
“I’m I guess somewhat speechless,” said LeBlanc, who also co-owns the team. “We expected this team to be very good. We expected this team to be a contender, and we’ve always felt that this is a playoff team.
“And let’s also make sure we all understand that it’s still early; we’ve only played a portion of the season. But we’re thrilled.”
The Coyotes CEO also joked that he told his players it’s OK for them to win by “a couple of goals,” referring to the seven games that have gone to overtime — of which they’ve won five — in the 19 contests they’ve played this season; the team’s last five wins have also come by a one-goal margin.
LeBlanc said he couldn’t take credit for his team’s strong performance, even though the new ownership team stabilized the franchise and helped everyone get focused on hockey again.
“These guys are in a groove. Their confidence level is what it should be — and what you need to be a successful franchise,” he said. “So I certainly give all of the credit to (them). They’re playing some seriously good hockey, and there are some guys that are just really standing out.”
LeBlanc named goalie Mike Smith and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson among the players he said are starting to catch people’s attention throughout the league.
Heading into Thursday’s game, the Coyotes are just three points behind the Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks for first place in the division, and they have won seven of their last eight contests.
Apart from the Coyotes’ success on the ice, LeBlanc said the franchise has been a strong return on his investment financially. He said ticket sales are up 20 percent for this point in the season, and that nightly suite rentals are up almost 100 percent.
“We are tracking towards having the best year in Coyotes’ history when it comes to overall corporate sponsorships,” he added. “Now, of course, we started from a lower number, but it’s going great.”