Best big-4 pro Arizona sports teams of the 2010s
The past decade of professional sports in Arizona has been filled with flashes of grandeur and long stretches of sadness. Eight teams from the big four Arizona pro sports franchises made the playoffs this decade.
The Coyotes were the best franchise of the decade, playoff-wise, appearing in the big dance three times.
No. 1 – 2015 Arizona Cardinals
(13-3, won NFC West, lost in NFC Championship Game)
The Arizona Cardinals’ recent struggles may make fans long for the days that State Farm Stadium — or should we say University of Phoenix Stadium — was the place to be. They could watch Bruce Arians helm a team with his “no risk-it, no biscuit” mantra.
The 2015 season featured 36-year-old veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, a white-hot David Johnson, a shutdown cornerback in Patrick Peterson and, of course, Larry Fitzgerald guiding the Cardinals to a 13-3 regular season record and a 6-2 mark at home.
The NFC Divisional Championship Game against Green Bay was an instant classic as Aaron Rodgers pulled off another one of his signature Hail Mary passes to send the game into overtime. It would be OK for Arizona, however, as it allowed Fitzgerald to add another signature moment to his Hall of Fame resume.
Palmer and Fitzgerald connected on a pass to open overtime and the wide receiver went for 75 yards. The two would connect again two plays later for the game-winning touchdown.
The NFC Conference Championship Game was the complete opposite. Arizona struggled in Carolina against the Panthers and was thrashed 49-15 with Palmer throwing four interceptions.
The Red Sea hasn’t seen the playoffs since.
No. 2 – 2009-10 Phoenix Suns
(54-28, 2nd in Pacific Division, Lost in Western Conference Finals)
It’s been a while since Suns fever took over the Valley. Back in 2009-10, Suns fans enjoyed their fifth playoff appearance in the last six seasons and third Western Conference Finals series.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash led a Suns offense that was the best in the sport with 110.2 points per game and top-five in pace.
The Suns blew past the Portland Trail Blazers (4-2) in the first round of the playoffs, swept the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals but fell in the Western Conference Finals to MVP Kobe Bryant and the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
The rest of the decade didn’t go well for planet orange, which won 14 fewer games the following season and only finished at .500 or better in two of the next nine seasons after their Western Conference Finals appearance. The Suns haven’t been to the playoffs since.
No. 3 – 2011-12 Phoenix Coyotes
(42-27-13, 1st in Pacific Division, Lost in Western Conference Finals)
The 2019-20 season marks four decades of Arizona Coyotes hockey, 24 of which have been spent in the desert after debuting as the Winnipeg Jets.
The team’s most successful season was 2011-12, when it was still called the Phoenix Coyotes.
While not as successful in the win-loss column as the previous two years, the Coyotes finished first in the Pacific Division in 2011-12 with a record of 42-27-13.
After knocking out the Chicago Blackhawks in six games and Nashville Predators in five games, the Coyotes fell in the Western Conference Finals to the rival Los Angeles Kings, 4-1.
Radim Vrbata led the offense with a career-high 35 goals. Goaltender Mike Smith locked down the net, recording a career-best .930 save percentage.
The Coyotes haven’t made the playoffs since.
No. 4 – 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks
(94-68, won National League West, lost in National League Division Series)
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a knack this decade of being a surprise playoff team after not being on many radars to start the season.
Following a 97-loss season, their second straight 90-loss season, manager Kirk Gibson’s Diamondbacks flipped the script and won 94 games, upending the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants to win the National League West.
Their rotation led the way behind solid seasons from ace Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter. In addition, a first baseman by the name of Paul Goldschmidt made his debut before locking down his position as one of the best first basemen in MLB.
After losing the first two games of the division series to the Milwaukee Brewers on the road, Arizona bounced back at Chase Field and outscored the Brewers 18-7 to take games three and four.
The series-deciding fifth game went into extra innings as Milwaukee took down Arizona 3-2 on a walk-off single by Nyjer Morgan.
No. 5 – 2009-10 Phoenix Coyotes
(50-25-7, 2nd in Pacific Division, Lost in Quarter-Finals)
After filing for bankruptcy in May of 2009 and potential team relocation rumors swirling around the Valley, the Phoenix Coyotes returned to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons in 2009-2010 after going 50-25-7 and finishing 2nd in the Pacific Division.
Vrbata led the team with 24 goals in his return after spending one season with Tampa Bay. Franchise icon Shane Doan, meanwhile, paced the Coyotes with 55 points, just above Matthew Lombardi’s 53.
The Coyotes and Red Wings clashed in a quarterfinal match-up that went seven games, even though the individual games weren’t all that close with only one game in the series being decided by fewer than two goals.
Phoenix took game one, three and six, but lost 6-1 in game seven at home.
Honorable mentions include the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2010-11 Phoenix Coyotes and 2014 Arizona Cardinals.