ARIZONA COYOTES

Coyotes look to prove doubters wrong as they embark on 27th season in the desert

Oct 12, 2023, 7:30 PM | Updated: Oct 15, 2023, 12:29 pm

Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes...

Clayton Keller #9 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Seattle Kraken during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on April 06, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes are preparing to drop the puck on their 27th season in the desert and are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Hopefully they don’t believe in bad omens as they open their season on Friday (the 13th) on the road against the New Jersey Devils. They’ll kick off with four-straight road games as they look to improve on their 28-40-14 record from the 2022-23 season.

Arizona’s home opener comes eight days later on Oct. 21 against the Anaheim Ducks at 1 p.m. Fans are encouraged by the club to attend the pregame patio party outside Mullett Arena in Tempe. Players will arrive via a red carpet walk through the patio between 10 and 11 a.m.

In the preseason run of power rankings by ESPN, the Coyotes rank near the bottom of the league at 27. Las Vegas (not the Golden Knights) is not very high on the team’s championship chances, as Arizona is +15000 to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the season.

Roster turnover

The Coyotes could rise up the power rankings quickly thanks to all of the additions they made this offseason.

The team announced their full roster on Monday. In addition to Logan Cooley joining the team from the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the team added forwards Nick Bjugstad from the Edmonton Oilers, Jason Zucker from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Kerfoot from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Further, they boosted the blue line with defensemen defensemen Matt Dumba from the Minnesota Wild, Travis Dermott from the Vancouver Canucks and Sean Durzi from the Los Angeles Kings.

That’s a lot of firepower added to stars and emerging talent like Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli, Barrett Hayton and Nick Schmaltz.

Coaching

The Coyotes come into the season with the specter of head coach Andre Tourigny’s job being in limbo has, for all intents and purposes, been removed, as he saw his contract extended in late August. He was going into the final year of his contract. Arizona has a 53-90-21 record under the coach.

Tourigny took over for Rick Tocchet, who headed the team from 2018-21. Dave Trippet, Tocchet’s predecessor, was the longest-serving coach since the team relocated from Winnipeg.

With the team in a full-on rebuild and Tourigny being heaped with praise by the players and organization, stabilization is the way to go.

“He is an excellent coach, leader and communicator who has helped us establish a tremendous culture in our dressing room,” Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said in a release at the time of the contract extension. “Our players like him, respect him and compete hard for him. We are thrilled to have him signed as our head coach for the next three years.”

Another season with no captain?

The Coyotes haven’t had someone don the captain’s ‘C’ since the 2020-21 season. That’s when Oliver Ekman-Larsson was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks.

Keller, coming off a 37 goal and 86 point season, has established himself as the offensive stalwart of the team. He’s now entering his seventh full season in the Valley and is under contract until after the 2027-28 season.

With the team entering Phase 2 of it’s rebuild, the players should trust a player who has been there since the jump.

Tourigny being extended as the coach and adding stability to a franchise that has been in flux over the past few years, both on and off the ice, it’s time to install Keller as the permanent captain.

Schedule

The Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights make their first visit to the Valley on Feb. 8, 2024. The Chicago Blackhawks come to Tempe a day before Halloween on Oct. 30. Sidney Crosby and the revamped Pittsburgh Penguins visit Jan. 22, 2024. Scottsdale-native Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs make their lone appearance in Arizona on Feb. 21, 2024.

The longest homestand of the season doesn’t come until the end of March/early April, starting March 22, 2024, when the Seattle Kraken come to town, then the Dallas Stars on March 24, the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 26, the Nashville Predators on March 28, the New York Rangers on March 30, the Vancouver Canucks on April 3 and the Golden Knights on April 5.

Immediately following that homestand, though, Arizona goes on a five-game road trip where they visit San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton and Colorado. If they have any hopes of making the playoffs, they’ll need to be strong down the stretch.

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