If there was one team that actually “lost out” on Saturday night at the NHL’s Draft Lottery, it was the Arizona Coyotes. They finished the regular season with the league’s second worse record and were poised to draft a franchise player that the organization so deeply needs and covets, and when Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly went from envelope to envelope and down to the remaining five or six teams with no lottery winner, it was actually looking like it was going to happen…
Until the rug got pulled from the organization and fans at the very last possible moment.
Seeing Edmonton’s gold card signifying that they won the lottery was a figurative punch in the face or kick to the stomach (or both) to Coyotes fans, while it raised the ire of pundits and fans across the league as the team has been unable to change their fortunes with their other recent first overall selections.
Since Saturday evening there has been no shortage of Coyotes fans feeling salty, while media pundits in Phoenix have called that day’s events the latest in a “long string of Coyotes misfortunes” and “ the latest chapter of bad luck for the city’s sports franchises.”
It’s been a few days since those events, and fans are still dejected about what happened. But to be frank, it’s time to get over those feelings. Rest assured, General Manager Don Maloney and the rest of the Coyotes brass aren’t feeling sorry for themselves over missing out on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
Being angry at Commissioner Gary Bettman, the process itself or the poor guy who put the ping pong balls in the machine only puts off dealing with the reality that the Coyotes have the third-overall selection on June 26 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida… which really isn’t so bad when you really think about. As we all learned growing up, crying about it isn’t going to change it or magically give Arizona a top-two selection.
The Plan Stays the Same
When it became obvious that the Coyotes were not headed to the playoffs this year, management decided to set a course for the future that aims to restore respectability next season with a goal to be Stanley Cup contenders in three-to-five years. As part of that course they decided to trade assets like Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette for value, while ramping up an emphasis on drafting and development.
After the trade, while the overall effort and play of Mike Smith improved, it seemed like the team could not buy a win. Arizona would go on to post a record of 4-15-1 in March, putting them in the thick of the “Connor McDavid sweepstakes”, and this is when fans and the local media started to focus more on what could be and less on the plan that was put in place.
By missing out on one of the top two young guns in the Draft, the team’s plans were, by no means, dashed. And with all due respect to the local media in Phoenix, missing out on McDavid and Eichel has nothing to do with the team’s future in Arizona.
Any talk of such a thing is media hype, just like “tank wars” was when the Sabres and Coyotes played each other at the end of the season. McDavid and Eichel were never built in to the franchise’s plans, it was a pie-in-the-sky dream that we all got caught up in over the last few weeks.
The Pittsburgh Model
While McDavid and Eichel were literally like winning lottery tickets, by no means does that mean Coyotes fans and the local media were necessarily in the wrong to ever picture them in a brick red sweater. What fan wouldn’t? What fan wouldn’t want a Sidney Crosby or a Steven Stamkos or Alexander Ovechkin on their team?
But for those last holdout fans that are disappointed in what transpired over the weekend, take a look at the current Pittsburgh Penguins roster. It’s a roster that has arguably two of the best players on the planet at the top of their lineup, and then there’s a drop-off from there on out. And of Tuesday, it’s a team down 2-1 in their playoff series to the New York Rangers, a series that they’re an underdog in.
Would you rather have a team that’s built like the current Penguins roster? Or a team like the Rangers that’s built with solid players, top to bottom, that can beat teams that feature a superstar?
Just a little something for fans to chew on while Maloney and his crew prepare for June.