by Warren Brannoch
With the National Hockey League (NHL) schedule in full swing, there are a lot of new things about the Coyotes that have changed since last season. Not only has their arena name been changed from Jobing.com Arena, to Gila River Arena, but the team has changed its name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona Coyotes. “Becoming the Arizona Coyotes makes sense for us since we play our games in Glendale and the city is such a great partner of ours. We also want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest. We hope that the name ‘Arizona’ will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the valley, to embrace and support our team.” Says Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc.
There are also many new things inside the arena to look at such as the newly renovated team shop, new concession stands, and a newly installed Distributed Antenna System, which upgrades a fans phone and data connectivity from a 2G speed to 4G, while inside the arena. “We are constantly striving to make the fan experience at Coyotes’ home games and other arena events the best it can possibly be,” said LeBlanc.
With these changes in the arena, there were also some changes, as usual to the team’s roster during the off-season. Departing from the team due to free agency are notable names such as Derek Morris, Paul Bissonette, and leading scorer from last season, Radim Vrbata. With those departures, also come some new names such as Sam Gagne, Devin Dubnyk, Joe Vitale, and RJ Crombeen. The Coyotes also have some very young talent such as Brandon Gormley, and Connor Murphy that they will strongly depend on in order for the franchise to return to the playoffs after falling just one game shy in the 2013-2014 season.
With this season just beginning, the team has struggled out of the gates at (6-7-1) especially when it comes to starting goaltender, Mike Smith. Smith is usually one of the best goalies in the league, but through five games he has allowed 16 goals in 7 games. He is slowly but surely returning to his midseason form.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan has made a bold prediction on the goalie situation after a recent game against the Minnesota Wild, “He’s not happy with the way his season has started, but I’ve seen how good he is and I know he’s going to end up being the MVP of our team. He’s our best player and he played great tonight.” We will see as the season progresses.
The coyotes will open up a two game home stand against the Dallas stars tonight before heading on a three game Canadian road trip. The Arizona Coyotes are now on a four game road swing, and will face Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, and Washington in five nights, before returning home on Tuesday, November 4 against Toronto.