G81 Game Notes: Oilers and Coyotes Final Meeting

Photo credit:© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
18 days ago
Mike Gartner scored his 665th career goal in his second game with the Phoenix Coyotes on October 7th, 1996, in Boston. It was the first goal in Coyotes history, and it came in their second game after being shut out 1-0 in Hartford two days earlier. Gartner played two seasons with the Coyotes and tallied 44 goals and 90 points in the final 142 games of his Hall-of-Fame career. Gartner is tied for 29th on the Coyotes’ all-time goals like with Brad Richardson as the Coyotes are set to close this chapter of their time in the NHL.
— It will be an emotional night for Coyotes fans. Losing a team is not easy. Ask Winnipeg fans. The Coyotes have been in Arizona longer than the Jets 1.0 were in Winnipeg. While the Coyotes didn’t have a lot of success in their 27 seasons in Arizona, many fans fell in love with them. Arena workers will lose their jobs. Young hockey players won’t have a team to watch and cheer for. If the Coyotes never came to Arizona, would Auston Matthews have played hockey? It doesn’t matter how many fans they have, what matters is those fans won’t have a team to watch and cheer for now, and the grassroots levels of hockey will suffer because of it. It happened to the lacrosse community in Edmonton after the Rush relocated to Saskatoon in 2015. Registration for minor lacrosse has decreased in the past nine years. This will be a big blow to the hockey community in Arizona.
— Of the 27 teams who have been in the NHL since 1996-97, the Coyotes have the fewest wins and fewest points. The Oilers are 22nd in wins with 962, followed by Chicago with 959, Buffalo has 954, Florida 947, New York Islanders 936 and Arizona 917. Since 1997, Chicago ranks in the bottom five in regular season wins, but they are tied for the second most Stanley Cups with three. The Blackhawks had a great nine-year run between 2009-2017, sandwiched between a lot of losing. Arizona’s lack of on-ice success has many thinking they deserve to move, but there is a fine line between winning and losing. Over the past 27 seasons the Blackhawks averaged 35.5 wins/season while Arizona averaged 34. One is an Original Six team and considered a great hockey market, while the other has a history of terrible ownership and playing in multiple different arenas. If the Coyotes get stable ownership in the future, I think they could be a very strong market.
— The Coyotes’ main issue is they haven’t had much success or memorable moments. Their best run was going to the Conference Final in 2012. Their best regular season was 2010 when they won 50 games and finished with the fourth most points with 107. But they had to play Detroit in the first round and lost in seven games.
— Much of the Coyotes’ struggles have come due to bad ownership. From day one the franchise wasn’t priority number one. Here’s a timeline of ownership.
October 1995: Minnesota businessman Steven Gluckstern and Richard Burke purchased the Jets and planned to relocate to Minnesota for the start of the 1996-97 season. In December of 1995 they were unable to secure a lease with at the Target Centre in Minneapolis, so they decided to move the team to Phoenix instead.
1998: Burke bought out Gluckstern, but he was unable to secure other partners.
2001: Burke sells the team to Phoenix-area developer, Steve Ellman. Wayne Gretzky becomes minority owner.
2005: Ellman sells the team to Jerry Moyes.
May 2009: Moyes files for bankruptcy, moments before Gary Bettman was going to present him an offer from Jerry Reinsdorf. Moyes intended to sell the team to Jim Balsillie, who intended to purchase the team out of bankruptcy and move it to Hamilton. The NHL stripped Moyes of his ownership and spent the summer in bankruptcy court. The NHL put in the only counter bid to Balsillie’s. The court voided the sale to Balsillie, accepting the NHL’s argument that bankruptcy could not be used to circumvent NHL rules. The NHL’s bid was also declared insufficient, and they eventually settled with Moyes out of court. And the NHL became the owner of the Coyotes. For the next four seasons the NHL tried to sell the team to various bidders, but no deals emerged.
July 2013: NHL sells the team to Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE), a group of Canadian businessmen.
December 2014: RSE sells 51% ownership to Andrew Barroway.
May 2017: Barroway purchases remaining 49% and becomes sole owner.
July 2019: Barroway sells to Alex Meruelo.
There was never any stability in ownership or a consistent stable arena to call home. It isn’t a surprise the on-ice product was inconsistent. If the NHL returns to Arizona, they need a new facility and a committed ownership group.
— Tonight’s result will not impact the Oilers playoff situation. Vancouver defeated Calgary last night to secure first place in the Pacific. The Oilers are locked into second place and will face either Los Angeles or Vegas. Vegas sits third in the Pacific with 98 points while Los Angeles has 97. The Golden Knights host Anaheim tomorrow while the Kings host the Blackhawks. LA owns the tiebreaker if they finish tied in points, but a tiebreaker only comes into play if Anaheim is victorious. There is a very good chance Edmonton will face Vegas for a second year in a row.
— If I’m the Oilers, I want Vegas. The Oilers aren’t intimidated by them. Last year means nothing at this point. The Oilers have been the best team in the NHL since Kris Knoblauch took over. They need three points in their final two games to reach 100 points in Knoblauch’s first 69 games as an NHL head coach.
— Vegas is 33-26-7 while Edmonton is 46-16-5 since Knoblauch took over.
In their previous 50 games the Oilers are 35-10-5 while Vegas is 25-22-3.
In their last 30 games Edmonton is 18-7-5 and Vegas is 15-13-2.
It is only the past 10 games where the teams have been close with Edmonton going 6-2-2- and Vegas 6-3-1.
— Zach Hyman needs one goal in the final two games to join Wayne Gretzky (6x), Jari Kurri (2x), Connor McDavid (1x) and Leon Draisaitl (1x) as the only Oilers to score 55 goals in a season.
— Warren Foegele needs one goal to reach 20 for the first time in his career. Evan Bouchard needs two goals to become the fourth Oilers defender with 20 goals. He’d join Paul Coffey (48, 40, 37, 29, 29) and Sheldon Souray (23) and Charlie Huddy (20). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs two goals to reach 20 goals for the 6th time in his career.
— The Oilers currently have four players with 20 goals. They haven’t had six players score 20 in a season since 1991. They’ve had seven players reach 20 goals four times (1986, 1988, 1990 and 1992) and three times (1982, 1983 and 1984) they had eight players with 20+ goals.
— Philip Broberg will play tonight, and I expect him to play tomorrow in Colorado as well. We should also see Troy Stecher in the lineup, which means the Oilers will rest two of their top-six defenders. Mattias Ekholm will rest for one game for sure. Will the Oilers rest Bouchard and Ekholm together, and then Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci for a game? We’ll see. The Oilers also have two extra forwards and we should see some of the top guys rested, or least, have their minutes reduced in the final two games.


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