Will The Coyotes Ever Be ‘Stable’?

With rumours surfacing that Andrew Barroway’s proposed purchase of the Arizona Coyotes might fall through, the embattled franchise looks to be facing an uncertain future once again.

Three straight post season appearances, including a Pacific Division title and run to the Conference Final in 2012, suggested things on the ice were (generally) improving – but financials woes have continued to dog the club.

Now, with the organisation slumping on the ice and Barroway allegedly on the verge of pulling out, the knives are out for the Arizona Coyotes again.

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The New York Post’s Larry Brooks mentioned the potential collapse of the sale in Saturday’s Slap Shots blog:

Remember how a few short weeks ago Andrew Barroway was on the verge of gaining majority control of the Coyotes, the news first reported by The Post?

Not so fast, for now comes word from a plugged-in source that the deal appears to be falling apart, with Barroway seemingly on the verge of backing out.

Slap Shots has been told the current ownership has directed GM Don Maloney to shed payroll … which would mean stripping the club with the league’s third-lowest payroll into a bare-bones operation.

Who could be going in addition to Keith Yandle (at $5.2 million per season through next year)? Not Shane Doan? Not Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

The equally pertinent question, though, is which will come first: the end of the NHL’s financial problems in the desert or the end of Coyotes?

Given the teams previous financial turmoil, it doesn’t make pleasant reading. But is there any truth to it?

That Brooks is not the only journalist to mention it means this isn’t a lone voice making random claims – there does at least seem to be some wisps of smoke rising in Glendale.

Barroway’s previous attempts to secure an NHL team haven’t ended well either – with Arizona the third franchise the Philadelphia hedge-fund manager has looked to buy.

And, as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski pointed out, the Post has generally been close to the mark when it comes to Barroway’s more recent activities – specifically his failed attempt to purchase the New York Islanders.

The Coyotes have denied any issue with the sale however – with club sources telling Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan the rumours were not true, and that Barroway’s acquisition of 51% of the club was still on the agenda for the current Board of Governors meeting:

Naturally IceArizona isn’t going to public announce any such problems with the deal, given the clubs chequered history and the fact a public admission would severely weaken GM Don Maloney’s position should he genuinely need to move salary.

Perhaps the biggest problem arising from any failed deal would be the need to fend off calls for the franchise to be relocated again – especially with a Las Vegas franchise in the news this week.

It’s a battle that has rolled on for so long, it has almost become tiresome for all parties – both for and against keeping the club in Arizona.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has been determined to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, and has been the teams greatest ally when it comes to staying in the desert.

More recently, many have looked at Scottsdale native Auston Matthews status as a potential first overall pick in 2016 as some form of marker of ‘success’ for hockey in the area – that the long term growth of hockey in the State offsets the teams short term (by comparison) difficulties.

Regardless of your standpoint, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Coyotes fans – and the clubs front office.

The constant uncertainty makes it hard to sell the team to a community that could justifiably be sceptical as to whether the club would still be there in 12 or 24 months time, regardless of whether they are winning or not.

The Coyotes ownership saga is the story that just won’t go away; and with Brooks reaffirming what he’d been told yesterday, it doesn’t appear Barroway will be the ‘saviour’ either:

At this point, it almost feels like the franchise has spent so long fighting for it’s future in Arizona, there may never be confidence the Coyotes will actually stay there ‘long term’. That every new ownership group, actual or potential, will simply be looking for a way out – either via selling the club on to another group, or by moving it to Quebec, Seattle or any other potential location you choose to champion.

Only a sustained period of stability will chase away the clouds that permanently hang over the organisation – but we’re talking years to undo the damage done to the clubs reputation in the area, and within the hockey community.

In many ways, its become a vicious cycle now – the club needs stability and success to really lay down some strong roots in the area.

But it needs the cash flow and support to achieve that – which in turn relies, at least partly, on confidence there will be a return on the investment, and a winning team at the end of it.

Sadly, as long as the ownership remains in flux, and there are out clauses in their contracts with the city and arena, it’s hard to feel confident the Coyotes will ever truly feel at home in Arizona.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on December 10, 2014, in Arizona Coyotes, Hockey, NHL and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You are conveniently ignorant of more recent postive definitive statements from deal principals Bettman and LeBlanc. I’d be happy to Google that for you if you don’t have access to the Internet.

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