This has been a difficult journey, yet optimism is in the air in the desert.
If nothing else, it’s easier to see a bright side after 2015-16 than it was after a humbling 2014-15 campaign. Yes, the Arizona Coyotes still have a long way to go, but it’s been a while since they’ve seen so much light at the end of the tunnel.
Most obviously, the Coyotes enjoyed some great early impressions from forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. When you factor in star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, there’s some quality talent in the present to go with all of those futures.
It’s enough to soften the blow of less-convenient facts like four consecutive seasons with a playoff berth.
Even with those flashes of brilliance in 2015-16, it’s this summer that emboldens positive outlooks.
Change is in the air for a franchise that, if nothing else, is at least seeing its arena and ownership issues fade from the foreground to the background.
Ridiculously young GM John Chayka didn’t just raise some eyebrows in taking over; he’s already made some bold moves to accelerate Arizona’s rebuilding process.
Alex Goligoski was wooed into town, giving the Coyotes another fleet defenseman to complement “OEL.” Chakya also made some moves to acquire Jakob Chychrun, an interesting prospect who once seemed to boast top-five draft potential.
The Coyotes already boasted a farm system bursting with talent, and players like Domi are showing that all that potential can come to fruition. The likes of Dylan Strome and Chychrun may not be very far behind.
The smart money is on the 2016-17 season featuring continued growing pains. Even so, other franchises are likely feeling these young Coyotes’ footsteps.