Few narratives were more compelling than the reincarnation of the Phoenix Coyotes as a competitive hockey team in the 2009-10 season. Long consigned to the dustbin of the Western Conference, forever battling budget issues, poor prior decisions by management and an as-of-yet-unresolved ownership boondoggle, the Coyotes seemed poised to sink lower than the 1974-75 Washington Capitals in the summer of 2009.
Although restrained by considerable budget limits and an uncertainty about the identity of his future boss, Don Maloney made a number of subtle personnel changes that would go on to have a profound impact on the club going forward. The replacement of Wayne Gretzky with the far more accomplished Dave Tippett gets most of the attention (as evidenced by Tippett's Jack Adams award), as perhaps it should given the club's ascendance from possession sinkhole to outshooting club inside a single season.
There was more to the Coyotes meteoric rise than the coaching change, however. Perhaps encouraged by the success of other clubs promoting kids to prominent positions on the roster, the 2008-09 iteration of the club was riddled with inexperienced youngsters struggling to find their legs at the NHL level. With the wreckage of that failed experiment behind him, Maloney endeavored to restock the team with cheap, capable veterans in the intervening offseason. Because none of the guys in question were splashy acquisitions, the rebuilding effort was mostly perceived as little more than a shuffling of deck chairs.
A more appropriate analogy in light of the club's vast improvement may be tug of war: if possession is a contest to pull the other team over the center line, then the kids on the Coyotes were guys who couldn't even pull their own weight.
Phoenix Coyotes, 2008-2009 Possession tug of war
Player GP TOI/60 Corsi/60 Zonestart
Martin Hanzal 74 12.52 -5.76 38.4%
Victor Tikhonov 61 9.94 -6.73 49.7%
Peter Mueller 72 12.22 -7.30 55.0%
Shane Doan 82 14.48 -8.19 48.6%
Mikkel Boedker 78 12.00 -9.10 46.6%
Steven Reinprecht 73 11.60 -12.18 44.1%
Todd Fedoruk 72 10.19 -12.68 47.2%
Enver Lisin 48 11.80 -11.12 53.0%
Joakim Lidstrom 44 11.37 -12.71 49.8%
Kyle Turris 63 10.03 -14.72 60.0%