State of the Stanley Cup drought: How close are the Coyotes to winning?

The Arizona Coyotes are a mess of a franchise, and wherever they find a permanent home the road to a Stanley Cup will be long.

This is Part 6 of a 10-part series examining the longest Stanley Cup droughts in the NHL, and how close teams are to breaking through for their first championship in decades — or ever.

Previous articles: Senators, Sharks, Oilers, Flames, Islanders

The Arizona Coyotes have owned a disproportionate amount of the NHL's news cycle for years, but the discussion around the team rarely has anything to do with winning championships.

Discourse surrounding the team tends to center around the tenability of its present and the possibilities for its future as a business entity rather than an on-ice product.

In recent seasons, Arizona has been a dumping ground for bloated contracts as the team has built up a massive treasure trove of draft picks and engaged on a long rebuild. Winning a Stanley Cup isn't on this team's radar right now.

Going back to the franchise's origins as the first iteration of the Winnipeg Jets, the team has yet to win a title or appear in the Stanley Cup Final. That doesn't seem likely to change any time soon.

Here's a look at the state of the Coyotes Stanley Cup drought:

Clayton Keller is coming off the best season of his career. (Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)
Clayton Keller is coming off the best season of his career. (Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

How long has it been?

The Coyotes/Jets franchise has not won the Stanley Cup in the 43 seasons of its existence.

How close have the Coyotes come?

Not particularly close. Not only has the franchise never reached a Stanley Cup Final, its 43 NHL seasons have resulted in a single Conference Finals appearance back in 2011-12.

That Coyotes squad was extremely reliant on Mike Smith's brilliance in net, and despite the goaltender posting a .936 save percentage against the Los Angeles Kings, they lost the series in five games — getting outshot by 70 in the process.

Arizona's best regular-season performance came in 2009-10 when it produced its only campaign with more than 100 points in franchise history (107).

Those Coyotes didn't have a single player produce more than 55 points, but they were elite defensively giving up the third-fewest goals in the NHL behind a career year from Ilya Bryzgalov. The Russian netminder logged a massive workload for the team (69 games), produced a .920 save percentage and finished second in Vezina Trophy voting.

Ilya Bryzgalov spearheaded the most successful regular season in Coyotes' history. (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ilya Bryzgalov spearheaded the most successful regular season in Coyotes' history. (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2009-10 Coyotes gave the Detroit Red Wings a good battle in the first round, but fell flat in Game 7, allowing Detroit to pepper Bryzgalov with 50 shots in a 6-1 clinching win.

Making the playoffs was a regular occurrence during the franchise's time in Winnipeg, but postseason success was a rarity. The first version of the Jets made 11 playoff appearances in 17 seasons, but escaped the first round just twice.

On both occasions the Jets were swept by Wayne Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers squads on the way to Stanley Cup victories. In those two series Winnipeg was outscored 39-20 and six of its eight losses came by multiple goals.

The 1980s Oilers were a force preventing the Jets from getting anywhere in the playoffs as Edmonton eliminated Winnipeg six times between 1982-83 and 1989-90.

Before relocating to Phoenix, the Jets had a playoff record of 19-43.

How does Arizona's championship prognosis look now?

Not good.

It's tough to gauge how much the uncertainty about the team's long-term prospect affects its on-ice potential, but it is a meaningful factor. It's tough to attract free agents to Arizona unless they are overpaid, and the club recently missed out on the chance to draft Matvei Michkov in part because he reportedly didn't want to join the Coyotes.

That type of thing hurts around the edges, but the core of the team also lacks elite pieces to build around. Scoring winger Clayton Keller is the closest thing the Coyotes have to a franchise player, and the club has some talented forwards like Nick Schmaltz, Matias Macelli and Barrett Hayton who project to play roles in the future.

Arizona's blueline is barren and its crease is unsettled, though. The next successful Coyotes team would have to be driven largely by players who haven't played for the NHL club yet.

There are some promising prospects in the system, though. The Athletic ranked Phoenix's prospect pool ninth in the NHL in February — led by Logan Cooley, who has star potential. Since then the Coyotes drafted two players in the top 12 of the 2023 NHL Draft. They've also got 20 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts.

If Arizona does a good job drafting and developing they might be able to claw out of their current hole. It's just tough to confidently predict that will happen until we see what they do with all their picks — and how their top prospects perform once they reach the NHL.