Skip to content

Islanders, Coyotes turning heads in the NHL

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about the early success of the Arizona Coyotes and New York Islanders
sports collage stock

How does an Islanders-Arizona Stanley Cup final sound?

OK, it’s only late November and we still have a full winter and most of spring to go before the Cup finalists are determined, but there are trends developing through the first quarter of the National Hockey League season that offer up a few surprises.

For instance, in mid-November, the team with the fewest losses in the NHL was the Islanders, the disciplined squad coached by Barry Trotz, whose team had lost only three times in regulation and once in overtime through its first 18 games.

While most hockey fans are talking about the offensive exploits of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, or the six-week surgical absence for Sidney Crosby, the Coyotes are quietly becoming somewhat of a Western Conference contender.

Arizona, which has missed the playoffs in 13 of the last 16 years and has never sniffed the Stanley Cup (the closest they came was in 2011-12 when they lost in the conference final to L.A. Kings), sit second in their division and gave notice as to their playoff intentions on a recent road swing when they beat Washington and St. Louis on back-to-back nights. Nothing like winning two road games against the two most recent Stanley Cup champs to make people take note.

The Coyotes are the wizards of one-goal games. In a recent seven-game span in the first half of November, Arizona was involved in games resulting in the following scores: 3-2 (OT win), 4-3 (OT loss), 3-2 (L), 4-3 (L), 4-3 (shootout win), 3-2 (shootout win) and 3-2 (L). Led by fifth-year coach Rick Tocchet, the Coyotes have yet to give up more than four goals in a game, thanks in no small part to goalie Darcy Kuemper, who has played two-thirds of the Coyotes games and posted a sub-2.00 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, and Tocchet’s insistence that his team play a defensive-conscious game. The ‘Yotes are also enjoying this success without the services of shut-down defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson, out until January with a cracked fibula.

Dynasties are a thing of the past in the NHL. St. Louis went from last place in early January to the Stanley Cup last year, Washington won its first in 44 years of existence the year before and the multiple Cup winners since the turn of the century, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Detroit, are now middle-of-the-road or bottom-feeding teams.

Islanders and Arizona next June in the parity-crazy NHL? Why not?

  • Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: “Qatar, by the way, is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, three times as much as the United States and almost six times as much as Stephen A. Smith.”
  • Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe, on Twitter: “Illinois trailed 31-10 entering fourth quarter against Michigan State. And the Illini won 37-34. On the brighter side for the Spartans, their players increased their chances of being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.”
  • Another one from Hough, on the Myles Garrett helmet-swinging incident: “Right about now Browns fans have to look longingly back at the days when their team only made the headlines for losing games.”
  • Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “O.J. McDuffie, Roberto Luongo and Tamara James are newest inductees into the Broward Sports Hall of Fame. If I have to explain who they are, they probably shouldn’t be in.”
  • Comedy writer Brad Dickson: “The first-ever college football game – Princeton vs. Rutgers – was played 150 years ago this week. That was also the same day the Rutgers football program peaked.”
  • Comedy writer Jim Barach: “The Houston Astros are being investigated for using technology to steal opposing teams’ signs. Not only that, one of the players is now being accused of trying to deflate the baseballs.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Giants RB Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-worst one yard on 13 carries in a loss to the Jets. To put that in perspective, that’s 2.9 per attempt — inches, not yards.”
  • Washington State football coach Mike Leach, to reporters, when asked if he’d ever had officials own up to a mistake — like the one that cost his team 57 yards in field position against Cal — during a game: “Hmm. I’m trying to think of the least-expensive way to answer that question.”
  • From @SportsPickle, on the Astros being accused of using a camera and dugout trash cans to cheat: “When I was a kid, they simply shot their bodies full of the finest Bulgarian cattle steroids.”
  • Vancouver’s Torben Rolfsen: “Mike Trout won his third A.L. MVP, narrowly edging Houston's Alex Bregman. The Astros knew ahead of time, because they Watergated the Baseball Writer's Association of America offices."

Care to comment? Email

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks