Rebuilding and reinforcing a franchise—the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres

Former Coyotes forward, Paul Bissonnette, credits new ownership that’s “fully invested” for Arizona Coyotes rebuilding


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Both the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres are in a rebuild, but their fanbases are optimistic the stars will be bright in the future.

James Mackey, Reporter

The Arizona Coyotes matched up with a similarly sitting foe Saturday night—the Buffalo Sabres—with both franchises in rebuilding mode.

Last season, the Coyotes and Sabres were among the National Hockey League’s bottom teams in the standings. Buffalo posted a 32-39-11 record, landing 24th in the league, and the Coyotes went 25-50-7, and 31st out of 32 teams.

Not only were both franchises at the bottom of the league in the standings, but they were also toward the bottom in attendance. Buffalo averaged 7,790 spectators, while the Arizona Coyotes averaged 12,224 people in attendance.

No one can compare the Arizona Coyotes attendance to that of other NHL franchises now that their temporary home is Mullet arena, but even though seating is far less—fan engagement is having a profound impact and can make any game a unique challenge for Coyotes opponents.

Add the prospect of a new arena and Coyotes fans have been exposed to a rebuilding with infectious optimism and a clear focus on the future.

“I’m looking forward to the rebuild paying off, and being consistently good,” said long-time Coyotes fan, Geoff Nicholl.

The Coyotes have benefited from young players called up from the Tucson Roadrunners—the Coyotes minor league affiliate, such as leading scorer, Michael Carcone, with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points.  Carcone has seen his time come in the NHL in short spurts, like his partial stint during the 2021-22 season, where he filled in gaps in the lineup as the Coyotes were plagued by injuries.

The 26 year-old, left winger, appeared in 21 games, scoring four goals and tallying two assists, before being reassigned to the Roadrunners.

Not far behind, is Nathan Smith, who has played 10 games with the Coyotes, scoring two goals and two assists.  Acquired in a trade from the Winnipeg Jets at last season’s deadline—Smith also started this season in Tucson, and has 7 goals and 6 assists, totaling 13 points.

The Sabres hold a better record than Coyotes so far this season with one game over the .500 mark, 15-14-2, and sixth in the Atlantic division of the NHL’s Eastern Conference, they have also managed to keep their nucleus strong—building off acquiring young talent.

“They got a lot of young talent, that’s maybe starting to hit their stride a little bit, so hopefully they can finally get this team out of the gutter,” said Chris Kuschel a native of Buffalo— now residing in Glendale— but a hardcore Sabres fan.

He would like to see Buffalo finally realize some long overdue growth and success.

“They’ve been a bad team for a really long time, so hopefully they’ve kind of figured it out with these young kids,” Kuschel said.

Buffalo’s roster is filled with youth and talent combined.

Tage Thompson had a breakout year last season, scoring 38 goals.  He has kept it going this season and trails multi-time NHL Most Valuable Player, Connor McDavid by just three goals, sitting at 24.

Buffalo’s youth stands out to fans, and is noted by the father of a Sabres player who did not want his name used.

“The incredible talent they have on the team now, they’re the youngest team in the NHL, the level of skill, what they have in the pipeline, the way they play the game aggressively. It’s fun to watch, and with experience, they’re only going to get better.”

Former NHL player Chris Lindberg is also optimistic about Buffalo.

“They’re gonna learn, they’re gonna progress, they’re gonna be a very, very good hockey team, the organization has done a very good job of developing their young talent with all their first round picks, and their free agents,” Lindberg said.

The common denominator for both the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres is youth—but former Coyotes forward, Paul Bissonnette also points to a better organization overall and credits new leadership in the Coyotes franchise.

“It’s good to have an owner who cares, and is fully invested in growing everything,” said Bissonnette.  “Glendale was good to me, and good to us with the arena staff, and everybody who worked there… but I think in order to have sustained success, we have to try something different.”