With Arizona’s offseason acquisition of forward Phil Kessel, Coyotes fans have something they’ve yet to have. An elite level player to latch on to. This has naturally led to a large amount of fan excitement, making it abundantly clear that the move has made an impact on the fan base.
From “Hot Dog Phil” shirts being sold to the Coyotes team store having Kessel jerseys available for purchase within twenty four hours of the trade, it’s safe to say that the impact of the move was felt by the fan base almost immediately.
With that being said, what does it mean for the Arizona Coyotes now that they have a star level player? Apparently a “huge jump in season ticket sales.” Not kidding, the Arizona Coyotes have seen ridiculous ticket sales. Coming from a long time Coyotes fan that was used to seeing beautiful Jobbing.com arena being a quarter full on a regular basis. I’m still shocked at the level of excitement coming from the fans upon the arrival of Phil Kessel.
The Coyotes reported that season ticket sales were “up 600 percent compared to the same week last year.” The Arizona Republic also reported in addition to the six hundred percent increase that they have also seen a 550 percent increase in all ticket sales for the upcoming season. I suppose the fans tend to get excited when their team acquires high quality talent.
The last time the Coyotes acquired talent on a similar level was on June 20, 2008. The Phoenix Coyotes traded away Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a 2008 second-round pick to acquire forward Olli Jokinen. At the time of the trade, Jokinen was coming off of three consecutive thirty goal seasons.
From an offensive production perspective, Kessel and Jokinen are incredibly similar players, primarily when comparing the point totals. Yet when looking for a similar spike in ticket sale, the search yielded no evidence that such an event occurred. It brings up an interesting question. Why are the fans so much more excited about Kessel than a player like Jokinen?
As established, both players have similar point totals. The next step is to compare the deals made. Or at least, the assets given up. Jokinen was acquired for a draft pick that wasn’t worth much to the Coyotes at the time.
For context, they were in the middle of a rebuild, surely looking to make a push towards being competitive. Nick Boynton was a Coyote for two seasons and was liked, but not loved by the fans. He was also simply a decent defensemen, not a player you needed on the roster for a cup run.
Keith Ballard was very well liked by the fans. Being a Coyote for three seasons, he was clearly meant to be part of the core. Unfortunately, Ballard had a decrease in offensive production, despite playing in all eighty two games in the 2007-2008 season.
He was clearly seen as movable and the Coyotes fans did get over it relatively quickly. So to summarize, Phoenix lost a well liked defensemen who was on a decline and a couple replaceable assets. All the to acquire a borderline superstar in prime Jokinen. He even got a bobble head that season, despite captain Shane Doan still not having one.
For Kessel, Arizona gave up less than they did for Jokinen. The Coyotes sent Alex Galchenyuk, a player who spent one season in Arizona, and didn’t live up to fan expectations. Pierre-Oliver Joseph was also sent to Pittsburgh, the 20-year-old not being a huge loss.
He’s developing decently, but I’ve noticed a regression in his skating ability from rookie camp 2018 to 2019. In exchange, the Coyotes received a system defensemen, a fourth-round pick and Phil Kessel. Basically, Arizona swapped defensemen and top six forwards with an additional asset in the draft pick. A clear win for Arizona.
On the other hand, the Jokinen deal also was a win on paper for Phoenix. Jokinen was legitimately seen as being worth the three assets. So why are fans so excited for Kessel? What has Phil Kessel done, or what does he bring to Arizona to warrant the reaction?
That’s simple actually. Phil is a proven winner. He won back to back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Jokinen was an incredible player, but he was more of a one man show on an unsuccessful team in Florida, whereas Kessel brings leadership to a team on the cusp of contention, that and the ability to win, thus bringing a winning culture with him.
One that will hopefully lead to big things for Phil and the Coyotes moving forward. Add in the fact that Kessel played some of his best hockey when Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet was a coach with Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh. Everything points in a ridiculously positive direction. That and the simple fact that the 2008-2009 Coyotes were lacking more than a single thirty goal scorer away from the playoffs.
Remember, the injury riddled 2018-2019 Coyotes were contenders for the playoffs until the last week or so of the season. This current iteration was just one big piece away from the playoffs. Most Coyotes fans realize that and that should explain the level of excitement.
What is Phil Kessel’s impact on the fans? He is clearly the piece Arizona needs to win. He represents a change in mindset for the franchise. Arizona will no longer be selling off everything and trying to squeeze themselves to the cap floor. Arizona is now a contender.