The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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The Secret Behind the Suns and Coyotes Success

Let’s just say it: The Suns and the Coyotes are good.

Its weird to talk about them like this.

Like a muscle that has atrophied over years of not being used, we’re not sure how to react to their recent success.

Even in recent years when there was a flicker of hope for either franchise, we reflexively wanted to find ways for it to not be true, a defense mechanism perfected over years of disappointment.

The Suns are 5-2, nearly a quarter of the way to their season win total from a year ago and have already beaten the Western Conference and Eastern Conference favorites in the Clippers and the 76ers.

The Coyotes have 19 points in 14 games and overcame an 0-2 start that could’ve sent them into an early tailspin.

And there’s a common thread leading both teams to their success and its not star power.

Devin Booker is playing great basketball but no one has joined him as a co-star running mate at the top of the Suns pecking order. The Suns aren’t any closer to being a super team than they were last year.

The Coyotes aren’t getting a superstar performance from off season acquisition Phil Kessel. He’s currently 6th on the team in goals scored. Nor are the 'Yotes benefiting from Clayton Keller turning into the sniper he was once projected to be; he has one goal.

Both teams are winning because of one shared trait: quality depth.

General Managers James Jones and John Chayka are building from the bottom up instead of the top down like so many desperate franchises try.

Over the last two seasons for the Suns, twelve different players have appeared in double digit games for the Suns who are no longer viable NBA rotation players. 

Now the Suns have enough depth to absorb the loss of Deandre Ayton. They’ve got real NBA players coming off the bench and thriving and accepting their roles.

The Coyotes are the same way. They haven’t had a 30 goal scorer in eight seasons and it’s been four years since they had multiple 20+ goal scorers.

This year they’re on pace to have two 30 goal scorers and five 20+ goal scorers and none of them are named Kessel or Keller.

Their top five goal scorers are Connor Garland, Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Carl Soderberg and Michael Grabner.

At goalie, they’ve turned a career backup in Darcy Kuemper into one of the best goalies in the NHL with the second best save percentage in the league. Antti Raanta gives them one of the best 1-2 punches in the NHL at goalie.

There are other reasons, of course, for the early success of both teams like head coaching, luck and the obvious fact that it's early.

But for once, both teams are being built the right way and this time it feels like they are built to last.

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