The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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The Coyotes Are Coming to Save Phoenix Sports

Unless you own Costco or have a deal with Netflix or bought stock in Zoom really early on, the down time during the pandemic probably hasn't been great for you.

We can add one more exception to that rule now that the NHL has made it official; if you're an Arizona Coyote, the down time during the pandemic has been very good to you.

When we last left the Coyotes franchise, they had lost 18 of their previous 25 games. They were trailing Nashville by four points for the 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and had just missed out on back to back opportunities on the road in Canada against Edmonton and Calgary to close the gap.

With the fewest games left to play amongst all Western conference contenders and a final stretch stacked with playoff teams, hope was fading that the franchise could turn around a once promising season.

Four months and one NHL restart plan later, the Coyotes get a second chance on their season.

No one knows what is going to happen when NHL teams enter the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles. Well, actually, we do know what's going to happen in the Edmonton bubble - absolutely nothing. But we don't know whats going to happen on the ice.

It's the same for baseball, basketball and increasingly likely with football. We have no idea what the impact on real games will be of no crowds, positive COVID tests, a complete disruption to the natural cycle of a season and postseason and locker rooms that reflect the rest of America in that there's no universal agreement on the seriousness of the COVID threat and the right way to handle it.

But we do know this about the Arizona Coyotes: they will be healthy.

OEL, Phil Kessel, Nikolas Hjalmarsson, Jakob Chychrun and Darcey Kuemper all figure to be the healthiest they've been all season or healthier than they were when the season stopped.

And beyond health, plenty of Coyotes will be fully motivated to max out their bubble opportunity.

Taylor Hall is getting a second chance to prove he's worth a massive new contract from either the Coyotes or some other NHL team.

Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz are getting another chance to prove the teams long term investment in them was the absolute right decision.

The first step is against Nashville in the first round of the postseason. Technically, it's not the playoffs but it's a series between two teams that were deemed good enough to keep playing so its definitely the postseason. The Yotes were 1-1 against Nashville this season with each team protecting their home ice.

The teams will play the first three games in a four game stretch to start the series. They'll need every ounce of goaltending depth and health on their side.

If they survive and advance, a date with Las Vegas looms on the horizon and with it a chance to spark a regional rivalry with the upstart Golden Knights franchise that could benefit both teams and cities for years to come.

And the Coyotes may have a golden parachute; if they lose to the Predators, they'll have a chance at landing the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft as one of several placeholder teams eligible for the second NHL Draft Lottery.

But that's not of much concern for the Coyotes.

This is 2020. The world has changed. And the Coyotes are hoping to prove they've changed right along with it.

Bring on sports. Bring on hockey. Bring on the Coyotes and Predators.

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