How the Arizona Coyotes built the Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo credit:Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Filipe Dimas
2 months ago
With news that the Arizona Coyotes may be moving to Utah within the coming weeks, it’s important to recognize that though hockey in the desert may be coming to an end – it was by no means a failure, especially for those who are fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In a lot of ways, the Arizona Coyotes are largely responsible for shaping the modern-day Maple Leafs in more ways than one. From star players to management and everything in between, Toronto should look fondly back on the Coyotes’ legacy and thank them for all that hockey in Arizona has done for the Maple Leafs.

Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies

The most obvious connection between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Coyotes is that superstar Auston Matthews and talented rookie Matthew Knies both grew up in Arizona, with each of them even stating that they cheered for the Coyotes during their formative years of discovering hockey. 
Without the Coyotes to inspire an unlikely generation of Arizona hockey fans, those two may never have pursued hockey and we may now be talking about Auston’s illustrious baseball career while the Maple Leafs struggle to score goals without a generational sniper on the roster.

Missing Marner

While Matthews has undoubtedly been Toronto’s best player over the past decade, Mitch Marner has also developed into a bonafide star and Toronto once again has Arizona to thank for passing up on him during the 2015 NHL draft.
With McDavid and Eichel off the board, Arizona chose to select Dylan Strome over Mitch Marner 3rd overall, allowing the Maple Leafs to select Marner themselves. Strome was seen as more of a power forward, and many analysts suggested his 6’3 frame would better adapt to the NHL than the smaller Marner. While Strome himself has developed into a great player, he’s already on his third NHL franchise and can safely be considered a tier or two behind Marner’s ability.

Defensive Depth

Outside of Morgan Rielly, the Maple Leafs lack many true first-line defensive talents and have survived through recent seasons on their defensive depth. Much of that depth has been made possible thanks to some timely trades with the Arizona Coyotes, including acquiring both Conor Timmins and Ilya Lyubushkin through in-season trades (and then re-acquiring Lyubushkin this season from Anaheim).
Both players have done a serviceable job filling in during injuries and suspensions with Lyubushkin in particular finding some noticeable chemistry with Morgan Rielly.

The Domi Family

Not only was Max Domi drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, but his father Tie also spent three seasons with the franchise back when they were in Winnipeg before returning to Toronto and becoming a fan favourite.
While Max Domi has had his ups and downs during his first season in Toronto, there’s no denying his offensive talent and currently finds himself as Auston Matthews’ playmaker on the first line as Sheldon Keefe experiments with spreading Matthews, Marner, and Nylander’s talents across three lines. If the Leafs can overwhelm their playoff opponents with this multi-pronged attack and make a deep run, Domi’s connection with Matthews will be a large reason why.

Treliving and Doan

Maple Leafs General Manager Brad Treliving began his NHL executive career as an Assistant Manager for the Coyotes, where he met Shane Doan who was hired as a special advisor to Treliving last June. 
Once it’s all broken down, it’s easy to see that there aren’t many layers of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization that aren’t heavily impacted by the Arizona Coyotes. From some of Toronto’s biggest stars to its depth blueliners and even the guys making the decisions upstairs, the Maple Leafs owe a lot to the existence of the Coyotes.
If this is really it for hockey in Arizona, may the franchise know that if this Toronto roster finally scores an elusive Stanley Cup win, Arizona will be getting the primary assist.

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