No. 6: Phoenix Coyotes

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 7, 2012, 11:55 AM ET
By Max Klinger | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 28
Title track: 68
Ownership: 100
Coaching: 6
Players: 11
Fan relations: 22
Affordability: 2
Stadium experience: 37
Bang for the buck: 2

Pretty much everything went right for Phoenix this year despite the one thing that controls their fate -- new ownership -- being more uncertain than ever. Coach Dave Tippett took a ragtag group of role players (the collective age of his two biggest names on offense was 74) and won the team's first playoff series in 26 years. After beating Chicago in the conference quarterfinals, the Coyotes returned to Phoenix to find a crowd of hundreds cheering them on at the airport. Fans said they were more likely than any other fans in the NHL to "get the most out of the money they spend." That's a brand of fan loyalty that all the big-name free agent signings in the world can't buy. During the playoffs, the Coyotes turned the arena with the lowest attendance in hockey into a sellout machine and had to create additional standing-room sections to accommodate all the fans. It clearly isn't lost on fans that GM/coaching duo Don Maloney and Dave Tippett continue to be two of the most underrated operations guys in the league and that the players treat every game as if it's a Stanley Cup Finals; they ranked their players and coaching the best in the NHL. Coyotes tickets are also the most affordable in the NHL (playoff tickets were as low as $25) and haven't gone up a penny this season. That's how you earn loyalty even when your short-term future is in flux.