2016-17 was the second season for Arizona State as a Division I hockey program and while the team took a step forward improving from 5 to 10 wins, the story of this program took some lumps off the ice. The Sun Devils were spurred by the NCHC last season, with the lack of an on campus rink being an issue, and in June they withdrew from consideration to join the WCHA. The Arizona Coyotes backed out of a partnership deal to share a new arena with ASU and while former A.D. Ray Anderson said the goal is still to see the Sun Devils in their own arena by 2019-20 there has been no news to reassure college hockey fans that is a given.
Life as the only independent team in all of college hockey, while also being the lone team from the Pac-12 conference is not an ideal situation. The Sun Devils have found a way to recruit decent classes, and piece together strong schedules through the first few seasons of being a DI program, but there should be a focus on joining a conference. A conference is best for the long term viability of a program as unique as Arizona State, and the team on the ice can help make a conference opportunity viable through being a respected product on the ice.