Don’t forget about the Phoenix Coyotes
Everyone is focused on Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Buffalo (and some others of course) but unfortunately the only coverage the Phoenix Coyotes are getting this year generally have to do with the situation surrounding their ownership issues.
Yet the Coyotes are a team that has maintained a high level of play all season, have a great shot at being successful in the playoffs and barring a historic collapse will finish with the best regular season in team history, and the best since Winnipeg’s 43-win season in 1985.
The Coyotes sit 4th in the West and most likely will not finish any higher unless they find a way to overcome San Jose for first in the Pacific.
With a win tonight, the Coyotes will have the best regular season in franchise history, starting to put the finishing touches on one of the more remarkable turnarounds a team has had from one season to the next.
Dave Tippett has instilled a sense of professionalism and pride in a team that has been lost for far too many years. I understand the hope was that Wayne Gretzky would have been able to do the same, but he’s just another example that not every former great player can translate their skill into coaching.
At the beginning of the season some -- including myself -- believed that the Coyotes were winning based on the exceptional play of Ilya Bryzgalov. Yet if you watch them play you see that it’s not just great goaltending that’s leading the Coyotes, it’s the fact that this is a team that truly plays as a team. Every player buys into the system and what their role is and it translates into the product on the ice.
This is a team that can be very dangerous in the playoffs, and will be one that no one wants to face in the postseason. Their confidence in the system and in each other will be extremely valuable, and Tippett’s defensive style will frustrate any team that relies on it’s offense to win games. He’s brought some old-school approaches to Phoenix and it’s causing nothing but trouble for their opponents.
They aren’t without their flaws, however. The Coyotes struggle to score goals, which led to the number of moves they made at the trade deadline. The power play is the worst in the NHL, and the team is hoping that Mathieu Schneider can help cure some of their extra-man woes. And while their winning has started to bring fans back, you can’t exactly say that Phoenix has home-ice advantage at this point.
Just making it out of the first round of the playoffs will be a heck of an accomplishment and something the Coyotes have never done since moving to Phoenix.
The disparity between what’s happening on ice and what’s happening off ice with the Coyotes is jarring, but under Tippett’s steady approach the team is much more calm and reliable than their ownership situation. And it couldn’t have come at a better time; the NHL is strictly against moving the team if at all possible and with the Coyotes winning again -- and if they continue to win in the playoffs -- then it will become much tougher to do so in the near future.