The Phoenix Coyotes were postseason regulars in the second half of the previous decade after moving from Winnipeg, but it has been five seasons and counting since they been to the dance. The next series victory will also be the first for the franchise since the move. They are close to being ready to start trying to win playoff series again, and maybe someday a deep playoff run will plant more sustainable hockey roots in the marketplace.
2007-08: 38-37-7, 83 points
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Grabbing Ilya Bryzgalov after Anaheim put the goalie on waivers might have been the best move made by any organization last season. It almost certainly had the most impact. The Coyotes were immediately better with Bryzgalov in net, and might have been a playoff team if they had picked him before the season started. Peter Mueller had a really nice rookie season, but was mostly lost in a deep rookie class. Radim Vrbata had a breakout campaign but is one of 47 forwards that have a new address in the Tampa/St. Pete area. Daniel Carcillo looks like he could be one of the most skilled (and by skilled, we’re talking about scoring goals and not just throwing punches) pugilists in the league.
WHAT WENT WRONG: A terrible start put the Coyotes so high on the waiver priority list to claim Bryzgalov. The franchise clearly looks to be moving in the right direction, but the Phoenix area hasn’t caught the hockey bug the way people in cities with exciting young cores like Chicago and Washington have. While the Coyotes have one of the finest stable’s of prospects in the league, there group would be even better if Blake Wheeler hadn’t skipped out on them and signed with Boston.
DEPARTURES: RW Radim Vrbata, D Keith Ballard, D Nick Boynton, RW Craig Weller
How many kids are ready?
Calder trophy candidate Kyle Turris is going to begin the season in Phoenix, but how many other rookies are going to join him? It would appear Boedker is going from the OHL to the NHL unless he has a bad camp, and Lisin acquitted himself pretty well in a 13-game trail run last season. Phoenix added a couple of veteran tough guys to fill out the roster, but a big camp from a guy like Porter, Tikhonov or even John Tavares’ old sidekick in Oshawa, Brett MacLean, could put one more young, skilled forward on the roster, which is never a bad thing.
How will Jokinen fit in?
Olli Jokinen was the captain and “the man” in South Florida, a role that never really seemed to fit for him. With the Coyotes, Shane Doan is the captain and that Gretzky guy is “the man.” Jokinen will be expected to skate on the top line and rack up big point totals, but he won’t be burdened with nearly as much responsibility. It could make for a huge season for Jokinen.
PROGNOSIS: Adding Jokinen and Turris while subtracting Vrbata should equal a gain in skill up front. Subtracting Ballard and adding Sauer might not end up being as big of a loss as some might think (this is more about Sauer’s savvy than anything against the talented Ballard). So that leaves Bryzgalov, who should be solid again in net but has never entered a season as the uncontested No. 1. Assuming he does the job and the other assertions above are true, then how much the Coyotes can improve probably rests in the hands of guys like Boedker and Martin Hanzal. If Jokinen can be a point-per-game guy (which could lead to 30 goals each from Doan and Mueller) and Turris is a legit ROY candidate, the Coyotes will be better than last season and a playoff contender. If Hanzal’s production goes up and one or two of the other kids can play, this team could be a dangerous team to deal with in the first round.
|Peter Mueller||Olli Jokinen||Shane Doan|
|Mikkel Boedker||Kyle Turris||Todd Fedoruk|
|Daniel Carcillo||Martin Hanzal||Daniel Winnik|
|Brian McGrattan/Brett MacLean||Stephen Reinprecht/Kevin Porter||Enver Lisin/Viktor Tikhonov|
|Ed Jovanovski||Zbynek Michalek|
|Derek Morris||Kurt Sauer|
|David Hale||Keith Yandle|
|Matt Jones||Ryan Lannon|
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations