NHL Playoffs: Could a Deep Playoff Run Keep the Phoenix Coyotes in the Desert?

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NHL Playoffs: Could a Deep Playoff Run Keep the Phoenix Coyotes in the Desert?
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The Phoenix Coyotes secured home-ice advantage as the third seed in the first round of the 2012  NHL playoffs, finishing with 97 points in the regular season (one more point than the San Jose Sharks).

That gave the Coyotes their first division title in franchise history.

Phoenix wasted little time in taking advantage of their home-ice advantage with a 3-2 overtime victory over the sixth seed Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night.

The Coyotes, however, lost their leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata to an undisclosed injury in the series opener versus Chicago, so that could be a key issue going forward.

Still, if the Coyotes manage to make it past the first round, they would be in uncharted territory. Out of the seven previous postseason trips the Coyotes have made, they have never advanced past the first round.

The Coyotes have been rumored to been on the move to any number of cities (including Quebec City), but if they manage to somehow become the NHL version of a Cinderella team and march to the Western Conference finals (or beyond), would the relocation movement stop?

Well, not so fast, because the Coyotes have plenty of problems to go around that even a deep playoff run might not solve.

 

Finances

The Coyotes have never turned in a profit financially.

In fact, they've never even come close. According to the Goldwater Institute, the Coyotes have "consistently lost between $25 million and $40 million annually."

Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images
The Phoenix Coyotes and the New York Islanders are prime candidates to relocate to Quebec City when the new arena opens in a few years.

Twenty-five million dollar losses? Talk about a negative return on investment!

And these financial issues stem from another problem that the Coyotes are facing.

 

Attendance

The Coyotes averaged 12,420 fans per game, just 83.2 percent of their stadium capacity for the 2011-12 season. With a relatively small stadium capacity (17,125 seats), the Coyotes need to sell out more games in order to begin digging out the hole the franchise is in. Common sense, right?

The Coyotes just barely sold out their playoff game Thursday night, however, as the official attendance was 17,138.

Why am I bringing up these numbers?

Fan support.

The Coyotes are currently running a promotion called "Leader of the Pack." Now, understand that this is more about helping charities than anything else, but there is hardly a "pack" to speak of right now.

If the Coyotes even made the Stanley Cup finals while playing in front of a jam-packed crowd at all their home games, I think it's safe to assume that there is the outside possibility the organization could still finish with double-digit losses in the millions. That's saying something.

Will the Coyotes Still Be in the Desert in Five Years?

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Final Thoughts

The Coyotes are unable to make significant free-agent acquisitions due to the lack of a real owner and serious state of franchise limbo. The Coyotes are currently owned by the league, and any talent that they might have is largely home grown, or apparent scraps from other teams.

Their current star goaltender Mike Smith is an example. Smith has played on other NHL teams, including the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but never starred at either location.

In Dave Tippett's defense-first system, Smith thrived with 38 wins and eight shutouts this regular season.

So, will a long playoff run give the Coyotes a permanent spot in desert?

Don't count on it, but it would give the NHL's Board of Governors something to think about before approving a move outside Arizona for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Relocation is a last resort, and if that isn't abundantly clear by now (via Gary Bettman and others) it will become rapidly more apparent as the Coyotes rumors continue to grow.

 

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