Coyotes Battle Inconsistent Start; Days in the Desert Could Be Numbered
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That’s seems to be one word missing in Phoenix Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett’s vocabulary these days.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Coyotes have traversed that rollercoaster more often than they care to admit. Phoenix opened the season with two losses before a win, then lost another two games before shutting out Nashville this past Monday night.
Through their opening seven games, the Coyotes led the Western Conference in goals allowed. Many opposition tallies have come from the slot area, and the defense—considered the strength of this team—has faltered.
For Tippett, the inconsistent play is maddening.
Then again, a 2-1 overtime loss to Edmonton Wednesday night before 12,955 at Jobing.com Arena marked the second straight encouraging effort. Overall, the Coyotes carried solid play throughout most of the Oilers’ game, lending support that an early-season slump could be history.
“I’m encouraged by the way we played in the last two games,” said Tippett. “That’s the way we need to play every night. I thought we deserved the two points.”
After shutting down the predators on the road, the Coyotes turned in another defensive gem against Edmonton, limiting the Oilers to 21 shots for the game. That production could speak volumes to possible changes, or lack thereof, that Tippett could make.
Right now, he indicated there’s no tinkering with the roster. At present, Tippett has to deal with a plethora of injuries to key personnel, including forwards Martin Hanzal and Steve Sullivan along with goalie Mike Smith.
After the Edmonton loss, Tippett indicated the Coyotes could get stronger this weekend.
Forward Raffi Torres comes off a 25-game suspension Saturday at home against Dallas, and Smith could play in both or at least one of the home-and-home set with the Stars. The teams play in Dallas Friday night and at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday.
Another area which could see change is the offense, but that’s not likely to change given Phoenix's output on the season.
The Coyotes have scored 21 goals in seven games, the fourth highest in the Western Conference.
While the puck seems to be filling the net, the Coyotes hit the wall in game seven against Edmonton. Despite several strong scoring chances, Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk was strong. For nearly 53 minutes of play, the 26-year-old native of Regina stopped 27 of 28 shots and only Nick Johnson’s power-play goal with 19 seconds left in regulation prevented the shutout.
“That’s a fast team and they moved the puck well,” said Nick Johnson. “We did put pressure (on Dubnyk) in the third period, but they also deserved some credit.”
For now, Tippett could see better overall play going forward. If so, that could compromise or limit any changes to jump-start a challenged Coyotes hockey club.
IT’S ALL OVER
The reign of the Coyotes in the desert is apparently over.
Former Sharks’ CEO Greg Jamison heads a group which would purchase the Coyotes from the NHL. Last November, the city of Glendale, home of the Coyotes’ rink Jobing.com Arena, agreed to give Jamison’s group $324 million to manage the arena over the next 20 years.
On Wednesday night, ESPN.com reported Jamison’s group will not meet the Jan. 31, 2013 deadline, imposed by the city of Glendale, to complete the sale. As a result, the agreement to give Jamison’s group $324 million collapses and Jamison himself will exit at center stage.
“I’m not surprised the way things are going,” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. “It’s the status quo and we’ve dealt with this for the better part of three-and-a-half years. It is what it is.”
At this point, it is uncertain whether Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers, who took office in early January, will open talks with potential buyers. Weiers and four new members of the Glendale city Council have expressed reservations about any deal involving city money to help the Coyotes remain in Arizona.
If the team is not sold to any group or individual, it’s likely the Coyotes will relocate. It remains uncertain as to its ultimate destination, and how soon.
Having owned the franchise the last four years, the NHL was adamant about moving the Desert Dogs out of Phoenix. Above all, the league wanted to remain in the Phoenix television market and possible relocation to Seattle, Kansas City or Quebec City was economically unacceptable.
For now, one thing remains clear.
If the team vacates Jobing.com Arena, the citizens of Glendale will bear the mortgage payment on the arena. The facility, at a cost of $170 million, was completed in late 2003.
In a matter of a few months, the Coyotes will likely occupy a footnote in NHL history alongside the Cleveland Barons, the California Golden Seals and Minnesota North Stars.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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