To reach that goal of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, the challenge ahead remains enormous. The Coyotes have to run the table to have a chance, and the most they could pick up is eight points in the standings.
Factor in Detroit in ninth place (four games remaining, 48 points) and Dallas in 10th (three remaining, also with 48 points), and the Coyotes' hopes of gaining a spot in postseason play is remote at best.
From a team that reached the NHL equivalent of the Final Four last spring, the current season unraveled like a ball of yarn.
From the start the Coyotes set the bar high for themselves, but dropped four of their first five games. In those four defeats, they allowed 19 goals and showed little of the tenancy and grit on defense that characterized their playoff run of a year ago.
Though the Coyotes have three of the possible four points on their current three-game road trip, coach Dave Tippett likes to remind reporters that a grind of 60 minutes in each game remains imperative.
Before embarking on the current trip, the Coyotes were handed an embarrassing 4-0 loss to San Jose on April 15. That represented the nadir of a season lost in transition. The Coyotes failed to parlay their impressive playoff run last season into a consistent effort. Though not the first, Tippett was able to articulate.
“Right now, we’re looking for players who will make a positive impact,” Tippett said after the San Jose game. “We have players putting forth an effort but that’s not good enough. The frustrating part is there are too many guys taking up roster spots. They’re not doing enough to win the games.”
During this season of failed achievement, players and the coaching staff sing the same song. Phrases like, “we have to get better,” “we have to play a full 60 minutes” and “what’s happening is unacceptable” are old and worn.
Yet, one factor above all else appears to convey the lost season: lack of ownership.
While the NHL continues to own and operate the Coyotes, the lack of money to properly operate the team and attract appealing free agents dooms the franchise.
At the trading deadline, the Coyotes unloaded three veterans that had an important role on the team. By sending Raffi Torres to San Jose, Steve Sullivan to the Devils and Matthew Lombardi to Anaheim, the Coyotes sliced their jugular vein.
In their stead, Phoenix went with several minor leaguers (Chris Brown, Chris Conner, Alexandre Bolduc). Their energy might be impressive, but their experience, acumen and knowledge is nothing compared to the veterans that were traded.
Whether this was the NHL’s hand, we’ll never know, but the Coyotes’ ability to field a team of grit and character may have been comprised.
One example is Torres.
In his seventh game for San Jose since the trade with the Coyotes, Sharks coach Todd McLellan put Torres out during an April 16 shootout with the Kings at home. Torres managed the only goal and the Sharks skated off with an important two points.
Other factors such as injuries, lack of production on the power play, the inconsistency from game to game, the down year of All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle and the residual effect of the lockout are also important.
Yet, the lack of ownership, along with the failure to market the franchise, put fans in the stands and field a truly competitive team, represents principal reasons why the Coyotes will have an early summer vacation.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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