Most of the talk around the Phoenix Coyotes right now is about the ownership situation and it is understandable because the Coyotes’ season is over. However, it is a topic that grows tiring very quickly. People around the hockey world are ready to give up on hockey in Phoenix and ship this team off to other markets which have little chance of being more successful. That is a whole another topic for another day. This isn’t focused on that because there will be hockey in the desert next year.
1. The Coyotes Have Great Coaching: Dave Tippett, Dave King and Sean Burke all made an immediate impact on the Coyotes this previous season. With the introduction of a clear system, players could believe in the Coyotes. They were able to play sound, disciplined hockey and role out four lines that could outwork any opponent on any night. They were able to go out with a clear vision of what their purpose was and the belief that they could each play their part and their teammates would not let them down. They had lines that were consistent instead of changing from game to game and multiple times within the game.
2. They Have a Great Captain: Shane Doan is one of the best captains in the league. He comes to play ever day and isn’t going to be outworked. He encourages his teammates and always makes them feel part of the team. He is devoted to winning and devoted to Phoenix. He is one of the most unselfish players in the league. Players are motivated by the example he sets and they want to win one for him. Every one knows how much he as invested and given to this team and they want to see him lift that Stanley Cup as much as they want to lift it themselves.
3. They Have a Great Goaltender: In sports they say a great defense wins championships. In the Stanley Cup playoffs that can sometimes be simplified even further to saying a great goaltender wins championships. How much playoff success would the Devils have had this last decade without Brodeur? How far would the Canadians have made it without Halak’s amazing performances against two of the best offenses in the league? The Coyotes have a goalie who can take over a game in the same fashion in Bryzgalov. This last season he emerged as a starting goalie the team could rely on. The promotion of Sean Burke to goalie coach had an immediate impact on Bryzgalov’s game and the upcoming season should see the continuation of his solid play.
4. They have a very good GM: Don Maloney has looked as much like a magician as a GM since he has come to the Coyotes. With two hands seemingly tied behind his back most of the time he has managed to put together teams that still compete. He has pulled off trades like bringing Upshall, the teams leading goal scorer before he was injured over, (along with a second round pick!) for Dan Carcillo. He managed to bring back Vrbata in exchange for two players Fedoruk and Hale that the coaching staff was praying they didn’t have to find a place in the lineup for. He has made numerous other moves as well and why they may not have all been as successful there have been no deals that have outright damaged the Coyotes to this point. Some may say he got rid of Mueller too soon, and Mueller may very well develop as a scorer in Colorado but he had already quit long ago here in Phoenix. You can count on Maloney to lock up the key RFAs and UFAs without selling the Coyotes future in the process and bring in key players through UFA or trade to fill in any holes.
5. Martin Hanzal: Yes, I believe that this young defensive center is that important. Some may view this as an indication that there is no solid 5th reason but I disagree. Martin Hanzal is a big defensive center who is just now starting to hit his stride and beginning to meet his full potential, much like Yandle on defense. This is a man that goes out on a daily basis and shuts down Joe Thorton, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Brad Richards. He is easily overlooked being on a team that does not get much press but he could easily be a selke-award nominated center on a consistent basis.
Those are just the top 5 reasons. There are plenty of others the Coyotes will compete for a playoff spot next year as well. They have defensive depth and experience combined with youth. They have depth at forward and at goalie. Boedker, Tikhonov and Turris are all one chance away from earning a spot on the team. This team wins shootouts. Some people hate how the shootout changes the playoff picture but as a team you have to take advantage of every thing you can. The Coyotes were dominate this last year in shootouts and if Vrbata and Korpikoski are back next year they will continue to earn an extra 5-10 points over the season.
People may not have expected the Coyotes to make the playoffs this year but with the management, coaching and team in place for next year there is no excuse for underestimating them again.