Following Game Four, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett sounded frustrated.
In fact, he was probably beyond frustrated in the way his Coyotes were soundly beaten by the Detroit Red Wings in a sweep of their Western Conference quarterfinal round, and for the myriad of distractions associated with the team’s uncertain future.
Tippett described addressing his team after the Coyotes were eliminated as “gut-wrenching.” While he never questioned the zeal and élan of his players, their quest to gain a playoff spot and then attempt to advance in the postseason was dramatically compromised.
Talk continues to surround the future of the franchise and swills about like a devastating tornado. Over the next few weeks, the outcome could be just as catastrophic, and destruction clearly evident.
For the past two years, the Coyotes have skated in a vacuum but demonstrated strong will power in blocking out the on-going scenario. To their credit, the players’ collective ability to concentrate at the task at hand was admirably.
In the end, Tippett said, the Coyotes need stability and the assurance they can work in an environment conducive toward success. No more talk of franchise movement, or economic instability, he hinted after Game Four.
“There has to be some kind of solution,” Tippett insisted. “This has been going on for over two years, and the players have handled this very well. There must be stable ownership because that gives you the best chance at success.”
Right now, the impending cloud over Jobing.com Arena seems more ominous than ever. Resolution to the both the Coyotes’ ownership dilemma, and possible relocation, appear no closer than nearly two years ago when then owner Jerry Moyes put the team in bankruptcy.
While prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer was among the sell-out crowd of 17,314 for Game Four at Jobing.com Arena, there exists no guarantee he is any closer to acquiring the team than when he first approach the NHL last November.
To be fair, the NHL does not want to lose the American southwest to Winnipeg , the city most frequently mentioned as a possible relocation destination.
Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States and the 11th largest market. The recent success of making the playoffs two straight season sparked fan interest, and the Coyotes now appear much more frequently on the Phoenix sports radar screen.
What general manager Don Maloney put together as a team remains remarkable. The team, which finished the season April 20, consisted of 11 free agents, seven who were drafted by the franchise, six acquired by trades, and two on waivers, including goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The group compiled a 43 win season (43-26-13) on top of its 50-25-7 season a year ago. In the process, they achieved back-to-back 40 win seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Despite player enthusiasm, spirit and energy, the Red Wings were clearly the better team, and closed the door on the Coyotes season for the second consecutive playoff year.
“Detroit is a good team, but we’re just as good when we play our game,” offered right wing Kyle Turris after Game Four. “We did not capitalize on our chances in the series and they did. I thought that was the difference.”
For the Coyotes to reach Tippettt’s next level, a potential 30-plus goal scorer must emerge and Bryzgalov needs to heighten his level of concentration. That’s on the ice.
Players, coaches and management all express a desire to remain in the desert and talk of moving to Winnipeg seems as much an anathema as a snowstorm in Phoenix . Once the fate of the franchise is decided, Tippett pointed out, the hockey team will then have its best opportunity to truly gain success.
NOTE - Quotes in this story were obtained by the reporter in interviews and coaches press conferences following Game Four.