Author's Note: This is part of a four-part series examining key players on the surprising Phoenix Coyotes squad so far this season.
These four players are the ones who have had the greatest impact on the team's success so far this season, helping the Coyotes to overcome numerous off-ice distractions. Each of these players is on this list for different reasons, as each has contributed a unique attribute to the team's overall success.
Nobody would blame the players on the Phoenix Coyotes if they performed poorly this season. After all, their club doesn't have any owners (the NHL controls the team right now), and it appears as if they are unwanted, with few parties interested in purchasing the team.
Glendale, where the Coyotes are located, is embroiled in a legal battle that further clouds the future of the franchise. Fan support has never been all that great.
Despite all of the off-ice hardships facing the Phoenix Coyotes, the team is currently tied for first in the Pacific Division, despite playing one fewer game so far than the other teams tied for first.
One of the major reasons for the Coyote's unlikely success is the play of defenseman Keith Yandle.
Yandle started off slow, at least according to the stats. Even after a recent hot streak, his plus-minus ratio is only at zero.
However, Yandle has come on very strong lately, recording multiple-point games in three of the Coyotes last five games. He currently leads the team in assists with 13.
Yandle is so much more than just his stats, though. Defensemen rarely get the credit they deserve, because their position doesn't rely on them racking up massive point totals. Yandle is no exception to this rule.
Yandle is the heart and soul of the Coyote's defense. He keeps the unit playing at a high level, which, in turn, contributes to the success of Smith as goalie, as well as the team's offense.
The measure of a great defenseman is seen in the stats of his teammates. When a defenseman does his job well, it gives his teammates the opportunity to be successful.
Yandle has performed his thankless role as heart of the Coyotes defense well, and without his efforts the team as a whole would most likely have diminished success.