|2nd in Pacific Division|
|4th in Western Conf.|
|GM: Don Maloney|
|COACH: Dave Tippett|
|$45,848,000 ($13.6M below cap)|
The Phoenix Coyotes came on as a sleeper last year, winning fifty games and claiming home ice in their first playoff series since 2002. The press actually focused on the team for a change rather than just the merry-go-round ownership saga that has befallen the franchise. Currently under ownership by the league itself, the Coyotes have endured the Balsillie battle and the lean years in Glendale to emerge as a team strong enough to return to the playoffs again in 2011.
But catching lightning in a bottle once is one thing… repeating the trick is entirely another. Phoenix enters the season with everyone watching to see if their performance in 2009-10 was a flash in the pan or indicative of a more lasting legacy of success in the desert. The team has continued its youth movement, looking to promote from within to fill the gaps in their roster. But they also didn’t merely stand pat on the market during the offseason. GM Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett obviously seem to have a master plan for turning around the Coyotes’ long-term fortunes. Phase one was completed last year by showing that this team could thrive; now the task is to build upon that success and sustain it moving forward…
|12||F||Paul Bissonnette||6′ 3″||220||25|
|89||F||Mikkel Boedker||5′ 11″||202|
|19||F||Shane Doan||6′ 1″||228||33|
|38||F||Vernon Fiddler||6′ 0″||200||30|
|11||F||Martin Hanzal||6′ 6″||228||23|
|32||F||Ryan Hollweg||5′ 10″||212||27|
|28||F||Lauri Korpikoski||6′ 1″||196||24|
|39||F||Brett MacLean||6′ 1″||200||21|
|43||F||Alexandre Picard||6′ 2″||206||24|
|16||F||Petr Prucha||6′ 0″||170||27|
|14||F||Taylor Pyatt||6′ 3″||232||29|
|22||F||Lee Stempniak||5′ 11″||202||20|
|41||F||Viktor Tikhonov||6′ 2″||190||22|
|91||F||Kyle Turris||6′ 1″||185||21|
|8||F||Scottie Upshall||6′ 0″||193||26|
|17||F||Radim Vrbata||6′ 1″||190||29|
|F||Ray Whitney||5′ 10″||180||38|
|86||F||Wojtek Wolski||6′ 3″||210||24|
|24||D||Jonas Ahnelov||6′ 2″||220||22|
|33||D||Adrian Aucoin||6′ 2″||213||37|
|D||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||6′ 2″||176||19|
|55||D||Ed Jovanovski||6′ 3″||218||34|
|18||D||Sami Lepisto||6′ 0″||190||25|
|56||D||Jeff May||6′ 2″||201||23|
|53||D||Derek Morris||6′ 0″||221||32|
|44||D||Kurt Sauer||6′ 4″||222||29|
|6||D||David Schlemko||6′ 1″||190||23|
|3||D||Keith Yandle||6′ 1″||195||24|
|30||G||Ilya Bryzgalov||6′ 3″||210||30|
|1||G||Jason LaBarbera||6′ 3″||234||30|
|35||G||Al Montoya||6′ 2″||195||25|
KEY ACQUISITION: Ray Whitney (LW – FA from Carolina) — The Coyotes are hoping that the ageless Whitney still has some game miles left in those 38-year-old legs of his. Whitney scored 21 goals (including five game-winners) in 80 games this season. He will be earning top-six minutes at a reasonable $3 million for each of the next two years — after all, his 58 points last year would’ve been second behind Wolski (who was acquired at the deadline from Colorado) on the team last year. So as a new staple of this offense, the elder statesman will have to perform, making guys like Wojtek Wolski better and taking some pressure off Doan and Ed Jovanovski in the leadership department. He should easily reach and surpass the 900 points mark in his career this season (he’s currently at 869), and he’ll have to rack up as many points as possible for the Phoenix offense to continue producing.
KEY DEPARTURE: Zbynek Michalek (D – FA to Pittsburgh) — The Coyotes’ loss is the Penguins’ gain, as the Atlantic powerhouse just one year removed from its Stanley Cup run gained a significant piece toward retooling its back line to championship caliber once more. The 27-year-old Czech’s stats were never going to be dazzling; he’s not that type of defensemen in the Paul Coffey mold by any means. But strong defensive play means more than just offense from the back end. Michalek was a heavily-sought blueliner in the offseason once he hit the open market because of his smart positional play without taking unnecessary penalties (just 30 PIM in 2009-10) and ability to consistently play 22-24 minutes a game. If their youth movement doesn’t pan out, Maloney will surely regret letting Michalek slip away without any compensation.
KEY YOUNGSTER: Keith Yandle (D/23 years old) — Last year the youth movement began in Phoenix, and Dave Tippett unearthed a gem on the blueline in Keith Yandle. The kid from Boston, Massachusetts ended up playing all 82 games for the Coyotes and seven playoff contests, averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game. He’s going to see even more shifts this season with Michalek gone, and it will be up to Yandle to prove his coach’s confidence is well-founded. The team leader in scoring amongst defensemen (12 goals, 41 points), Yandle is the type of player (unlike Michalek) who can drive the offense from his end of the ice and press forward on the attack and on power plays. His continued progression is imperative for another playoff berth.
OUTLOOK: Phoenix is just one of several teams in the Pacific Division that are getting younger and retooling for the future. Their run to the playoffs was nothing short of spectacular last season, and with the roster they have returning they should be right in the thick of the playoff race once again. Maloney and Tippett have built a squad that will be competitive both now and for years to come.
While the giddy heights of another fifty-win season might be too much to ask, the Coyotes aren’t going to be going anywhere this year. With Vezina Trophy candidate Ilya Bryzgalov manning the pipes, a solid blueline that blends a nice mix of youth (Yandle, Sami Lepisto, Dave Schlemko, and possibly even 19-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson at some point this season) and experience (Derek Morris, Adrian Aucoin, Ed Jovanovski) to keep a lot of the rubber from ever reaching the Russian in the net, the Coyotes will be right there in the Pacific battle and hoping for another playoff berth.
It can and should happen as long as last year wasn’t an 82-game aberration when all is said and done. It all comes down to the direction the team wishes to take for the long term. If they break in too many young players now, the potential to fall back too hard is all too apparent. Stay old, though, and the opposite challenge presents itself. Phoenix has struck a decent mix looking at the way the will probably structure their lines, and all it will take is a few more performances like last year’s to really begin to rebuild fan interest in the greater Phoenix area and gett people coming to Glendale for games all winter long. But then their success can inevitably go so far as a ward of the league itself. Expect a bit of a dropoff but not enough to plummet them right out of the playoff spots.
- 42 wins
- 94 points
- 2th in Pacific/5th in Western Conference