As many know, no NHL franchise has faced more adversity on and off the ice in the past years than the Phoenix Coyotes. Riddled with financial loss, poor ownership and a poor on ice product, many wondered when the Winnipeg/Los Vegas Coyotes would exist. The past two years however have shown a remarkable turn around in the franchise by two great men, GM Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett.
Maloney has brought a breath of fresh air and a level of competency this team has not had since 1999. Maloney brought in reasonably priced players like Adrian Aucoin, Lee Stempniak and Eric Belanger. More impressively are the players he has acquired that were considered "done." Taylor Pyatt, Lauri Korpikoski, Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata are all essential parts of this Coyote team. Most were cast off into the abyss by their former teams as either too old or useless like Whitney and Vrbata, or too underwhelming like Korpikoski and Pyatt. The trades alone has shown Maloney is a great GM picking up players with lower salaries than cap hits like Rozsival for the anemic Wolski and trading the vastly under-performing Olli Jokinen for a 1st round pick.
Tippett was brought in for the 2009 season preaching hard work and a defensive system that emphasized a team game to a listless team that had placed 25th the year before. The change in the team culture and play was immediate. The team devoid of any superstar talent grinded out wins and showed their heart in OT winning the most games in shootouts with 14 (Next best was 10). With Vezina caliber goaltending the team finished 4th overall and were unlucky to draw a healthy Red Wings squad in their first trip to the playoffs in 7 years. This season Tippett has the boys playing amazing again and has helped in the emergence of Norris candidate Keith Yandle.
The team is currently in the 5th spot in the toughest playoff race the league has ever seen. The Coyotes are pretty much guaranteed they will make the dance. With their ability to play great on the road the Coyotes are a dangerous team to any who draw them.
My question to you is this. Did you expect the resurgence of the Coyotes these past two years? And if you did, are you surprised that it has done so with essentially no help from top-10 draft picks Blake Wheeler (Traded), Peter Mueller (Traded), Mikael Boedker (14 points/33 games) and Kyle Turris (24 point/ 62 games)?
Thanks for reading, coming up next is a blog on the development of prospects Gretzky era vs Maloney era.