On October 8, 2007, I wrote that the Phoenix Coyotes would win the Pacific Division. The blog is linked below. I really didn't believe it at the time - I wrote it more as a knock against the perennial favorite Sharks, Stars and Ducks. All three of those teams were mired in an early season of mediocrity and it was frustrating to watch these three lose to the Blackhawks, Isles, and Kings on a regular basis. I was looking for a team to take the lead and enforce some dominance on the rest of the Division.
Now it is a new season and the Phoenix Coyotes have a line-up of more familiar faces as they at least raised eyebrows last season. Many hockey pundits clamor about the youth of the Edmonton Oilers and how they are expected to really excel this season. While true, I like this young Coyote group even more. I believe the Coyotes have better young players and more of them than any team in the NHL - with the potential to play now. I do not mean to diminish the other young talent pools around the NHL, but rather accentuate the fact that the Coyotes organization, due to a lackluster history, is a better setting for the young players to accel and get an opportunity to play. Many of the other NHL clubs have depth charts that are heavy on experience and the young talent does not have the open opportunity to crack the lineup or play regularly. In addition, there are those in the NHL who would play a veteran for "safe" reasons versus playing a rookie who may may a few mistakes, but will net you better results in the long run. Phoenix has chosen to play the rookies and allow them to make their mistakes in hopes of higher returns later. "Later" is coming quickly and if the Phoenix Coyotes win the Pacific Division, nobody should be surprised.
If you take a look at the pre season depth chart linked below and then factor in newcomers Viktor Tikhonov, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, Brett MacLean, Jonas Ahnelov, Colin Long, and Mathieu Brodeur as potential NHLers and you have an exciting team.
Say what you want, but Mr. Gretzky has assembled a potential powerhouse for the next several years and they may just be the class of the West as early as this 2008-2009 season.