Last season v Detroit
The Coyotes play in the tough Pacific Division in the western conference, and finished tied for second with the Anaheim Ducks 6 points off first place. This meant the Yotes would play, once again, the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the Conference quarter final. The previous meeting between the two sides at this stage saw the Wings prevail 4 games to 3. Sadly this year it was a little one sided with the Wings securing progress through a 4-0 series win. I can't sugar coat it, the Wings won well, and despite two full houses in the desert the Coyotes just couldn't do it. The extra strength in depth on the Wings bench really did it for the Yotes. Despite some outstanding goalkeeping during the regular season, and the same in the post season, Bryzgalov stat's show the cost. A GAA of 2.48 over the regular season versus a GAA of 4.36 in the post season show just how good the Wings were. Not wanting to heap it all on Bryzgalov, the Phoenix top three point scorers in the post season were all showing minus on the ice. Doan/Vrbata and Yandle were -2/-5 and -5 respectively. So the 2010/11 season ended in disappointment, the Yotes didn't deserve a 4-0 whitewash, they deserved something!
Summer murmurings in the Desert
Must of the 2011 summer in Phoenix was spent with the continuing ownership saga, often shrouded in a cloud, much like the regular dust storms that cover Phoenix! Alot of people sounded the death knell for the Coyotes early on in the season, but something was different for me. As covered in my blog post 'Atlanta Thrashoff' there has always been a desire the keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. So it was no surprise to me that the True North organisation moved quickly onto the Atlanta Thrashers. With the NHL running the Coyotes and the City of Glendale backing the club the Phoenix look set to remain in the desert. I was never worried...........much!
With the club staying in the desert the Coyotes turned their attention to the roster. with Bryzgalov's performances throughout the season and post season attracting attention the Coyotes acted and dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers, clearing $5.6million of cap space. The Coyotes also got rid of some decent players who I will miss in the desert, mainly Jovanovski, Belanger, Fiddler and Lee Stempniak. On the flip side those departures, amongst others, allowed the Coyotes to make some key signing's and extensions. In comes Raffi Torres from the Vancouver Canucks to add some physicality and aggression, Alexandre Bolduc adds some good two-way skills, Patrick O'Sullivan brings an impressive wrist shot and a point-every other-game type production and in Daymond Langkow the Coyotes have added over 1,000 games of NHL experience to their center position. The other new arrival of note comes in the form of Mike Smith from the Tampa Bay Lightning. I remember watching Smith backstop the Lightning a number of times during the post season just gone. In fact in 3 appearances during the post season Smith had a GAA of 1!
New season hope
With the many new faces the Coyotes acted to re-sign some of their star players. Joining Mike Smith in the goaltending department, with a new contract, is Jason LeBarbera. Often Bryzgalov's understudy, LeBarbera has impressed in his own right. Prior to Smith's arrival I would have had LeBarbera down as the Coyotes started, but im not so sure now! Healthy competition will only help the Coyotes! The next three players are all franchise players in my eyes, three guys who make me think Coyotes. Those are, Radim Vrbata, Lauri Korpikoski and Keith Yandle. Vrbata and Korpikoski are reliable guys who will always put up points. Keith Yandle and Shane Doan are two big stars of the Coyotes franchise, two big earners and two players who will fight to be the franchise top point scorers each season. Yandle at 24 years will become a Phoenix legend. His 5 year $26.5mil contract will ensure he remains in Phoenix and was possible the most important contract signature of the summer.
Shane Doan is someone who amazes me 64 points from 86 games off the blue line are damn impressive numbers, and his 6ft 2in presence makes him an imposing presence on the ice. Having joined the Phoenix in 1995 Doan is the current face of the Coyotes, and a player who has stuck with the Yotes through thick and thin! You don't often get loyalty like that in profession sports anymore!
The Coyotes have a real blend of experience and youth this coming season, and I for one really think the Coyotes can get deeper in the post season this year, even if they meet the Wings!