Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Phoenix Coyotes are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Coyotes!
2009-10: 50-25-7 (4th in West, Eliminated in Conference QF by Red Wings)
General Manager: Don Maloney (4th season)
Head Coach: Dave Tippett (2nd season)
What they did in the off-season:
Following the most successful season in franchise history, it was a very quiet summer in the desert. Considering the massive upheaval of just one year prior, this was arguably a good thing.
The 'Yotes got the ball rolling by re-signing several players, including Adrian Aucoin, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Morris, Ryan Hollweg, Sami Lepisto,Taylor Pyatt and Martin Hanzal. Daniel Winnik was shipped to the Avalanche for a draft pick while Petteri Nokelainen was bought out. Phoenix acquired some veteran help via free agency, signing Ray Whitney to a two-year deal and the well-traveled Andrew Ebbett to a one-year deal.
Following a blazing stretch drive with the 'Desert Dogs', Lee Stempniak came to the realization that the grass was not necessarily greener elsewhere and returned to Phoenix with a new two-year deal. Also, when a reported verbal agreement between Eric Belanger and the Washington Capitals fell through, the Coyotes happily stepped in, signing the veteran pivot to a one-year deal.
Biggest issue facing the team:
What a difference a year makes. At this point last season we incorrectly predicted that the Coyotes were possibly destined to challenge the 1974-75 Washington Capitals as the worst team in NHL history. Considering that the team was in financial turmoil and that Wayne Gretzky had recently stepped down from the head coach position, there was arguably no reason to believe that the 'Yotes would finish anywhere other than in the basement of the NHL standings. We certainly were not alone in that assessment when you review many other pre-season predictions. Apparently the only people that believed otherwise were the Coyotes themselves, as they went out and overachieved all season long, setting a franchise record for points with 107 and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Although it was a phenomenal story, it did not have the ultimate happy ending as the Coyotes fell in the first round to the more experienced Detroit Red Wings.
The danger that now exists is that the young 'Yotes start believing absolutely all of the positive things that have been written about them and choose to rest on their laurels as opposed to continuing to do what got them where they are in the first place. Fortunately the Coyotes have a strong group of veteran leaders such as Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucoin and the newly acquired Ray Whitney, who are unlikely to allow Phoenix to be satisfied with what they have already achieved. This is a young and hungry team that got their first taste of success in a very long time last season. Look for them to continue upwards for another successful season and perhaps a deeper playoff run.
Player to watch:
It may not be on the ice, but be sure to pay attention to the Twitter ramblings of Coyotes bit player Paul Bissonette (@BizNasty2point0), as they are sure to entertain, unless he is eventually forced once again to abandon the social media tool after offending someone with his unfiltered views on various topics.
On the ice it is almost unfathomable to think that the Stempniak who scored 14 goals in 18 games with the Coyotes is the same player who slept-walked through nearly two full seasons in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. Stempniak now has to prove that his hot streak in the desert was more than a fluke after signing a deal earlier in the summer to remain in Arizona for two more years. With Matt Lombardi departing for Nashville via free agency, the Coyotes will be even more dependent on the Buffalo native's scoring prowess to take some pressure off of Doan and Wolski to provide all the offence.