If the opening game of the second-half of the season portends more of the same, the Arizona Coyotes’ hockey campaign is a protracted, unhappy experience.
In blowing leads of 2-0 and 3-2 and eventually losing to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3 in a shoot-out Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Coyotes demonstrated that a key word of their season, and indeed of their future, is essentially non-existent.
With the loss to Philadelphia, the Coyotes’ losing now stretches to seven games and they have not won since defeating Winnipeg at home, 4-1, on Jan. 6.
For most of this forgotten season, the Coyotes tried to show that they are “relevant,” and demonstrate a purpose. Instead, they’ve stumbled through the season with a totally under-achieving goalie in Mike Smith, an offense which scores by committee, and a defense that gives the puck away more than Santa Claus hands out gifts to kids.
The success on the ice this season, or lack of success, remains a stark dichotomy to the recent past.
Finally, after several years of turmoil and uncertainty, the economic state of the Arizona franchise was finalized and the future regarded as stable. That means no physical movement from the desert, and some sort of viability.
trying to find ‘a purpose’
The same cannot be said for results on the ice.
The term “relevant” keeps popping up in the Coyotes’ vocabulary, and the more they seem to address failures of the immediate past, the more they are prone to repeat the same, costly errors.
Perhaps the most frustrated party is head coach Dave Tippett, who continually tells reporters, “I hate to lose.” To his credit, Tippett has mixed lines, mixed defensive pairings, and switched goalies until general manager Don Maloney traded back-up Devan Dubynk to Minnesota in early January.
Nothing has worked to extricate the Coyotes from their misery.
While the power play, especially on the road, has been one of the better ones in the NHL, the penalty killing has been a killer. Near the bottom of all teams, the Coyotes seem to have the most difficulty in putting teams away, either with the man dis-advantage or late in games. There appears to be little motion in their play and less sense of purpose.
All of which tends to deflate Tippett and kill any attempts by the coach to change the complexion of things.
Now, the Coyotes stumble through the final half of their season and Maloney continues to recall players from the Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, in hopes of sparking some level of energy and purpose. To flat-line in the same pattern, nothing has worked and assorted players continue to commute between Phoenix and Portland.
As the trade deadline approaches, Maloney could have some bargaining chips.
Teams on the playoff bubble could be interested in defenseman Keith Yandle or center Antoine Vermette, among others. As well, Tippett has several under-achievers, notably Lauri Korpikoski, B. J. Crombeen, David Moss, Martin Erat and Kyle Chipchura, among many, who, may or may not, command attention.
Should the Coyotes not move any notable players at the trade deadline, their quest to be relevant could be more difficult. While Tippett will not let each player forget they are a professional, playing for pride and relevance, the collective results in the standings will continue to fall short of the coach’s realistic expectation.
Follow Mark Brown on Twitter, @journalist193
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.