A tired, beaten and upset Phoenix Coyotes was the last fans saw of the league’s enfant terribles. The deep playoff run of last season could’ve been what catapulted the desert franchise to front page news in Arizona but as everything else for the Coyotes it wouldn’t be that simple. A lockout forced the season into a 113 day halt, giving the casual hockey fan in Arizona just enough time to forget how magical last season really was.
Now with a season that isn’t going anywhere anymore, the Arizona Cardinals are looking towards the draft and next season already. The Phoenix Suns knew this season would be an uphill battle but seem for the most part to be okay with the mediocrity that has become their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarter efforts. Now coming in fresh faced with a winning record, the Coyotes will look to corner the Arizona bandwagon market this season.
But for the hardcore fanbase, this season will give plenty to look forward to.
- Zbynek Michalek
The rumor mill was in full swing at this year’s draft. And not excused from the hockey world’s version of ‘telephone’ the Phoenix Coyotes had a few of their own. The biggest one to gain traction was the availability of All-Star defensemen, Keith Yandle.
Source just told me Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle is available and Bruins have interest. Yotes love Ekman-Larsson making Yandle available
— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) October 26, 2010
While initially laughing the reports off, Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney would later reveal that although Yandle wasn’t left out with a ‘for sale’ sign on him, he did listen to offers. But unlike the Coyotes, the Pens would be plenty busy wheeling and dealing in hopes of making moves that would land the highly sought after free agent, Parise. In a short chat between GMs, the two agreed on a trade that would see the return of fan favorite, Zbynek Michalek to the desert, swapping two prospects and a third round pick in the 2012 draft.
- 7th spot
On July 1, Coyotes fans saw the departure of D-men; Adrian Aucoin and Michal Rozsival. A vacant spot sits on this season’s roster and the Coyotes’ defensive pool is overflowing with talent ready to make the jump. The two prospects leading the race for the available spot are Michael Stone and David Rundblad. Stone, having been called up during last season’s playoffs enjoyed some time during the regular season with the Coyotes. In the 13 games he played, Stone managed one goal and two assists. While Rundblad, who came to Phoenix in a trade with Ottawa for Kyle Turris, is looking to show off his talents after having a season in the Phoenix system to fine tune his skill-set.
One of the biggest shocks of last season was the play of goaltender Mike Smith. After being waived twice in one season, the Kingston, ON netminder looked to bounce back in a big way. Taking the starting position after the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov, Smith would go on to post career record numbers, smash franchise records and even break an NHL record. What many fans and critics are left wondering after a stellar regular season and an incredible post season is, can he repeat it? Depending on who you ask the answer will be yes. With the ‘Goalie Whisper’ Sean Burke locked in as goaltending coach for the foreseeable future theres no doubt that he will be able to continue to work his magic on Mike Smith.
The second most hated Coyote in Chi-town, Mikkel Boedker left Coyotes fans hungry for more. Netting the game winner twice in back to back overtime games, many felt they were witnessing Boedker’s potential coming to ahead. In his first outing as a full time roster player with the Phoenix franchise last season, Boedker finished the year off with 24 points and looked to carry the momentum into this season. Unfortunately fans, many of their questions regarding Boedker’s play will have to wait until the 20th when Boeds and the rest of the squad face-off against the Blackhawks in the Coyotes’ season opener.
Brought in to soften the blow the Coyotes will take once the season starts without Ray Whitney in the wing, Steve Sullivan will look to continue the success he saw at the tail-end of last season. While its hard to say if Sullivan will play close to the same caliber Whitney did, the veteran leadership will definitely be much needed as the younger guys began making their way into the top lines.
On top of many fans’ lists sits the Coyotes ownership situation. For the last three year, Coyotes fans have been the center of the hockey world’s attention and not for a good reason. Sitting through essentially lame duck seasons, fans have been left in the dark as they’ve witness other franchises sales come and go without any sort of hang ups. The off-ice fight to keep the Coyotes in the desert that was headed by George Fallar and Bea Wyatt paved the way for the Jamison deal to be completed. Now fans wait as the January 30 deadline to complete a deal inches closer and closer. Good or bad, the saga looks to be coming to a close.
Based out of Arizona, Ed Chavez joined The Hockey Writers to cover the Phoenix Coyotes before moving onto THW’s sister site, Sunbelt Hockey Journal where he covers hockey happenings in the desert. Follow Ed on twitter, @edmchvz