Maloney is one of the biggest reasons for the Coyotes' success over the past few seasons. He was signed to the team in 2007 and the organization hasn't looked back since.
Under Maloney's tenure, the Coyotes have had a cumulative record of 230-172-56, including three playoff appearances. That's admirable when in charge of a normal team, but factor in the ownership kerfuffle and this man clearly has a knack for not just signing names, but building teams.
The Coyotes, as we all know, are not a team that relies on talent to post wins, but a system that emphasizes the basics, team play and effort. It's a machine that needs all of its cogs working or else it falls apart, a stool that falls without its legs.
The re-signing of Maloney acts as one of those legs for the Coyotes but the organization still has a long way to go to stay competitive.
It's become a routine topic during the summer, but the team is still without an owner. Hopefully Maloney putting pen to paper is a good indicator that the sale process is moving along, but no one knows for sure.
Whether or not the sale goes through, the Coyotes now need to focus on retaining head coach Dave Tippett, whose contract is up. He's going to attract a lot of attention should he be allowed to hit the free market and, without an owner willing to get the type of players Tippett demands, he may choose to take his talents -- and system -- elsewhere.
The Coyotes are hitting a key free agency period. With Maloney in place, the team can likely still acquire several players, but decisions need to be made. The two biggest cogs that are unrestricted free agents are goalie Mike Smith (arguably one of the best 'tenders in the NHL) and forward Boyd Gordon (the shot-blocking, faceoff guy who embodies Tippett's system).
Several other players, most notably forwards Kyle Chipchura and Mikkel Boedker (RFA) and defenseman Michael Stone (RFA), are likely to attract a good deal of attention come July 5. If those players leave, the Coyotes will be hard-pressed to find effort players that can still produce at a value price.
Signing Maloney was a big step for the Coyotes in an important off-season. He's part of the reason the team is competitive and the first leg of the proverbial stool, but they still have work to do. A lot of it.
The Phoenix Coyotes wrapped up their season Saturday with a win in Anaheim, finishing with 51 points in 48 games. Not their worst season, but not their best.
Because I'm a sick person, I decided to take a look back at my original season predictions for the Coyotes. In retrospect, I didn't do horribly, but I know you fine people would love to tell me just how wrong I was.
For those of you in too big of a hurry to finish reading and want to get to the comments, here are my original predictions. Have fun.
Six games without a win. Six long games full of penalties, a new scoreless record and nothing but frustration.
The Phoenix Coyotes haven't won a game since Pope Francis was brought in. Maybe they're not praying enough or they're still stuck on Benedict, but the time has come for the Coyotes to play do or die hockey.
With just 17 games left this season, the 'Yotes find themselves just four points adrift of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That's only two wins. But that seems nearly impossible, given the team's lack of confidence and the worst team in the conference, the surging Columbus Blue Jackets, only trailing by four points.
"Right now, we've got a lot of players who aren't playing with a lot of confidence," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett after the team's 3-2 Monday loss to Detroit, adding that guys have to earn the right to be proud of their play.
The upcoming road trip, just three games long, is going to define the Coyotes' postseason chances this season. If they somehow manage to bungle it and drop all six points, they're pretty much out of the race. A nine-game losing streak will likely make them sellers in the market and they'll quietly go about wrapping up the season. But just four points out of six, a big task but a doable one, can push the 'Yotes right back into the playoff hunt.
The sad thing is, the Coyotes are not playing that poorly. They're not winning, but they're not getting blown out. They're with the game up until the final whistle, when, somehow, the scoreboard doesn't read in their favor.
"Right now, we're finding ways to lose games," said goaltender Jason LaBarbera. He couldn't be more right.
The Coyotes have taken 31 penalties in their six-game skid, including two that led to two Red Wings power play goals on Monday, one of which was the game winner. If that's not finding a way to lose, I'm not sure what is.
As the losing streak has gone on, most players have given variations of the same answer when asked what the team has to do going forward.
"We just have to find a way to find 60 minutes here and just get ourselves out of this hole," said forward Rob Klinkhammer.
Keep pushing. Find a way. Keep working. All good answers, but, as Tippett said, the team is saying the right things, but not doing them on the ice.
The best way for the Coyotes to pull out of this tailspin is to win. A lot. They need to take it to the opposing teams over the next week, but need to do so with a quiet desperation that gives them an edge, not one that may give the other team an easy chance.
With a system like the Coyotes', where every guy is important, it's very easy for one chink in the armor to lead to others. A bad line combination, a mismatch or even a bad pass can sink the Coyotes this season, something Tippett is aware of.
"There's a lot of things you can try, but we'll see. This will be a telltale week for us."
Telltale week? I'd put it more as a season-defining week. Should the Coyotes not play do or die hockey over the next three games, they'll watch their postseason dreams fade away.
On Thursday night, I saw something I never thought I would see before: a Shane Doan who was mad, not at himself, not at referees, but his teammates.
And it's about damn time.
The Phoenix Coyotes are currently in the midst of a five-game skid, the longest in years. In those games, they set a new record for the longest time without a goal (245:33), took a total of 26 penalties and gave up 11 goals in regulation.
After a 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Thursday, the Coyotes held a team meeting for about 25 minutes. When media were finally let in, it was clear the captain was not happy with his team. Many of the guys walked out, subdued, and didn't look at anything but the floor.
"The thing that makes our team good is when every single guy is good," Doan said, looking over the heads of media at his guys filing out of the room.
"I don't care what line you're on, I don't care what defensive pairing you're on, in order for us to have any type of success, individually we have to be good."
To me, this sounded like Doan had called out a few guys during the meeting. Of course, he wouldn't go on to point fingers. He shouldn't. But this season's Coyotes team isn't what a lot of us expected, Doan included.
The 2011-2012 Coyotes team was a different beast. Not only did they take the team on its longest playoff run in franchise history, but they shocked the NHL. An ownerless team rode veterans, role players and Mike Smith to the Western Conference Final. That doesn't happen in the NHL.
But that team disbanded. The offseason has come back to bite the team in the butt. The loss of key players led to the Coyotes signing Steve Sullivan, David Moss and depending on AHL call-ups. Don't get me wrong, they're still talented, but not along the same caliber as those who left the desert.
Doan is frustrated. After being promised the sale of the Coyotes would be completed, he signed a deal with Phoenix instead of leaving for more money. He was expecting an owner that would bring in quality players, setting him up for his fourth consecutive playoff run.
But the deal fell through and the Coyotes did what they could to surround Doan with guys he can work with. They all have talent in their own right, but a team that relies on everyone contributing is being tripped by a few lame ducks.
"Individually, we have an element that we can pick up in every single guy," said Doan. "Every single guy can be better at some point."
Likely some more than others. I didn't see any other player posting both double-digit hits and shots on Thursday against the Kings.
Truth be told, we'll never know what was said in that meeting. That's fine. Let the guys work it out amongst themselves, but don't expect anymore Mr. Nice Guy in the Coyotes room. His team is under performing and Doan knows it. And now they're going to hear it.
The captain's claws are coming out and he can't get his team going soon enough. There's only 18 games left in the regular season and his team is on the outside looking in. If they don't shape up, I foresee a lot of long nights standing in the underbelly of Jobing.com Arena, waiting for the end of another team meeting.
The Phoenix Coyotes have done a complete 180 over the past week.
Despite an offense that seemed to be chugging along, the Coyotes have failed to register a goal in 194:05 of play. Think about that. The last time they scored, the Catholic Church was still looking for its new pope.
The Coyotes' offense has struggled since the departure of Radim Vrbata, who was placed on injured reserve after breaking a bone in his foot. He led the team in goals last season with 35 and his absence essentially removes the team's top sniper.
With that being said, it's time for the Coyotes to get active in the trade market. The team simply can't score and, should Vrbata be out for a while, the offense will continue to struggle. The team has a plethora of defensemen, some of which could be surrendered in an attempt to bring a scorer the Coyotes desperately need.
I didn't factor any cap space into the trade, since the Coyotes currently have over $19 million in room. I'm sure the NHL has put some limits on spending, but a talented scorer will likely cost a defenseman and a prospect, likely making enough room to absorb a slightly larger contract.
Also, I'm aware of the names I'm listing below. They are all household names (or should be) and will cost the Coyotes. The team can't look to bring in another role player on a roster that's already overloaded with them.
As far as I can tell, the guys below would be available for the right price and would also fit well into the Coyotes system.
The Phoenix Coyotes are just over halfway through the NHL season and it's been marked by plenty of ups and downs.
The team struggled at first, to the point where some overanxious fans were calling for trades, but picked it up as of late. They have been as high as fourth in the Western Conference and as low as 11th. Overall, all I can really say so far about the season is "good, not great."
Unfortunately, the Coyotes struggled in what should have been the easy part of the season. For the first 24 games, the Coyotes only played 10 away. However, they didn't come out with a stellar record: 11-10-3. Again, good, not great.
But the second half gets trickier. The Coyotes will play only 10 games at home and 14 on the road, including a season-long four-game trip and three three-game trips. Oof.
Because folks love to mock sports writers when we're wrong (and because I'm man enough to say I made bad predictions), let's take a look back at my preseason predictions and see how I did. I'll also make some new ones.
We're one-quarter of the way through the 2013 Phoenix Coyotes season and looking at the same question from last season: should the Coyotes look to trade defenseman Keith Yandle?
It's really a sticky situation, but for right now the Coyotes would be better off retaining Yandle's services for the remainder of the 2013.
While Yandle has his struggles, it's impossible to deny his offensive potency. He's one of the fastest D-men in the league and draws attention whenever he's on the ice. He averages just under 30 points per season and has plenty of steam in his legs to stay on the ice for power plays.
In the Coyotes' defense-first system, Yandle has noticeably improved. A few seasons ago, it was not unusual to see him take a bad line or overcommit to a play, effectively leading to an odd-man rush for the opponent. Fast forward to this season, and those mistakes are rare. He seems to have taken the teachings of head coach Dave Tippett to heart and knows his role: defend, then score. Not the other way around.
A majority of the NHL would give up a lot for a defenseman like Yandle. Most teams rely on a certain forward to establish a play in the offensive zone. A combination of that same player and Yandle would be enough to make the everyday GM drool. Coyotes fans saw this last season when Yandle was combined on the power play with Ray Whitney.
Don't get me wrong, Yandle hasn't had an amazing season. He hasn't even had a decent season. The Coyotes assistant captain has made noticeable mental errors on the puck that have resulted in turnovers, most of which are extremely dangerous given Yandle's position on the point. He's also taken some frankly stupid penalties -- like several unsportsmanlike conduct calls -- when his team needs his leadership on the ice.
Few National Hockey League teams are better at controlling their own fate than the Phoenix Coyotes.
A team that looked bad on paper made it to the Western Conference Finals last season. A fluke? Hardly. The Coyotes earned their spot by being one of the best defensive teams in the league and limiting mistakes.
In the 2013 season, the Coyotes that looked bad on paper have been, overall, bad on the ice. Flashes of the Coyotes' playoff fire have been seen, but they either sputter out or, worse yet, are extinguished by the Coyotes themselves.
After a loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, captain Shane Doan said the Coyotes need to find ways to win games. The problem is while they know how to win games, the Coyotes have been very good at losing.
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett put is best when he said, "I like to think we don't beat ourselves much, but that's been the case a few times early here."
Tippett has always been a believer in his team creating its own luck on the ice, but right now that philosophy is coming up bad. From the beginning of the season, we've all heard players and coaches saying the team needs to find a way through it, to battle past it, to persevere.
"Adversity is hitting us right in the face," Tippett said. "We can either let it beat us up or we can get after it. Usually you earn the right to win."
The Coyotes aren't earning anything right now except a measly two points from five games. It's not time to hit the panic button yet, but with the regular season already one-tenth of the way over, it's time to be concerned. A few wins could bring the team back into the running quickly, but conversely, a few more losses can send them spiraling out of the playoff hunt.
But what if wins are just a momentum shift away? Several times this season, the Desert Dogs have been commanding the game and look poised to win, only to have one small incident -- say, a bad goal allowed by Mike Smith or an injury to Matthew Lombardi -- that stifles what the team has worked to build all game and sought all season long.
"We have to be better as a group and a team, stick up for each other and be there when we let in a goal," said forward Mikkel Boedker.
Last season's Coyotes were resilient and stubborn. They haven't been the same team this year.
The Coyotes don't need to find a way around the problem or find ways to win. They need to find a way to quit losing, injuries and excuses aside. No one is going to let them win and, frankly, the only guys who can save the Coyotes are the Coyotes themselves, a concept that is not novel to this squad or its leading members.
"It's now come down to a matter of will," Doan said.
To the casual hockey fan, the Phoenix Coyotes season has not gotten off to a good start.
Hell, to a seasoned hockey fan, the Coyotes season has not gotten off to a good start.
Generally known for a defense-first approach, the 'Yotes have given up 10 goals in two games, enough for a 5.00 goals against average (I'm good at math). All of these have been against Mike Smith, whose eight shutouts and 2.21 GAA led the team to the Western Conference Finals last season.
The onus was on Smith at the beginning of the 2013 season to prove last year wasn't a fluke, but it's beginning to look like it was.
During the Coyotes 6-4 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday night, a friend -- who is admittedly a novice hockey fan -- texted me that Smith looked terrible. He claimed Smith simply isn't getting the job done. He's right.
But then he claimed that Smith needed to be pulled and backup Jason LaBarbera sent in to stop an excellent Hawks offense. On that point, he's wrong.
Goaltending in the NHL is a fickle business. What can seem like a brick wall one day can seem like a sieve the next. Such is the case with Smith. Last season, he stopped everything that came his way. This season, not so much.
But if Smith is going to return to his elite form, the Coyotes can't quit on him now. The Canadian bore the brunt of the poor start after the Blackhawks game, saying the Coyotes' losses stem from his play.
"We need to clean up our game in some areas and that starts with me and that's not getting done."
Smith went on to say that his biggest issue is stopping the puck, but for anyone, the play of the team as a whole is becoming an problem. Sloppy play has resulted in scoring chances or goals, often leaving Smith hung out to dry.
Head coach Dave Tippet recognized that poor decisions are creating an issue for his team, especially Smith.
"Smitty, just like the rest of our group, has to be a little better, but if we play like that we've got no chance," he said after the loss to Chicago.
But how do you get better? How do you let a goaltender bleed goals and let him remain in the net? That's easy: faith.
To pull Smitty now is to tell him he's not good enough, something that has happened to him before during his time in Tampa Bay, which was marred by injury and prolonged stints in the AHL. Then Tippett found him, acquired him in free agency and transformed him from a bubble NHL player into one who was seriously considered in Vezina talks.
A good goaltender, especially a leader like Smith, has to feel in control of his game. He has to know where his body is, where the puck is, where his teammates are and where the opposition are waiting for a rebound, all at the same time. During the lockout, Smith played with the same set of guys -- at a slower pace -- and lost that vision. Improvement for an elite goaltender comes with in-game experience. To gain that game time, the Coyotes need to keep their faith in their primary netminder.
"I've got to bail my teammates out," Smith said.
But who is going to loan Smith a helping hand? Dave Tippett, by letting Smith have a chance to save himself, if not the puck.
The ridiculous lockout is over and the Phoenix Coyotes are set to take the ice to begin a truncated season on Jan. 19.
Basically, the Coyotes are facing their traditional difficulties. The offseason didn't see too many moves, but the loss of a couple of veterans, especially Ray Whitney, could weigh heavily on the team. The ownership situation is on-going, but is reportedly edging towards a resolution.
The 2013 season, a mere 48 games, will not afford any opportunity for mistakes. Due to the shortened season, the Coyotes will not play any Eastern Conference teams (meaning no Penguins, Capitals, Flyers). Basically, there is no room for error as every point will have a direct impact on the playoff hunt. That could suit a disciplined Coyotes team, who have been an overall consistent performer under head coach Dave Tippett.
Here are some things to watch for -- along with my predictions -- for the Coyotes' 2013 season.
Player to watch: Mikkel Boedker
Mikkel Boedker is quietly becoming one of the most intriguing young wingers in the NHL. He's not the largest of players, but his skill and speed allow him to work around defenders. He really came into his own last season when playing the second line with captain Shane Doan and veteran center Daymond Langkow and still haunts the dreams of Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. I'm not predicting a massive season for Boedker, but if he keeps his confidence levels high, I wouldn't be shocked to see him as a regular in the Coyotes' top six forwards.
Top trade bait: Keith Yandle
Keith Yandle, the Coyotes' offensively-minded D-man, has been a constant source of trade rumors over the years. Not because he's not adored by the club, but because he's a skilled defenseman who has a ton of points potential. Immediately after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement became official, the Yandle rumor mill was already rolling on various social media channels. I would be shocked if the Coyotes moved Yandle, mainly because it would take an enormous offer to pry him from general manager Don Maloney's hands, but the Coyotes can likely expect their phone to ring several times. On a semi-related note, expect a few young D-men to pack their bags this season.
Scoring leader: Radim Vrbata
It shouldn't come as a shock when Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes in points this season. The first line will be looking to replace Ray Whitney, last year's points leader, who took off for Dallas in free agency. While Vrbata will still be primarily a shooter, I would look for him to pass a bit more this season, especially with new Coyote Steve Sullivan likely being paired with him and Martin Hanzal.
Storyline to follow: Can Mike Smith do it again?
Last season, the Coyotes' playoff run was supported by netminder Mike Smith. Coming off of a season where he spent a majority of time injured or in the AHL, Smith was clearly influenced by Coyotes goalie guru Sean Burke. Smith's record-setting play will be hard to repeat, but his game has come a long way, along with his hair. The Coyotes season will depend a lot on his play and he'll have to rise to the occasion again if there is going to be playoff hockey again in Glendale.
Best rehashed nickname: The Bash Brothers
I'm a Mighty Ducks (the movies, not the team) fan. Everyone remembers Fulton Reed and Dean Portman, the Bash Brothers, committing hundreds of interference penalties crashing into any available player. We all cheered like maniacs, but the Coyotes have a real life set: Paul Bissonnette and Raffi Torres. Already the bad boys of the team, Biz Nasty and Torres are known for tough physical play and dropping the gloves if necessary. Neither will step down from a challenge and both will see slightly more playing time after lockout fatigue and/or injuries hit. The fans are behind both of these players, their very own Bash Brothers.
Bold prediction: Steve Sullivan outplays the Wizard
When Ray Whitney (a.k.a. the Wizard) left for Dallas, many in the Valley bemoaned his loss and rightfully so. A team-leading 77-point season is going to be difficult to replace. Enter former Pittsburgh Penguins winger Steve Sullivan. A veteran, Sullivan has played with some of the biggest names in the game. Some saw his signing as a cheap effort to replace the Wizard, but I see it as yet another deft move by Maloney, the Coyotes general manager who has a reputation for doing a lot with a little. Fans can expect Wizard-level production numbers out of Sullivan, especially if he's paired with Vrbata and Hanzal on the first line.
Season outcome: Another year of May hockey in the desert
The Coyotes may have lost some veterans in free agency, but those skates have been filled. As I said before, the shortened season will benefit the disciplined teams of the league, meaning the time is ripe for the Coyotes to continue their playoff run. I think the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings take the Pacific Division, but the Coyotes will finish a close second. In the Western Conference, I expect the Coyotes to be a lower finisher, probably around the six spot. Also, I have a trip planned for mid-May, and I plan on watching Doan and company in their second round series.
It's going to be a great season. See you at the Job on Jan. 20.
When the NHL lockout began, I can't help but admit that a small portion of me was excited.
As someone who is (sometimes) paid to cover the Phoenix Coyotes, that probably doesn't seem natural, but allow me to further my thought. I hoped the lockout would give officials in the City of Glendale a sneak peek at what life without hockey would be like, what the massive losses at stake would be like and the damage those losses could do to the city's already struggling economy.
Rumors have circulated about businesses eyeing other locations in an attempt to chase profits. In a dying shopping center, who can blame them? Businesses aren't charities, they need to make money to survive. Without a hockey team at Jobing.com Arena, they're not making enough.
The city estimates the tax revenue alone from each game missed is in the neighborhood of $60,000. I can't certify it, but I'm guessing it's much, much higher.
As Glendale faces yet another vote on the Coyotes' future in the Valley, it would be a wonder why they would consider turning down a restructured arena management fee with prospective owner Greg Jamison. The city can't survive astronomical loss like that, especially considering it is already in debt.
Some may argue that the city could find another group to manage the arena that would bring in concerts, expos or other events to fill nights left vacant by a departed Coyotes team. Pipe dreams are nice. There are a finite number of events that could book in the Valley and Glendale faces steep opposition from numerous other cities and venues.
The Coyotes guarantee 41 home games in a regular season, in addition to preseason and postseason games, along with other team-related events. Any arena management group would be challenged to fill those extra nights in addition to months when hockey is out of season. Granted, they would be required to pay a certain fee if they do not book the arena a specified amount of nights, but that makes me wonder just how many groups would be willing to accept that challenge.
Also, Glendale does not work at the speed of light. If the city chooses to find a new arena management group, how long will it take for it to sit down, consider the offers and make a deal? If the failed Coyotes deals of times past teach us anything, residents are in for a long, long wait.
Without the Coyotes and relying solely on the Cardinals and college bowl games, Westgate is doomed. There simply is not a large enough revenue stream that can be generated by the surrounding community and another arena management group. While the NHL is currently locked out, Glendale would be wise to approve the restructured arena deal and establish their future as one that has embraced hockey, rather than one that throws their hopes on the shoulders of another group and hopes things work out for the best.
Glendale, I sure hope you've learned your lesson and consider it before the upcoming vote. You're bleeding money at an alarming rate and one can only wonder how long it will be before you decide to staunch the bleeding.
The still owner-less Coyotes and its passionately loyal fan base got their captain back Friday, but the Valley gained something more: the biggest sports legend in Arizona history.
Now, I'm sure there are thousands who are ready to disagree with me and bandy about names like those mentioned above. I'm not taking anything away from those guys and, in fact, I'm a fan of them myself. Their imprint on the Valley will always be remembered, but they're no Shane Doan.
Let's look at the situation of each athlete: Gonzo led a wildly popular new team to the city's only major championship (apologies to the Rattlers and Mercury). Nash stuck by an aging franchise until he was basically forced out. Fitz has sat through mediocre play and some terrible quarterbacking, but nearly led his team to a Super Bowl win.
Gonzo, Nash and Fitz all deserve kudos and their rightful spot among Valley sports legends, but Doan has done more than all of them. He sat loyally at the helm of a literally sinking ship, praying someone would come along and refurbish it to send it again sailing on its way. He watched legends come and go, his team move from the center of town to a cow pasture and was threatened with relocation for years.
Oh, he did all of this while watching his team go from the one of the hottest tickets in town to one of the least popular. Find me one athlete who has led a team in such dire circumstances and still remained as positive and outgoing about the team as Doan. It simply doesn't happen in a sports world now filled with crybaby divas.
Yes, Doan's deal is contingent on the sale of the team going through in just eight short days. Yes, the deal could theoretically be abandoned if more foot-dragging occurs. But that's not a slight against the legacy of Doan. There's no guarantee he would leave, even if the sale fails by Sept. 15. I doubt he would.
Welcome to the elite of the elite, Shane. You were already a legend in Arizona, but your return to a Coyotes organization still lacking an owner is not only the definition of loyalty and what it means to be captain, but the final piece to making you the greatest Valley sports legend of all time.
"I found in Phoenix, without an owner, we got stuck with some of the worst scheduling I've seen in 20 years," Whitney told the media after signing, adding that the "guys in New York" also had an influence.
This, simply put, does not bode well for a Coyotes team who needs to add top line talent in the offseason.
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney has already said his team is willing to move a few defensemen and that the team is looking for forwards. A trade is great, but free agency would be better.
When it comes to adding players, there is no better way for the Coyotes than free agency right now. Sitting over $14 million below the cap floor, any trades would have to involve the Coyotes taking on larger contracts than what they are trading away. Granted, that $14 million doesn't include any qualifying offers, but there is still a lot of addition that has to happen.
Whitney marked the loss of the biggest offensive asset the Coyotes had. A now-gaping hole has to be filled on the top line and 35-goal scorer Radim Vrbata is without his biggest assist man. The problem is now convincing a replacement that he won't be forced to pack up and leave town as soon as he pens a new deal.
Whitney is also a respected veteran in the NHL, a league that encourages younger players to follow the older guys to learn to be successful. When Wizard came out and said the Coyotes ownership situation is a primary reason for leaving, he unwittingly told all the young talent that Phoenix wasn't worth his trouble. I know he did not do this intentionally, but when a guy that many around the league look up to, players listen.
I have faith in Maloney and his moves, as he has done a great job working with a constricted budget and often unbalanced circumstances to build teams that find ways to win. But Whitney leaving damages the team's reputation and the opinion of the group league-wide. This is going to be one hell of a hill to climb for Maloney.
Despite all this, I wish Whitney all the best in Dallas. I understand that, in the twilight of his career, an athlete doesn't want to put up with constant talk of relocation. He will be missed here in the desert. But his leaving -- and especially his comments -- have just given a glimpse into what could be a long, painful summer for the Coyotes.
Until this all-too-well-published ownership ordeal comes to a close, players will be reluctant to come to the desert. What could be a top destination for many becomes a carefully selected option for few.
For NHL fans like me, that means it's time to get giddy. A flurry of contracts will be agreed on this Sunday, filling my need for gossip (sure beats talking about Bill 'round the water cooler) and nearly blowing up my Twitter timeline. Phone calls will be made, contracts will be signed and writers like me will have deals to dissect.
Normally, this is one of my favorite times of year. It's fast-paced, fun to watch and exciting for teams like the Coyotes, who seem to add a surprise every year (Mike Smith, anyone?).
But this year I'm nervous. Captain Coyote himself, Shane Doan, will test the free agency market to see what kind of offers come his way. He may be older, but the list of suitors will be long. Numerous NHL teams will want his leadership and hard play on their roster next season. While I don't think Doan will leave, he could.
As a long-time fan of the Coyotes, the idea of Doan leaving is impossible. He's been the face of the team since the likes of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk left the desert. As a member of the media, he was the first major athlete I interviewed in my career. He treated me like a seasoned vet, something other athletes refused to do (here's looking at you, Thierry Henry).
But, when I really think about it, I'm glad Doan is testing free agency. He hasn't come out and said it, but it's essentially been stated that he's tired of the ownership saga and may finally want to recuse himself from it. I can't blame him. Who would want to be in constant doubt of being relocated or changes in coworkers every single year? I'd leave that company in a heartbeat.
The thing is, though Doan can leave if he so chooses, he's not the type to jump at the largest contract and get paid (Whitney might, but that's another column). Doan will go where he feels like he can contribute and where he'll enjoy his hockey. He deserves that after all these years. But I know his loyalties lie with his current franchise. He wants to stay, but he could go. If he does leave, I know he'll have made the right decision -- for him and the Coyotes.
I'll be watching the beginning of the NHL free agency period on Sunday a little more eagerly than I normally would. I doubt, should Doan leave, that he signs somewhere on Sunday. He'll take his time, consider his offers and see where the chips fall after the flurry of signings. I hope, as both a fan and writer, that he stays. Doan's the heart and soul of the Coyotes. He's a legend in the NHL, like it or not.
If Doan leaves, all I can offer is a tip of the hat and a handshake. He's done his time and put in more work than any of us could stand for a franchise that has been faltering more often than not. And if he does leave and finishes his career elsewhere, I hope to see the Coyotes sign him to a one-day deal before he retires, so his name can go up in the Ring of Honor, where it so rightfully deserves to be.
Aside from the obvious reason (zombies can't hide behind
things that are transparent), I find that when nothing can
contain a secret it tends to be simpler, smoother and,
overall, much more popular.
That doesn't sound anything like the Goldwater Institute
(and I'm pretty sure they're hiding zombies, too).
As the Coyotes saga enters what feels like the
947,812,045th year, we've seen the claims -- from both
sides -- that transparency is necessary in order to
facilitate the sale of the team to prospective owner Greg
I couldn't agree more. Granted, some may argue that
transparency would allow both sides to nitpick even more
and the possibility of lawsuits would increase, but you're
wrong. Transparent organizations have to cut out the shady
deals, the conflicts of interest and the unnamed donors.
When everything is out in the sunlight and available for
public perusal, it's impossible to keep skeletons (or
zombies) in the closet. When those undead things aren't
permitted to exist, it's miraculous the way lawsuits fade
and business gets done.
The Coyotes deal is still creeping forward, but about
1,800 signatures could really complicate things. Should a
referendum pass, the Coyotes deal could move to a vote. I
can guarantee that, in the allotted time of two weeks
barring any extensions, the Goldwater Institute will be
out in full force to get as many of those as possible.
And that's a problem. A "taxpayer watchdog," as the
organization proclaims itself to be, has shady dealings.
It has conflicts of interest. It has unnamed donors. And
now this organization will be approaching possibly
uninformed Glendale citizens in an attempt to get them to
sign a referendum? For Coyotes fans, that's about as damn
close as you can come to the zombie apocalypse without any
brains being eaten.
Now, I'm not alleging that there will be any misconduct by
Goldwater, far from it. I'm just saying that, for an
organization who demands a look into each and every action
that the city of Glendale takes -- at least as far as the
Coyotes are concerned -- they sure aren't willing to
describe their inner workings or disclose any information.
I shared a few tweets with @patriot1123, whose wicked-cute
Basset Hound avatar told me a private think tank, such as
the Goldwater Institute, should not have to disclose its
donors or other documents. And normally, I'd be right
alongside that view. There is a reason that a company is
But I think, along with tweeters like @doubled81638378, @davidstuart, @Jakita10, @gfallar, @azisles02, that a think tank that
purports to have taxpayer interests at heart should act
like a government institution and not be forced, but
obligated, to disclose some information. It would likely
move things along if we could view some of the alleged
conflicts of interest to dismiss the suit or at least keep
in line with their own demands that the city of Glendale
If it's actually possible, I'm asking Goldwater to take
the high road here and reveal itself. Become transparent.
Donors shouldn't need to be "protected," but named.
Privacy is hurting this deal and the taxpayers of
Glendale. In the short term, some damage will be done as
both sides have likely done things they are not proud of.
In the long run, both the city and Goldwater come out
better for it, the taxpayers benefit and the Coyotes will
But I'm not holding my breath. As a person who kind of
relies on the Coyotes (yes, I do get paid to write), I'm
looking at those hired to get the referendum signatures
like they want nothing more than to eat my brains.
Here we go again for Round 2 between the Goldwater Institute and the city of Glendale. The conservative think tank is again turning to the courts to stifle the deal, this time literally hours before a vote was expected.
GWI said, and possibly rightfully so, that the city did not post the deal for at least 24 hours to allow for public inspection before a vote. The city has had a draft posted for a while, so it will remain up to the courts to decide if the draft will be acceptable or the ownership saga will continue to drag on.
However, I found myself questioning exactly why GWI is pushing so hard, yet again, to block this deal from getting done. If a new study is correct, the city's taxpayers would be better off keeping the Coyotes as the anchor tenant in Jobing.com Arena, rather than letting them leave for Canadian shores. While I'm not a math expert, I have to say that, after looking at the numbers, the new deal looks better than the alternative.
Essentially, the study said that they Coyotes staying will put a slightly smaller burden on taxpayers than if they left. If GWI is so interested in protecting the taxpayer -- and not their own reputation -- shouldn't they back what is best for the city?
Now, I'm not a fan of the deal. An owner should buy the team outright, but the city-owned Jobing.com Arena is causing complications. Potential owner Greg Jamison would receive $325 million of taxpayer money over a period of 20 years to run the facility, something that shouldn't sit well with anyone who lives in a city facing a $35 million deficit.
But given the fact that even more money could be lost without a team, isn't it time to opt for the lesser of two evils?
Glendale's problem originated long ago, when they offered to use bonds to help build two huge stadiums in the middle of cow pastures. Real estate speculation was running rampant and the West Valley was due to explode. Then the financial collapse happened. People started cutting their spending, Glendale stopped expanding and two teams were hung out to dry.
Where was GWI when all this was happening?
I've heard arguments mads that the Cardinals do just fine and it's not surprising. If a fan can't manage eight measly home games -- not including preseason or playoffs -- on a Sunday afternoon in one year, then that team has major issues. However, hockey fans Valleywide have to face rush-hour traffic up to three times a week to see their team, get home late and go back to work the next day. It's not an easy trip and I make it quite often from my place in Mesa. Frankly, the Coyotes' location sucks.
Despite a bad location, the Coyotes are the majority occupant of the Job. According to the aforementioned study, the team is responsible for 59 percent of the arena's use, with the other 41 percent made up of other events, including concerts and expos.
Glendale is going to lose money no matter what it chooses to do, but why not keep the team? At least that way ushers could make more money, the businesses in Westgate would have a fighting chance to survive and the city has a chance to make some tax revenue. Without the team there, the building will likely stand empty about 325 days out of the year; a monument to fail just off the 101.
The time has come for Glendale to suck it up and GWI to move in favor of the deal. A mistake was made long ago and dues need to be paid. The only way to do that is to choose the lesser of two evils: voting for the Coyotes deal on Friday.
The Phoenix Coyotes' NHL season and incredible playoff run came to a devastating end on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Kings netted an overtime winner to book their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993.
And I couldn't be more proud of the Coyotes.
Here's a short list of accomplishments from a season that most experts though impossible.
First Pacific Division Championship
First time advancing past first round of playoffs since Winnipeg.
First appearance in Western Conference Final.
Third consecutive 40+ win season.
But the pinnacle moment of the season, to me, was the birth of a new phrase in Phoenix: "How 'bout those Coyotes?"
Phoenix has not been supportive of its hockey team in a long time. We're a town of winners and, let's face it, a losing team who plays in the middle of cow fields is not worth the drive for many, who would instead opt to spend their time and money on other things.
But then the amazing happened. The Coyotes, with little big-name talent and without big egos, built a successful hockey team. They started to win. They started to beat big teams. They started to make headlines and, as if people just learned about the Coyotes for the first time, the Desert Dogs had a fan base that was growing exponentially with every win.
Yes, I'm talking about the bandwagon that was rolling from the heart of the city all the way out to Westgate, bringing in new hockey fans who had never seen a game and sending them home with a passion and a few souvenirs. For nearly one month, Phoenix cared about a team that plays in Glendale, not on grass, but on ice. The D-backs were put on the back burner and Lord Stanley reigned supreme.
When the Coyotes lost, I was disheartened to see some people immediately opt to start talking about the D-backs or NBA playoffs, but a lot of those bandwagoners are still cruising around, wondering how the players whose names they were just beginning to learn went crashing out of the postseason so fast. They've been bitten by the hockey bug and I've got good news: it's all up hill from here.
I played for an atrociously bad high school soccer team when I was younger, and I know what it feels like to be dominated in every facet of a series against a team.
But I also know what it feels like to take one from a team, to steal that sweep away. They can talk all the trash they want to, but at the end of the day, you can still smile at them and say, "At least we took one from you."
This is the same scenario that the Phoenix Coyotes are going through with the Los Angeles Kings.
When the final horn sounded and the Coyotes handed the Kings their first shutout loss of the postseason, the team could finally breath easy.
In the face of series sweep by a division rival and possibly the best team in the NHL, the Coyotes took back one game in the Western Conference Final and with it, their pride.
Many people and sportswriters around the Valley (including myself) were bracing for a series-ending loss to a despised L.A. team on Sunday. As I watched, I grimaced with every Kings shot and every bad Coyotes mistake. I was ready for the worst and for my phone to light up at the end with messages from new fans asking me what went wrong, old fans attempting to console themselves and rival fans rubbing salt in the wound.
But then an amazing thing happened. The Coyotes started to play their brand of hockey.
There were mistakes, there were calls that didn't go the Coyotes way and a handful of bad plays, but Coyotes hockey made a comeback on Sunday. The forecheck resumed. Mike Smith looked like his now-expected stellar self. Passes were being made. It became palpable that the Coyotes had found their stride for the first time in the series and were beginning anew to believe in themselves.
When they won the game their way, I finally let out the breath I had been holding for nearly three hours. A Phoenix team was not being swept by another L.A. team with more talent. They played well for the most part, posted the win and took one on the road. The Coyotes needed that.
As my fellow coworker Adam Green said, the Coyotes could not end such a great year with a sweep in their first ever conference final appearance. Thankfully, they didn't and the reactions from the fan base were incredible. A majority of people went from thoughts of what to do in the off-season to talking about the likelihood of a Game 7. When the Coyotes took Game 4 -- just one game -- from the Kings, they took back their pride and gave the fans, both veteran and bandwagon, something to be hopeful about.
The Coyotes will likely not win this series, nor should they. The Kings have been the better team and have looked sensational the entire playoffs. They've only lost twice in their great postseason run, but once was to the Coyotes. Don't get me wrong, if the Coyotes steal the series out from under their rivals, it would be legendary (and record setting) to say the least, though I don't think that will happen.
But at the end of the day, no matter what that final outcome of the series, the Coyotes, much like myself during high school soccer, have now earned the right to say, "At least we took one from you."
In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Kings rolled over
the Phoenix Coyotes in the opening game of the Western
Conference Finals, winning by a score that felt much
further spread than the final 4-2 scoreline.
The Kings came out and dominated the first period,
outshooting the Coyotes 17-4. They played like a team who
knows just how good they are.
The Coyotes lost Game 1. They lost home ice. They lost a
bad hockey game in a time of year when bad hockey is not
"I thought their whole team was better than our team,"
said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. "We weren't close
in that game. We got beat in every facet of the game.
Hopefully we take
some lessons from it and we can be better next game."
And now it's time to respond.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in Glendale. Between now --
8:49 p.m. Sunday -- and then, the Coyotes need to step up
their game, get their heads straight and play big boy
The Kings are a great playoff team. They know how to get
inside the heads of their opponents and use the resulting
frustration to their advantage, exactly what they did to
the Coyotes. Dustin Brown was causing problems all over
the ice and was drawing their focus away from the play.
The Coyotes need to work around this. They need to be the
ones frustrating the other team. Too many times there were
power play opportunities wasted because a Coyote decided a
retaliatory hit was more important than a goal. Cheap
shots and the NHL playoffs go hand in hand. Get used to
it, get over it and play.
not willing to take those whacks and take a number, then
you're going to be
in the penalty box and ultimately hurt our team," said
There was a point when the Coyotes quit. I watched it
happen. Don't believe me? Let me ask what your definition
of quitting is if you don't think that clearly giving up
on pucks, careless passing and waiting for something to
happen is what happens when a hockey team quits. The score
as still close at that time -- 2-2 -- but it looked as if
the Coyotes were down 10-0 and playing solid hockey wasn't
a priority. It was a very uncharacteristic move by
the team, one that doesn't happen to a possible Stanley
Cup contender. No matter what, you keep fighting in the
The Coyotes don't have star power. The Kings do. That
issue can be put to bed. The Coyotes have personally seen
some of the biggest names out of the playoffs so far, but
they didn't play like they are ready to send another batch
of talent home. Team play beats stars. Smart play beats
stars. Aggressive play beats stars. Coyotes hockey beats
stars. It's time for the team to get back to their style,
not what showed up during Game 1.
As the playoffs go on, the bar gets higher and
higher," said Tippett. "You have some players that can
rise with the bar and we didn't
have enough guys rise with the bar tonight. We had some
games like this, but not to the point where we got
out-competed as bad as we did."
We finally know the dates of the Western Conference Final between the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. This series, in my opinion, is going to be one of the craziest we've seen in the playoffs so far.
The Kings, once earlier this season a laughing stock of offensive ineptitude, are now firing on all cylinders. The partying pair of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have been reunited and hit the stride that made the pair so dangerous when the were in Philadelphia.
In essence, this series is a culmination of the Coyotes' past two opponents in the playoffs: the Kings have great offensive power in their top line much like the Chicago Blackhawks, but a top goaltender and effort plays is more reminiscent of the Nashville Predators.
Again against my better judgement, I have the Coyotes winning the series. It's going to take seven insane hockey games that will wear both teams down, but I think the Coyotes' discipline and depth will overpower a highly-talented Kings squad.
Concern: Kings top players
The Kings top players have been some of the most productive in the NHL this postseason. Players like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards have stepped up to lead the top two lines and push the Kings going forward. These players have looked dedicated to two-way play and their work rate is almost churning out as many goals as their skill.
Relief: Coyotes discipline
When it came to Chicago, most people predicted the top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp were simply too skilled for the Coyotes to handle. We all know who ended up winning that battle. The Coyotes are in for more tough pairings when they take the ice against the Kings and their discipline will have to stay disciplined and tight while finding a way -- likely through physical play -- to disrupt some of the hottest players in the NHL.
Concern: Jonathan Quick
The Coyotes, having already knocked off one Veinza finalist, face another in Jonathan Quick. In my mind, he is the clear Vezina winner and will be even harder to beat than Pekka Rinne of the Preds. The Coyotes will have to keep constant pressure on him and have to force errors and rebounds, because Quick doesn't give up much.
Relief: Coyotes offense
I don't want to jinx anything, but it feels like the Coyotes have found their offense. It's not pretty, nor is it particularly high-powered, but it's working. They managed to beat one of the top defenses and goalies in the last series and will have to keep generating chances to drop the Kings. A big forecheck wouldn't hurt, either.
Concern: Mental battles
This series, by far, has the most potential to get inside the Coyotes' heads. They had beaten Chicago prior. They knew the Preds' style inside and out. But the rivalry with the Kings has boiled over a few times, most notably the Feb. 16 clash that saw four fights. Both teams take pleasure in mentally dominating a series and, with the amount of youth the Coyotes have relied on in this series, it could be a problem when the chants of "Beat L.A." dominate those of "Let's go Coyotes."
I've used this a few times, but the veterans are an important element in a playoff run. When the series begins to heat up with the Kings as it undoubtedly will, the veterans will be the guys who have to step in and settle down the young guns, who likely will be targeted by some of the Kings heavy hitters to get them mentally out of the game. Players like Mikkel Boedker and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have been notable standouts and I expect them to be roughed up a bit in Game 1. It will be down to the Coyotes veteran players to keep everyone focused on the big picture.
The battle that I'll be watching most, aside from Mike Smith vs. Quick, is the battle of the captains. Both Dustin Brown and Shane Doan lead their teams in their own ways, but this series will be decided by the play of the captains.
Like I said, I think the Coyotes can take this series. It's going to be an insane roller coaster, but I think they can come out on top in Game 7 at Jobing.com Arena.