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AP: 6aa8a72d-603c-459e-b243-7185ec366abc
San Jose Sharks' Harri Sateri (35), of Finland, tips the puck with his glove to make a save as Phoenix Coyotes' Martin Hanzal (11), of the Czech Republic, looks on during the third period in a preseason hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Things are looking up for Coyotes centerman Martin Hanzal.

Not only did the Czech lockup a nice five-year deal that will keep him with the team through 2017, if you look very closely at the photo in this story, Hanzal received a little promotion.

He's now an alternate captain.

While it isn't officially listed on the team's website,

I think the designation is permanent -- or at least it looked sewed on during the Coyotes' final preseason game last Saturday.

Honestly, it's about time Hanzal got the "A". I know that will shock some fans I've talked to about my opinion of Hanzal, but allow me to explain and probably eat a few of my words.

In four seasons with Phoenix, Hanzal has only netted 46 goals and assisted with 79 in 288 games played. Quick math works out to that being .43 points per game, which is not exactly what you would expect of a current second line NHL center, even in Glendale. I have never been a Hanzal fan, as I like to see a big guy put some hits in and I think I've heard the phrase, "Hanzal in front of the net...oh, just wide," more times than is acceptable for any human. But my thoughts on Hanzal were altered in one game.

Last Saturday's preseason game was the first time I could watch him on the ice. He looked, well, like a great captain. Not only did he net one, but assisted another and even had a bit of a go with a few Sharks. Being lucky enough to sit by the bench, I saw Hanzal constantly talking to everyone, not just his linemates and coaches. He impressed me and his line was by far the most active, with Hanzal leading the way with smart passes and even a few hits.

I'm not going to rush out and throw a newly-bought Hanzal sweater on anytime soon, but what can I say, the man was inspiring. It seems that, with a letter, Hanzal went from just another big body center in the NHL to a threat and motivator.

I guess all Hanzal needed was a kick in the "A".

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Off the Ice" is a new portion of ArizonaSports.com where Carter Nacke will be covering and discussing the Phoenix Coyotes throughout the season. While the page is under construction, you can contact him at cnacke@arizonasports.com or tweet him at @carternacke. Thanks for reading.

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