There’s something different about the Phoenix Coyotes this year.
The team shows potential. Off-season acquisitions are contributing. Games are being won and the Coyotes have been in contention from the start of the season. But that is every season under head coach Dave Tippett and general manager Don Maloney.
No, it’s something beyond all that.
Much like last season, the Coyotes were blown out – at home – by the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night. The team looked disorganized, panicked and in awe of what some may call a “superior” team. Much like last season, the Coyotes are lacking in star talent and rely on team efforts to win games. And much like last season, the Coyotes are given a cursory mention if a player does something outstanding, then they fall from the limelight. Nothing out of the ordinary, yet something is different this season.
The Coyotes are now resilient.
There it is. A team that was infamous for its slides during important parts of the season and curling up into a ball when a team came to town – a.k.a. the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs – and permitted the beating to continue. I can’t count how many times I would watch the fight die in that team and leave Jobing.com Arena to the taunts of opposing fans about why Phoenix isn’t and can’t be a hockey town.
But not this season. The fight that fans have been waiting so long to see is finally present. The team is sticking up for themselves, turning games around and making something of themselves.
After a loss, the Coyotes are 8-1-1 this season and often play some of their best hockey, much as they did Saturday night. Tippett had a simple explanation for the team’s evolution:
“Because losing sucks.”