The Phoenix Coyotes: A Conflict of Interest?
Who would have thought it would have taken 16 years for the Phoenix Coyotes to win their first playoff series in franchise history? Founded as a team in 1996 after relocating from Winnipeg, this franchise has seen disappointment after disappointment. Over that span of time, they have won zero Stanley Cups, zero Conference Championships, zero Presidents Trophies, one Division Championship (this year), and have one playoff series win (also this year).
They have also had their share of disappointment off the ice. Over their sixteen years they have drafted 21 players in the first round. And with the exception of Daniel Briere who was their 2nd pick in 1996, they have yet to draft a bona fide star. Even Briere didn’t turn into a star until he was traded to Buffalo in 2003.
Then there was the “Wayne Gretzky Experiment”. He proclaimed himself as head coach of the Coyotes in 2005 despite never having coached before at any level. Needless to say it didn’t work out. Following Gretzky, was bankruptcy. In 2009, Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy and subsequently turned the team over to the NHL. Moyes did receive several offers for the club (one from Canada’s Jim Balsillie) that would have not only kept him out of bankruptcy, but made him a handsome profit. The NHL was clearly set against the idea of moving the team, and they were forced to take over the team in 2009 and maintain ownership to this day.
They have had other bids, but for some reason they have all fallen short. Originally the NHL was against moving the team, which is the reason they took over in the first place, but after incurring losses themselves during the 2009-10 season, they decided that they were going to move the team unless the city of Glendale was willing to cover their losses. Basically they held the team ransom. The city of Glendale paid the price in 2010-11, and again in 2011-12 with another sum of $25 million.
It looks like all of that suffering, hard work and fundraising, has finally paid off for the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans. In 2010 the Yotes returned to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and then again in 2011. This year they have advanced to the second round for the first time in franchise history, as well as captured their first Division Title in franchise history. So what sparked the sudden turn-around? Can their recent success be attributed to the NHL taking over the franchise?
I wouldn’t say it was solely because of the change of ownership, but more a combination of things. One of the reasons is their new coach, Dave Tippett. He was hired in 2009, and instantly brought a new brand of hockey and gave this team an identity makeover. Another would have to be their new approach to rebuilding the team. They put much emphasis on cultivating their homegrown talent, as well as putting more resources into scouting. They finally have a handful of young, talented players that could play a major role in the Coyotes’ future.
The other factor is the brand of hockey they have been playing, especially in the playoffs. Dave Tippett is a big part of that, but there is more to the story. This is a team with NO superstars. They are a blue-collar team, but they work hard for each other, and they have all had their Wheaties and sipped their kool-aid. Tippett stresses that each man has a job to do, and kind of like “Moneyball” they play the percentages. They play a trap-style defense, limiting the time in their own zone. And while in their zone, they get sticks and bodies in the lanes and block everything moving. They have also reverted back to the old “clutch and grab” style of hockey, which was outlawed post-lockout, but they seem to do just enough to get away with it.
Currently, the Coyotes are up two games to one on their second round opponent, the Nashville Predators. And after vanquishing their first round opponent handily in six games, this team is finally being considered a legitimate threat. And with the stellar play of early Conn Smythe candidate Mike Smith, there really is no reason that this team can’t go all the way. They are two wins away from the Conference Finals, and only ten away from claiming the Stanley Cup. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they will win, nor am I much of a Coyotes fan, I just think they can win. I also believe that if anybody deserves it (besides the Maple Leafs) it’s these guys, and their fans. They haven’t had so much as a sniff of success since their inception.
The problem for me though, is each victory leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I know it shouldn’t matter, but I can’t get over the fact that the Phoenix Coyotes are owned by the league! How is this not a conflict of interest? The Coyotes are having their best years ever, and the longer the league goes without offers, the more desperate they are to find a suitor. I’m sure that an enhanced stature thanks in part to playoff revenue and some success can only be seen as a step in the right direction. I really don’t want to think that the league that I love so much would stoop to that level, but money makes people do crazy things!
Here’s a link to an article written by Michael Unger over a year ago…
I know I’m just imagining things, but I can’t help but be skeptical every time I see a missed or blown call. Or when Phoenix gets away with the casual interference, or clutching and grabbing that has been a big part of their success recently. And I really get a sick feeling when I see goal reviews go in their favour. There were two controversial goals in the Chicago series, and two recently reviewed goals in the Nashville series. All four calls went the Coyotes way. I know the NHL probably got the calls right, and that it’s just a coincidence, and that I’m really just making too big a deal about this, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. And the worst thing about it is they are taking the hard-earned glory away from the players and fans that so badly deserve it.
…and that is the last word.