Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's Next: Phoenix Coyotes 2010

If nothing else, this has been a seasons of extreme highs and extreme lows, as well as extreme confusion when it comes to the teams future. However, a solid season with a new coach, a breakout goalie, and all-around team effort made this the "sweetheart" team of the playoffs for most people. Sadly, it was only meant to be in the first round. With a lot of the future in terms of ownership still up in the air, the team proved it's worth and were able to get a building full with the winning ways, even if they left with 10 minutes to go in the third period of a Game Seven.

In any case, the real story was the play of Ilya Bryzgalov, which earned him a nod for the Vezina Trophy. A career high in wins by a long-shot (42), which placed him third on the list this year; he was second in the league in shutouts (8), and was top-ten in GAA (2.29) and save percentage (.920). Whether or not Bryzgalov will be able to repeat such a feat remains to be seen, but you can tell that people are kicking themselves for not taking a flier on him when he was one waiver. The Coyotes are reaping the benefits. Jason Labarbera is a solid back-up, but who knows how much they'll utilize him next year if Bryz continues to be hot.

Offensively, the Coyotes were very shaky, being very defensive minded. Luckily, the acquisitions of the Lee Stempniak (18gp, 14g, 4a) and Wojtek Wolski (18gp, 6g, 12a) at the deadline proved to be a great turn of events for the team. It helped Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi get some scoring support and proved to be what boosted the Yotes up to 4th in the West. Hopefully, Stempniak, Wolski, and Lombardi will get re-signed to help continue their momentum they had ending the season. While Doan is still a solid option, odds are they will need to find something younger to carry the torch. Plus, you still have a developing Kyle Turris and Martin Hanzal to think about, as well-- which are nice options offensively to have.

Another deadline pick-up, Derek Morris, seemed to be solid addition, though his four points didn't really tear up the world. Despite his minus-11, Ed Jovanovski was solid and play a great offensive part to the defense. Keith Yandle came out of his shell and lead the Coyotes' defense with 41 points and plus-16 on the year, showing he's going to be the next big thing for Phoenix. With Sami Lepisto and Zbynek Michalek both up and coming, and both needing contracts-- you have to wonder what kind of deals they'll get to keep a good core group together to move forward with the team.

While it was trying off the ice, on the ice the Coyotes were able to get their first 50 win season since 1977-78 when they were in a different town and different league. It was their first playoffs since 2002, even though they didn't make it out of the first round again. This was orchestraed by the mastermind of Dave Tippett, who really brought this team together and proved to them what they could do. The big thing right now is whether or not they can keep it going or if this loss after a solid season will grind their mental state to a halt. I'm sure the former will happen, but the latter is always an option.

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