GLENDALE – The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs started last night and in theory it promised to be a fun night of TV viewing around my house. But as it turned it, I watched only parts of the first three games and even had to remind myself to check all the final scores before going to bed.
Is it just me, Coyotes fans, or is something clearly missing?
Yes, of course, there is. For the first time since the 2009 playoffs, the Coyotes are non-participants. That’s a very tough pill to swallow for the coaches, players, staff and the fans, all of whom enjoyed being part of the post-season atmosphere the past three seasons. Dare I write we were spoiled?
“We’re here to get to the playoffs. That’s our goal. We didn’t accomplish that goal,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said after the season ended. “We can’t hide behind the (lack of) ownership, (or) the short season. At the end of the day, we’re paid to get the job done. We didn’t get the job done. Hopefully, this is the last time we’re going to hear this speech for five or 10 years.”
The Coyotes finished the season 21-18-9 and were battling for a post-season berth until the final few days of the season. But a 1-4-0 start to the 48-game schedule and a seven-game non-winning streak in mid-March proved too much to overcome.
“We were hoping to use the momentum from last year’s playoffs and we just never seemed to get going,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “I think if you look at the season, there are some contributing factors to how it ended. We were so close to a playoff spot, and there is just so many areas where we could have been better.”
Tippett is referring to, among other things, the team’s road record (7-10-7), its shootout record (4-6) and the mediocre play of its special teams (PP ranked 25th , PK ranked 22nd). He’s also referring to some significant injuries to some key players:
Goalie Mike Smith played only 34 of 48 games
Forward Radim Vrbata missed 14 games
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek missed 14 games
Forward Lauri Korpikoski missed 12 games
Forward Martin Hanzal missed nine games
In addition, Maloney revealed that captain Shane Doan played through a sore back for the last few weeks of the season and that defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was nursing a seriously injured foot and sore finger at season’s end.
"The lack of success wasn't because of injuries," Smith said. "It was just because it was a different year, a tough year on a team like ours that relies solely on systems and we lacked consistency in that aspect."
The Coyotes are a team that relies on a pack mentality, and the role players on the roster outnumber the stars. This season’s quirky schedule, that featured only a few days on which to practice, did not serve a team built that way well.
With the season now over, the Coyotes have shifted their focus to the future. The NHL Draft, in which Phoenix will pick 12th overall, is June 30. Soon after that, on July 5, is the start of the NHL free agency period.
Take a look at the players who are in need of new contracts:
Before looking too far forward I’d like to end this blog by looking back to the 2012-13 season one more time and noting the following:
1. Defenseman Keith Yandle, who showed true heart on and, more importantly, off the ice after the Boston Marathon explosions, ended up leading the team in scoring with 30 points. Granted it was only a 48-game season, but Yandle is just the second defenseman in franchise history to lead the team in scoring for a season and the first since Phil Housley did it in 1991-92.
2. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. He’s the first defenseman to win that award since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1996.
3. And last, but certainly not least, captain Shane Doan played yet another solid season, one loaded with many highlight moments. What I will remember most, however, is his two-goal, 11-shot, 13-hit performance vs. Los Angeles on March 19.
Follow Dave Vest on Twitter at @davest4yotes.
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