Friday, May 25, 2012

2011/12 Phoenix Coyotes R.I.P

Will this be remembered as the season that the Coyotes exceeded all expectations advancing to the Western Conference finals, or the year that referees conspired to have the LA Kings knock them out of the playoffs in 5 games? They wear the same colour jerseys after all, which explains how LA dominated the series on the road to an easy victory (if you believe Keith Yandle). Frankly, it didn't matter whether a penalty was called when Dustin Brown hit Rosizval, the Coyotes were never going to win this series. It was an impressive playoffs for the desert dogs, thanks in large part to the emergence of Mike Smith as an elite NHL goaltender. He's the reason that they even made the playoffs and he was the reason they beat Chicago. He deserves more praise than any other player on the roster.

Antoine Vermette proved to be a useful acquisition, leading the team in post-season scoring. Lack of offense from the forward position was one of this team's biggest flaws. Ray Whitney dried up in the 3rd round after leading the team in regular season scoring. Even if the 40 year old decides to come back for another season, his ability to sustain a long playoff run ain't what it used to be. Martin Hanzal gets bumped up to $3.1M, which is a great price for that callibre of player. Pyatt, Rozisval, Aucoin, Doan, Langkow, are all UFAs who may or may not return. The team has flexibility heading into the offseason, more so if they can resolve their ownership issues. Once they have been relocated to Canada, expect the franchise to stabilize.

Keith Yandle has emerged not only as a conspiracy theorist, but also as an elite NHL blueliner. Oliver Larsson has also received abundant praise from pundits who have declared him a future star player. Klesla and Morris remain under contract for 2 more years, while goaltender Mike Smith has one more year at the bargain price of $2M. The team will remain competitive next season, but is really only a bubble playoff team at best, totally dependent on Mike Smith carrying his teammates on his shoulders. I'm not yet convinced that it a recipe for long-term success, but Smith had a knack for proving me wrong this season.

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