The NHL experiment is finally over.
The Phoenix Coyotes will play their first game since December 2008 without the NHL as its partner this Thursday against the New York Rangers. With a new owner dedicated to keep them in the Valley of the Sun and being very aggressive in the free agent market, the Coyotes are doing everything right in order to deter from becoming just “that team” on the schedule.
For years this team has tried its best to become noticeable, even where they reside. A brand new stadium was built, but the fans never came to start. A number of shopping centers and restaurants later became surrounded around Jobing.Com Arena. Still, nothing. Even after a few trips to the playoffs, including a small Western Conference Final visit created a small spark. Unfortunately, the Coyotes next year had to suffer through a lockout that scared many fans away.
A 4-3 vote by the city of Glendale brought them new life.
“For four years, we talked about we could be a very good organization if we got stability,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “We felt like we had good pieces in place, and there was always the thought stability would get us to the next level. Well, we’ve proven that we can continue to grow. But there’s a big difference between ‘could’ be a good organization and having people say you are a good organization, and now we have to be the ‘are.’ ”
The “are” has now started to take shape. Just days before and after the voting had taken place, a few big names within the franchise and out wanted a part of this new experience. Current goalie Mike Smith signed a six-year deal, whereas defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Keith Yandle have expressed positive thoughts on their new deal. Big name free agent center Mike Ribeiro snagged a four year deal and has already started to make an impact during preseason. Shane Doan arguably was their biggest keep.
Even though he is currently on his second year of a four year deal, Doan did have offers to play elsewhere.
“There’s a real belief in the group that we’re capable of doing this,” Doan said. “It’s not a false bravado of you trying to convince yourself. We’re capable of doing this, and we’ve got to go out and do it.”
Expectations have rarely existed for years within this franchise. Each year when they close the doors on the season there has always been this wonder where if it was the last time they would step on the ice in Arizona. Thursday will put that aside and allow them to start fresh.
“How we run things, how we develop players, how we do on a day-to-day basis, how our playoff record is, how many times we make the playoffs, all those things dictate whether you are a good organization or not, and that’s the step we have to get to,” Tippett said.
Quick News and Notes
The NHL announced on Saturday that forward Paul Bissonnette’s suspension was reduced from 10 games to three. On September 15, Bissonnette left the bench in order to instigate a fight against Jordan Nolan during a preseason match against the Los Angeles Kings. Nolan hit and injured Rostislav Klesla forcing him to leave the ice on a cart.
There was not enough substantial video evidence to prove that he left the bench on purchase to go after Nolan, as there was some confusion whether he was substituting for Max Domi legally.
Bissonnette will be able to return to the ice October 10 against the Detroit Red Wings.