The last few seasons in Phoenix have been turbulent to say the least. Constant discussion of the Coyotes relocation to Toronto coinciding with a team that continually struggled for on ice success left the only NHL franchise in Arizona as an absolute mess.
Luckily however, the Coyotes look to be turning the corner as the team currently stands fourth in the Western Conference and appears destined for a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
Much of the Coyotes success this season can be attributed to the newly appointed head coach, Dave Tippett.
While the likes of Joe Sacco, Cory Clouston and Lindy Ruff should get some consideration for coach of the year, one has to believe that Tippett is the leading candidate. Tippet has implemented a defensive style of coaching that differs greatly from his predecessors and has therefore allowed the team to succeed to this point in the season.
Also of note should be assistant coach Dave King who finally made his return to the NHL after a lengthy period of time coaching in Russia.
King was able to detail some of his experiences in Europe with the book King of Russia where he details the challenges involved with being a Canadian hockey coach in a country where the culture both inside and outside of hockey differ greatly from that of North America. The wealth of International coaching experience that King brings must surely be a benefit to some of the Coyotes success this season.
Goaltending cannot be forgotten either as the Coyotes have benefited from the stellar play of Ilya Bryzgalov. Just a few short years ago, then Ducks general manager Brian Burke was unable to trade Bryzgalov and was therefore forced to put him on waivers.
Fortunately for the Coyotes, Phoenix GM Don Maloney was able to pick him up in what could be one of the more memorable waiver pickups in the post-lockout NHL. Maloney has now worked to surround his goalie with a few recent acquisitions.
In what was a very dull trade deadline when compared to past years, one team that did make some headlines was Phoenix. The uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes ownership has led the NHL to take control over the franchise so it was very surprising that the Coyotes were one of the more active teams come trade deadline day.
As a team that is usually known for getting rid of assets rather than acquiring them, the Coyotes brought in the likes of forward Lee Stempniak and defenseman Derek Morris to bolster their team for the stretch run.
The real test for the Coyotes franchise is about to begin.
As long as the team avoids an absolute disaster down the stretch of the season, Phoenix should sit comfortably in the playoffs and possibly have home ice advantage in the first round. For the last few years, much of the discussion about the Coyotes has surrounded the failures of the franchise both on and off the ice. For the first time in a long time, the Coyotes have an opportunity to truly find out whether Phoenix is indeed a hockey market.
As the playoffs approach, rumours of a whiteout continue to persist for those attending the Jobbing.com arena. The whiteout is a tradition that carries over from the days of the Winnipeg Jets where fans would be dressed in white shirts when attending the games.
To this point, there are many rumours surrounding the future of the franchise and a long as the NHL continues to own the team, these rumours will continue to persist.
The group leading the way to purchase the franchise is Ice Edge Holdings who have discussed their belief in Phoenix as a hockey market even though they would like the Coyotes to play a number of regular season games in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. There is much scepticism that surrounds that of Ice Edge Holdings as one would have to believe that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would prefer an ownership group that anticipates playing all 42 home games in Phoenix.
The great thing about the Coyotes right now is that they not only look to be a playoff team, but also look to be a playoff contender. Being successful in the post season might make the Coyotes more appealing to potential owners as the NHL continually runs the franchise.
If the fan base in Phoenix proves they can support this franchise come playoff time, a franchise that many thought was on the move might instead have a long history in the state of Arizona.