At some point in the distant future, the Phoenix Coyotes won’t have to focus so much on their ownership and issues off the ice, but will actually be able to step on the ice and play a hockey game.
No one knows when that day will come, but when it does, the Coyotes will provide the league with one of the more intriguing storylines for the 2012-2013 season: Can they repeat their success of last year’s playoffs?
As fans in the desert have seen this year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it takes a perfect combination of things to make a deep playoff run, and you have to take advantage of it while you can. We’ve seen the Diamondbacks falter in 2012 after a strong run, can the Coyotes avoid a similar fate?
Despite almost zero star power, the Coyotes rode strong defensive play and a hot hand from Mike Smith to the Western Conference Finals. For a team that has experienced such little success in their history, it’s going to be a tough run to follow up on.
Yes, the Coyotes have lost some pieces. Ray Whitney is gone, as are Taylor Pyatt and Adrian Aucoin. Zbynek Michalek replaces Aucoin, providing an upgrade, while Steve Sullivan and the brittle David Moss shouldn’t mean as harsh a decline as there could have been on the forward lines.
There are two big questions with this Coyotes team. The first is whether or not Shane Doan will return and the other is whether Mike Smith can repeat his 2011-212 season. The answer to the first is very likely a yes. The signing is seen as something that will happen eventually. The second question isn’t as obvious.
Asking Smith to repeat last season might be just a bit unreasonable. He’s going to come back to Earth at least a bit, especially given that he didn’t have a track record of success prior to last year. With that said, working with Sean Burke and playing in Dave Tippett‘s system should continue to be a huge benefit for him.
Should we expect this Coyotes team to get as close to a Stanley Cup appearance as they were last year/ probably not. You have to expect at least some sort of decline from that playoff level, especially when you factor in the loss of Whitney.
Ultimately, the Coyotes will probably be the same team they’ve always been under Tippett: that gritty, defensive-minded team that is absolutely miserable to play against. Whether or not that will mean another deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ll have to wait and see.