In order to be great, teams have to overcome adversity. While the Phoenix Coyotes continue to fight one battle after another off the ice, it won't be long before they enjoy one heck of a celebration on the ice -- as the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions.
The Big Why: You can't win a championship without goaltending and a stingy defense. The Coyotes have both.
Not only has Ilya Bryzgalov enjoyed yet another brilliant season in the desert, but Keith Yandle has quickly emerged as one of the best defensemen in the League. A potential Norris Trophy finalist, Yandle led the Coyotes in scoring heading into the final week of the season before finishing second to captain Shane Doan. He also averaged more than 24 minutes of ice time per game.
The 24-year-old is joined by a quality group of blueliners that includes Adrian Aucoin, Derek Morris and Michal Roszival. The Coyotes should also have Ed Jovanovski back after the veteran defenseman missed roughly two months due to orbital bone surgery.
The Big Uh-Oh: The biggest question facing the Coyotes is undoubtedly their offense. Phoenix has just one 20-goal scorer on its roster, and Doan did not reach that plateau until the season’s final weekend. Sure, the Coyotes have some balance -- not to mention the invaluable leadership of Doan -- but it's going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach up front in order for the dream to come to fruition.
Final Argument: While the focus will likely be on top guns such as Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose, let's not forget these Coyotes have won nearly 100 games during the past two regular seasons. From GM Don Maloney to coach Dave Tippett to the 20 men who suit up, this club continues to defy the naysayers. The exclamation point will come in June, when the Coyotes hoist Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history.
What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.
— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp