Photo Credit: Norm Hall
Putting together the roster to start the season for Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky was not an easy task, especially when so many young players stepped up and made a case for themselves to have a spot on the team come opening night. But after two weeks of training camp, Gretzky and his staff announced who had made the team and who had not. As Gretzky had promised during training camp, there were a few surprises.
One of the names that was not on the roster was Tyson Nash, a long time fan favorite here in Phoenix. It was a very difficult decision, if not the hardest one for Gretzky.
"Right now its tough for me, when I've got two guys that are not going to play that I think are pretty good players in either (Oleg) Saprykin or (Josh) Gratton and (Fredrik) Sjostrom is hurt. We've just got a tough lineup for (Nash) to get into."
But the Coyotes coach didn't count Nash out that he might return to the Coyotes roster at some point this season.
"Anybody in our organization that plays well can get an opportunity to play here, anybody that can help us win we'll gladly welcome him with open arms." said Gretzky. "All he did was good things for this organization."
Tyson Nash scored two goals in his first game with the San Antonio Rampage, the Coyotes American Hockey League affiliate.
The Coyotes went out during the off-season and zeroed in on certain key players that they knew would be key additions to their club. Ed Jovanovski, Owen Nolan, Jeremy Roenick, Georges Laraque, and Nick Boynton no doubt would be on the opening night roster, however, for some young players, their fate was unknown. Rookie Joel Perrault, who came over in a trade with Anaheim late last season, Swiss veteran Patrick Fisher and center Mike Zigomanis all earned a place on a team with very few openings.
There were many difficult decisions for Gretzky to make, decisions that were made harder due to the young talent within the Coyotes organization.
"We had some good surprises in training camp this year, you know, (Envir) Lisin, (Keith) Yandle and (Matt) Jones obviously, (Josh) Tordjman might have been the best surprise in all of camp," said Gretzky. "(He) might have been the best player we had throughout the camp day in and day out. He had an outstanding 14-days with us."
The goaltending situation is one that Gretzky is very confident in. Curtis Joseph is the number one guy, but the question remained during training camp; who would back him up? Mike Morrison stepped up and won the backup job.
"I think Mike's had a really good camp I thought he played really well," says Gretzky, who likes what Morrison brings to the table. "He has a calmness about him, he gives us a little bit of a new dimension that he handles the puck rally well, tremendous puck handler for a goaltender and we like his calmness and he's fit in nicely into our room. I think him and Curtis are a nice fit together. He's gonna get some games, there's no question about that."
"Mike has an opportunity here to really grab his career by the tail here and really take it for a ride. He's worked hard and I hope he makes it really difficult for everybody around here, I know the players like playing in front of him. He's been a nice fit."
Once the hard decisions were made, the task was put in the hands of the players. Over the first two games of the season, the Coyotes have showed a much-improved offensive attack; a stingy defense and a penchant for physical play. If the trend can continue for the next seven months, the Phoenix Coyotes could very well be preparing to host their first playoff game in five years.