Greetings from Edmonton, Alberta Canada! I hope you all had a happy holiday season as we all look forward to a safe and prosperous 2008. Where do I begin with a midseason review of this Phoenix Coyotes team? I’m not sure if it’s harder to believe that we are already at the midpoint of the season or that this team is four games over the .500 mark. Coming out of training camp in September, most “experts” had this team slotted to finish at or near the bottom of the entire NHL. I think we all had realistic expectations, but one thing we knew for sure: the organization was headed in a new direction. From the hiring of Don Maloney as general manager to Wayne and his coaching staff instilling a new system to the infusion of young talent, we knew this would be a fun team to watch. While there is still a lot of hockey left to be played, there is every indication that this team is for real.
It’s impossible to overstate what the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov has meant to this team.
As Wayne has stated many times, goaltending wasn’t really an issue in the first six weeks
of the season. The team got several strong outings from Auld, Aebischer and
Tellqvist…but Bryzgalov brought something that my partner Darren Pang likes to call
“presence”. Bryz has presence because of his size, athleticism and attitude. Since Bryz
has become a Coyote, the entire team has begun to take on a presence. I keep waiting for
one of these Western Conference powerhouses to outclass this young Coyote team. A
loss or a sub par performance can happen to any team on any given night, but EVERY
night this Coyote team now believes it will win.
An early 1-0 deficit in a recent home game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion
Anaheim Ducks didn’t faze this squad that has struggled to win at Jobing.com. Facing a
Flames team in Calgary that had won 5 straight and featured 2 all star starters in Jarome
Iginla and Dion Phaneuf didn’t faze this squad. The games vs. Anaheim and in Calgary
epitomize what the Coyotes are all about: against the Ducks the goals came from veterans
Doan and Reinprecht with great support from the young players while the 3 goals in
Calgary came from players (Winnik, Perrault, Yandle) who have combined for less than
100 games in the NHL with great support from the veterans…Bryzgalov in both games
was solid throughout and spectacular when needed.
The emergence of Peter Mueller and Martin Hanzal
as top 6 forwards, the play of the
VHS line, the play of Ballard and Morris against the opposition’s top line, the
consistency of the “D” pairings and line combinations….there are many factors to the
Coyotes’ being in this playoff race. But, let’s not overlook the work of Wayne Gretzky,
Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Fuhr. If you get a chance, click here
to read Eric Duhatschek’s article from the January 8th Globe & Mail on the subject of Wayne Gretzky as a coach:
That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping at PhoenixCoyotes.com on your internet journey today and do yourself a favor if you’re able…get to a game at Jobing.com Arena and
watch this hard working and exciting Coyotes team!!Click Here to read my partner Darren Pang's Blog!!
Dave Strader TV Play-by-Play voice of the Phoenix Coyotes