Make no mistake, this is captain Shane Doan
's and the rest of the veteran players' team in Phoenix.
It proudly displays the faces of Doan, Olli Jokinen, Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris
and Ilya Bryzgalov on the cover of its media guide, and it should.
You don't just anoint the franchise to four rookies if you are saying you are a playoff team and a team that will compete for the Stanley Cup. The good teams in the NHL all know that is just too much responsibility and it clearly would show a lack of respect for just how good this league is and just how good the veteran, proven players are day in and day out.
That being said, the time is now for many franchises to showcase their top prospects to the rest of the NHL.
The Coyotes, because of some poor regular season showings and some terrific drafting, have a cupboard full of high end prospects. These kids are certainly the real deal. They have uncanny hockey sense and a burning desire to be great players. They train hard, eat well and practice like it will be their last one in the NHL. It is infectious.
I like the message that was sent last week to the four players. General Manager Don Maloney sat Kyle Turris, Kevin Porter, Mikkel Boedker
and Viktor Tikhonov
down before practice
at Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale and sent a very simple message.
It went something like this:
You all are going to be terrific players.
You deserve to be here in this lineup.
Don't back down...ever on the ice.
Hold your own in scrums, don't shy away. It doesn't mean fight. It means be there, with your chin in the middle of it. The military will be right behind any one of you...no matter what happens.
Head Coach Wayne Gretzky also sat down with them. His ability to read the right situation and say things at the right time is as uncanny as the magical passes he slid across the crease to Jarri Kurri. He gives these kids, and the rest of the players, so much confidence by saying something so simple.
The other day at practice, there was Gretzky at center ice with Turris. The conversation was calm and directly to the point.
"Have fun out here. Don't press. You are here for a long time. The best thing about being in the NHL is it is fun, so have fun. "
You know that Gretzky will put these kids in an environment to succeed. He was so good last season with Martin Hanzel and Peter Mueller. You sometimes have to "hide" players on
the road against veteran teams. They may not see the last three minutes of a close game. That's the process for the long run. They have to build confidence along the way.
This season, the Coyotes will need all four of these freshman to be players. They will have off nights and they will be stars of games.
The moxie will have to be there too. The other teams have to know they won't wilt away when the going gets tough.
I believe that won't be a problem.