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Off The Post: New Year's Resolutions

by Luke Lapinski / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- The year 2011 is upon us and the Coyotes find themselves in the playoff hunt once again, looking to build on what proved to be a remarkable 2010 for hockey in the state of Arizona. What will the new year bring? Well, I obviously can’t tell you that. I’m not a psychic, check your horoscope. But I can at least offer some thoughts on what to look for in January. And what better way to do that than with some New Year’s resolutions? Because self- improvement has always been an obsession of mine – especially when I’m self-improving someone else…

Luke Lapinski
1. Consistency. This can be a vague term when it comes to hockey, so if this were a spelling bee and I had to use ‘consistency’ in a sentence, I’d say: “Coach Tippett will be satisfied with the Coyotes’ consistency when they go 82-0 and sweep through the playoffs. Maybe.” Consistency is the hallmark of a good team, an indicator that you’ve reached a level where playing your best on a nightly basis will, in fact, get the job done. No one ever longs for consistency when they know they aren’t good. The Coyotes have the potential to beat anyone and everyone – we’ve seen it happen. Last season, there was only one team in the entire NHL that Phoenix played more than once and didn’t beat at some point (0-2 vs. Buffalo). The same stat holds true again halfway through the rollercoaster 2010-11 campaign: Phoenix has a win against everyone they’ve faced multiple times, except Pittsburgh (0-1-1). At their best, the Desert Dogs are one of the top teams in hockey. That’s not hyperbole. But when they’re off their game, they can lose to New Jersey.

2. Give Shane Doan Puck, Get Out of Way. I guess it’s not really a resolution if you’re just trying to maintain something you’re already doing - no one ever resolves to keep eating junk food. Captain Coyote has 24 points in his last 19 games. That’ll work. Credit certainly needs to go to linemates Scottie Upshall and Eric Belanger, but the bottom line is: Doan’s on fire. That’s a stat line you expect from guys named Sedin, Crosby, or Stamkos. Number 19’s the kind of player who can get the job done without showing up in the scoring summary so, when he’s out lamplighting like this, the Coyotes become that much more dangerous. That said, if he hits one more post looking for that elusive hat trick, there’s a very real chance that I just trip the person standing next to me out of frustration.

3. Play Some Home Games. Remember what Arena looks like? I don’t. The Coyotes were on the road so often in December that, when they finally came back, I nearly got lost on the way to the game. Luckily, I was able to seek refuge in a gas station where I proceeded to scream random hockey news and notes at confused bystanders, but that’s a different story for a different time... Every team in the league faces quirks in the schedule so it ultimately all evens out. But don’t discount the toll that playing a six-game road trip against some of the more powerful offenses in hockey (i.e. the Sharks, Penguins, and Stars) can take on a team. Especially when you consider the fact that it spanned both coasts, carried on through the holidays, and featured numerous injuries to key players. That sort of adversity can bury a team, but it didn’t. And this month they get eight games in their barn. It’s time to make noise.

Keith Yandle. Photo by Getty Images.
4. Get Keith Yandle in the All-Star Game! This is really more of a demand aimed at hockey fans around the country - and an angry one at that. I even used an exclamation point. One blueliner in the entire Western Conference has more points than Yandle and his last name is Lidstrom. He’s the catalyst on offense without neglecting his responsibilities in his own zone - isn’t that the exact definition of an All-Star defenseman? I can’t believe I even have to write this.

After what they showed last year, no one in their right mind can question this organization’s resiliency. And it’s been tested on the ice lately. Every mistake seems to burn them right now and the last thing you want is players overanalyzing or getting frustrated because there’s still a lot that this team is doing right. They’re just not necessarily being rewarded for it. That’s why Tuesday’s victory over Columbus was so important - moral victories don’t cut it anymore. In fact, the very notion that sitting three points out of the fourth seed in the West isn’t good enough is an indication of how high the bar has been raised. This team has loftier goals. Based on what they achieved in 2010, I’d say they’ve earned that right.
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