GLENDALE – The 2011-12 season officially ended for the Coyotes on Thursday inside Jobing.com Arena as the players gathered their gear, said their goodbyes and then scattered for the off-season.
It was an extraordinary season for the team, which won its first Pacific Division title and its first playoff series since moving to Arizona, and then reached the Western Conference Finals in convincing fashion.
|Chris Summers and Taylor Pyatt pack their gear. Photo by Norm Hall. |
"As days go by I think we’re going to recognize that this was a pretty special group," Head Coach Dave Tippett told reporters during his final press conference of the season - Click here to watch.
Goalie Mike Smith, whom fans overwhelmingly voted the team’s playoff MVP in a Facebook poll, agreed with Tippett.
“We raised the bar,” Smith said. “To get where we got with the group of guys we have has been a heck of a ride. I couldn’t be more proud of the team in here."
Forward Radim Vrbata said getting a taste of a lengthy playoff run would help the team in the long run.
“Overall, I think everybody is pretty happy with the season we had, but of course we want to take it a little further and play for the Stanley Cup,” Vrbata said. “But we have to give credit to LA because they played real well.”
• Many fans have asked for an update on the condition of defenseman Michal Rozsival, whom LA Kings captain Dustin Brown knocked out of Game 5 with a questionable yet un-penalized hit. Rozsival, who had to be helped from the ice after colliding with Brown late in the overtime period, was using crutches to get around on Thursday.
"It looks like it's nothing serious. (It) looks more like a bruise than any structural damage to his knee," General Manager Don Maloney told reporters during his final press conference of the season - Click here to watch.
• Other injuries that were kept quiet while the team was playing were disclosed on Thursday.
"If people really knew what was happening behind the scenes and how tough some of these guys are and what they play through, it really is an amazing story," Tippett said.
Here’s a checklist of injuries some of the key players were dealing with during the playoffs:
• Shane Doan - hip
• Ray Whitney - back, shoulder
• Martin Hanzal - ribs
• Radim Vrbata - shoulder
• Adrian Aucoin - groin
• Boyd Gordon – hand
• Unless they are re-signed before July 1, the following players will become unrestricted free agents on that date: Doan, Whitney, Aucoin, Rozsival, Taylor Pyatt and Daymond Langkow.
|Shane Doan. Photo by Norm Hall. |
"Shane is priority No. 1," Maloney said. "Once our ownership is settled, we plan to keep Shane. He's not going anywhere if I have anything to do with it - within reason."
He added, “Once we have our ownership settled, we'll immediately go after Shane and make sure we do everything we can to keep him a Coyote for the rest of his career. That's a goal of mine."
Doan loves living in Arizona and playing for the Coyotes.
“This is where I've been and I've never made any secret where I want to be,” Doan said. “It would be nice if I didn't even have to think about (free agency)."
• Whitney, who led the team with 77 points, said he wants to keep playing for several years.
“It’s time that I got what was due to me instead of always taking less because you are getting older,” said Whitney, who turned 40 years old earlier this month. “I don’t feel like I have to. I feel like I’ve performed well enough for the last five years to warrant a contract that’s deserving of it.”
In addition to the six potential UFAs, three younger players are on track to become restricted free agents if not re-signed by July 1. They are forwards Gilbert Brule and Kyle Chipchura and defenseman Chris Summers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.