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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
VANCOUVER – Center Vernon Fiddler accompanied the Coyotes on their flight here Monday afternoon, but there is no guarantee he will be on the plane when it returns to Phoenix on Wednesday.

Fiddler’s wife is in the Valley and is close to giving birth to the couple’s first daughter/second child. Her due date is April 7, but Fiddler is prepared to leave the team and head back to the Valley if she goes into intense labor before this quick two-game trip to Vancouver and Calgary ends on Wednesday night.

Vernon Fiddler
“It’s just something I don’t want to miss and I’m not going to miss it for anything,” Fiddler told me on Monday.

Fiddler said he was present when his son was born, but that happened during an off-season. This time around, the birth could happen at a time when Fiddler is away working and he may have to make some on-the-fly travel maneuvers to get home.

“I have a job to do, but it’s something I think I can get back in time for if needed,” Fiddler said.

I asked Fiddler to explain what would happen should he get word that it was time to head back to Phoenix for the birth during one of these upcoming road games.

“I’d be gone-zo,” Fiddler said, before I even finished the question. “No questions asked. (Dave Tippett) is OK with it. He told me if it was him, he wouldn’t miss it either.”

Someone asked me the other day which player should be named the team’s MVP for this season. Frankly, it’s a tough question, and after much internal debate I am still not ready to answer. I can't decide between three players.

Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has had an amazing season and if you pick an MVP based on statistics he should be the MVP hands down. Bryzgalov already has notched career highs in victories (40) and shutouts (eight), and he is among the league leaders in goals-against average (2.28) and save percentage (.921).

However, I strongly feel two other players – Fiddler and defenseman Adrian Aucoin – also deserve some consideration.

Aucoin, who joined the Coyotes in the off-season as a free agent without much fanfare around the NHL community, is second on the team in ice time at 22:32 per game and has chipped in eight goals and 20 assists. Of course, he also has decided the outcomes of five games with his over-the-goalie’s-glove shot in five shootouts. Beyond that, Aucoin is a calming presence in the defensive zone and his confidence in the dressing room has been contagious.

Fiddler, who also quietly joined the Coyotes as a free agent in the off-season, isn’t a flashy player but he does all of the little things that help hockey teams win games. He wins faceoffs. He kills penalties. He blocks shots. He wins battles in the corners. He cycles the puck and gets it to his linemates in prime scoring areas. Head Coach Dave Tippett has said it many times and he is correct. Vernon Fiddler, simply put, is a winner.

Baseball season is less than a week away and I can assure you that nobody in the Coyotes dressing room is happier about that than captain Shane Doan, who loves to manage a fantasy baseball team. Doan also loves talking about his fantasy team at length, and enjoys playfully letting people know how he has reached the semifinals of his 16-team league playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

“I just love the stats of baseball and the competitiveness of it,” Doan said when I asked him why he does it. “Plus, it helps me keep in touch with a lot of the guys on the team and former teammates like Reino (Steven Reinprecht), Matt Jones and Brian McGrattan. The best part about it is in the summer when everybody’s texting each other about how bad their team is doing. I love the chirping.”

Shane Doan is a huge fantasy baseball fan.
Doan’s league already has had its draft and he likes his team’s chances. Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, Victor Martinez and Adam Wainwright are the key cogs.

“The big key for me will be my pitching staff,” Doan said. “They’re young, but they could be incredible.”

After hearing that, I asked Doan if this might be the year he finally wins the title.

“I’ve lost in the semifinals the past three years only because I’ve been unlucky,” he said with a sly smile. “If you look at the power rankings the past three years, I am dominating. It’s not even close. But I guess I’m like the Buffalo Bills. I'm not winning when it matters the most.”

Thanks for reading.

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