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A brief history: Phoenix Coyotes

by Michael Stainkamp
The Phoenix Coyotes joined the NHL in 1979 as the Winnipeg Jets, one of four teams that came from the World Hockey Association when it folded in 1979. The Jets were the WHA's most successful team, winning the Avco Cup three times and making the finals five times in the league's seven seasons.

However, that success didn't translate into victories in the NHL. The Jets missed the playoffs in their first NHL season and won just nine games in their second.

But the arrival of Dale Hawerchuk, taken with the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft after that 32-point season, helped the Jets to one of the great turnarounds in NHL history -- they finished with 80 points in 1981-82 and made the playoffs for the first time. Winnipeg went on to qualify for the playoffs in 11 of 15 seasons, but won just two playoff series -- largely because the Jets were in the same division as the Edmonton Oilers, who won all six postseason series between the teams.

The Jets relocated from Winnipeg to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season and were renamed the Coyotes. But the new location and name didn't change their inability to win in the playoffs. The Coyotes made the postseason in five of their first six seasons in the desert, but lost in the first round each time.

Despite adding Wayne Gretzky as coach, Phoenix went five seasons without making the playoffs before stunning everyone in 2009-10. With the NHL now controlling the team after a bankruptcy procedure, new coach Dave Tippett -- a last-minute hire after Gretzky left -- led the Coyotes to a stunning 107-point finish and fourth place in the West. Not even a Game 7 loss to Detroit in the first round could dampen spirits in the desert.

With Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski and Vezina Trophy finalist Ilya Bryzgalov, plus an emerging core of young talent, the Coyotes appear ready to build on the best season in franchise history and win a playoff series for the first time since 1987.

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