Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Shane Doan is the veteran leader of a relatively unknown Phoenix Coyotes team that is hoping to make some noise in the play-offs.
Shane Doan is the veteran leader of a relatively unknown Phoenix Coyotes team that is hoping to make some noise in the play-offs.

NHL's Coyotes more than a Phoenix mirage

Once again the Phoenix Coyotes and their no-name team have risen from the desert to reach the play-offs.

Another post-season, another death watch for the Phoenix Coyotes. For the third consecutive year, the underdog Coyotes made the play-offs out of the competitive Western Conference. Dave Tippett, the coach, deserves plenty of credit, with a big pat on the back for breakout goalie Mike Smith, who went from a cast-off in Tampa Bay to a hero in Phoenix.

The anonymous winger Radim Vrbata finished on the edge of the top 10 in scoring with 35 goals, while Shane Doan, the captain and power forward, soldiered on as the team's perpetual provider of veteran leadership.

The Coyotes are a blue-collar bunch, one bereft of stars. They have hardly any recognisable players past Doan, and that produces a challenge when a team struggles to stay afloat in the Arizona desert.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a fine young defencemen but no household name. Smith might be nominated for the Vezina Trophy, but he almost played his way out of the league last season.

Martin Hanzal is a physical force down the middle who can hit, skate and score, but he is unlikely to be the focus of any ad campaign.

Ray Whitney is nearly 40 and makes sure the power play remains productive, but if a hockey fan bumped into him on the street, he might be mistaken for a schoolteacher.

You can continue through the player list and marvel at how such a faceless bunch can maximise their production in such a minimalist environment. The efficient Coyotes are anonymous, almost forgotten, a satellite NHL team in an outer orbit of the hockey universe.

Their ability to win, however, keeps them relevant.

They might relocate, but they are not going out like the Atlanta Thrashers, who failed on and off the ice before moving to Winnipeg.

Phoenix's on-ice success continues to be juxtaposed against the hazy backdrop of the team's long-term future in the desert.

In the past two post-seasons, the Coyotes bowed out in the first round against the potent Detroit Red Wings while rumours swirled that the NHL-owned team were, like the Atlanta Flames, on their way out of town to Quebec City, or Hamilton, Ontario; or Seattle, or Portland, or Las Vegas.

The Coyotes were going somewhere, everywhere, anywhere but back to Phoenix. But then they would appear like a desert mirage, a chimera of a hockey team that the NHL desperately wanted to keep in Arizona.

And if you believe the latest reports, the league just might get its way. Greg Jamison, previously a part-owner of the San Jose Sharks, has apparently emerged as a front-runner to purchase the team and keep them in Phoenix.

Finally, an oasis? Or just another hallucination? Maybe it will become clear by the time next year's post-season rolls around.



twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament was kicking off at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with plenty of excitement in store. Ravindranath K / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

The first match in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, was held at Zayed Cricket Stadium amid plenty of colour.

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike qualifies Al Jazira for last 16 of Asian Champions League

A dramatic late goal gave Al Jazira a 3-2 victory at Al Rayyan of Qatar in the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night and it was just enough to push Walter Zenga’s side into the knockout stages.

 Zayed Cricket Stadium had not witnessed so electrcic an atmosphere before Wednesday evening. Pawan Singh / The National

Packed house gathers in Abu Dhabi for Indian Premier League opener

In less than half a day, Zayed Cricket Stadium witnessed the force that is Indian cricket, with the sound drowning out the controversies that have dogged the Twenty20 tournament, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks down after being defeated during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images

Plenty of life still in Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Barcelona coach maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

 Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg at the official press conference following qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1: Toto Wolff says Mercedes have all the right ingredients in place

With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes have so far dominated the first three grands prix going into this weekend’s fourth round in China.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, left, reacts as Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during their English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 16, 2014. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP PHOTO/Andrew YATES

Poyet says ‘I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy’ after Sunderland draw at Manchester City

Sunderland’s survival chances remain slim because now they face Chelsea away at the weekend but manager Gus Poyet insists they are not trying to benefit Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National