April 22, 2011
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Drew from the Detroit Red Wings blog Nightmare on Helm Street, fondly recalling the Phoenix Coyotes.)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have gathered here to mourn the Phoenix Coyotes.
Normally, we would be mourning only a team from a specific year - but this time, we may actually be mourning the franchise itself. It wouldn't be the first time that this franchise in particular skated its last game against the mighty Winged Wheel in the postseason. But this day feels quite a bit different compared to that fateful day in April of 1996.
You could almost feel the pain, the angst, the disappointment. A die hard hockey fan base watching its team get bounced from the playoffs. We, as Red Wings fans almost felt bad to do it.
I'm talking, of course, about beating the Winnipeg Jets at home in the playoffs.
Beating the Phoenix Coyotes this year was like laying the smack down against your little sister in a game of hoops.
Sure, the 'Yotes took Detroit to seven games last season -- but we've all had that one game against the sibling where they made it closer than it should have been … mostly due to you taking it lightly and her hitting some lucky shots. You knew it, she knew it. And you had to hear about it from your old man until the weekend after, when you absolutely obliterated her in front of your parents, grandparents, and any neighbor that would be willing to watch or at least slow down as they drove by.
The latter scenario was this year -- the son (the Red Wings) wanting to show the old man that he was the alpha male … and would be coming for the throne soon enough.
And that father figure watching down as we beat the ever loving crap out of his baby girl? Yeah, that's Gary Bettman in this case.
And the fact that the Commissioner wants Phoenix to be successful so desperately, is about the one thing that makes this series satisfying for the Detroit Red Wings. So your little pet project has had 15 years to cultivate in Glendale -- it ain't gonna happen, Gary.
I suppose Bettman, in his infinite wisdom, would like to tell us that moving into 29th place in attendance this year -- as opposed to last year when they were dead last -- is progress. But nobody is buying it.
And that fan apathy is what makes it so hard to hate on Phoenix. If the word came down today that the Coyotes franchise was moving back to Winnipeg (where it belongs), the 30 people that showed up for the "Save the Coyotes" rally would be really upset -- but the rest of Phoenix would go back to their stucco mansions and outdoor malls (that spray you with water so you don't get heat stroke) and think nothing else of it.
Phoenix is all about trying to distract you from the fact that you're in an inhospitable desert -- which is why it's a little puzzling that some of the transplants don't look for shelter inside a nice, cool ice arena.
So if you can't hate the fans (or lack thereof), I suppose you can hate the players.
Shane Doan(notes) was just as big of a bug eyed hack job as ever. His bull in the china shop antics may have impressed the national media coverage teams, but this season will go down as yet another year of mediocrity. Sixty points in a regular season is impressive … if you're a 40-year-old Swedish defenseman.
Oh wait, Nick Lidstrom had 62 points this season? Sorry, Shane.
Ilya Bryzgalov(notes), the one hope that Phoenix had, laid a nice big egg. Everyone knows that when you play Detroit, you better bring your 'A' game. He didn't. Series over. That 0.921 save percentage and sub-2.50 GAA in the regular season doesn't amount to much when you let in goals from the corner when your season is on the line.
Ed Jovanovski(notes) was still trying exert himself as a prickish physical defenseman -- too bad his Boniva just doesn't seem to be doing those bones justice anymore and his one tangible contribution to the series is going all "crime boss" on Darren Helm(notes) after a clean check was called a penalty.
"Jovo Cop" took the rest of the game off, while Franzenstein took his time in the quiet room and came back to play with his face being held together by nuts and bolts.
What else can I say about the 2010-2011 Phoenix Coyotes? They now have their hopes pinned on Keith Yandle(notes) getting a nomination for the Norris Trophy, just for proof (aside from Wikipedia) that they even played a season this year. Who would have thought that a plain vanilla ice hockey team in a desert was NOT the recipe for success?
The 'Yotes end the season with another banner-less season. In fact, I think the only banner hanging in Jobbing.Com Arena is for indoor lacrosse (or something like that).
I wish I could say more. I really do. But this series was over so quickly, we Red Wings fans barely had the time to start fashioning our tin foil into our famous hats.
So I hope that the Phoenix Coyotes enjoy their nice LONG hot summer in Arizona, because next winter might be a little colder than they've become accustomed to...
...I hear it gets that way in Winnipeg.
Read more from Drew on Nightmare on Helm Street,