May 23, 2012, 1:06 AM EDT
No doubt about it, the Phoenix Coyotes are probably as bitter – and angry – as any team that got booted out of the playoffs in recent memory. They might even feel a bit like the 2011 San Jose Sharks (the last team to get knocked out of the Western Conference finals in stunning fashion). Chances are, the Coyotes will be unhappy about the Dustin Brown knee-to-knee for a long time; they’ll probably get over the Dustin Penner 4-3 overtime winner much quicker.
Either way, the Kings knocked them out of the WCF with a 4-1 series score.
Once the anger of the loss evaporates and the awkwardness of the handshake line dissipates, the Coyotes might realize that they can still hold their heads high. Let’s rattle off this season’s accomplishments:
- They won their first Pacific Division title.
- Phoenix advanced beyond the first round for the first time since the team moved from Winnipeg.
- It’s also the first conference finals in franchise history.
- The team did all of this amid serious financial troubles.
Yup, it’s a tough defeat for the Coyotes but it doesn’t change the fact that this is their best season ever.
The Coyotes simply ran into the buzz saw known as the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings broke the NHL record for road prowess, deleting home-ice advantage for Phoenix (and the West’s two other highest seeds) in the process. The Kings boast a comparable defensive system, an arguably better goalie and an absolutely superior offensive attack. Overall, they were just too much for the Coyotes to handle.
Who takes the blame?
If you need to blame anyone, perhaps top scorers like Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney. Whitney failed on a few golden opportunities while Vrbata generated just one assist in the series. For most of the season, that combination was one of the most underrated scoring lines in the NHL; perhaps the Kings showed why they flew under the radar.
What will they do about it?
Obviously, the Coyotes’ bigger picture future needs to be resolved. If you’ve followed that story, you know that it might not necessarily happen during this off-season, though.
That’s a huge factor, but with all the uncertainty, let’s move on to questions that will be easier to answer. While the Coyotes’ goalie duo of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera have contracts through 2012-13, the rest of the team is a little less certain. Most specifically, they have a bunch of veteran contracts to settle.
It starts with Shane Doan, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ray Whitney and Daymond Langkow are other aging free agent forwards while Michal Rozsival, Adrian Aucoin and Kurt Sauer rank as older unrestricted defensemen.
The bright side is that they aren’t likely to deal with a lot of players getting raises this summer. The bad news is that they’re unlikely to have much budgetary space to work with.
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million 6
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ 17
- Gettin’ paid: Gardiner inks five-year, $20.25M extension with Leafs 15
- Report: Trottier to join Sabres’ coaching staff 16
- Blues sign former eighth overall pick Mueller 30
- Trotz plans to let Johansson, Kuznetsov, and Burakovsky compete for time at center 43
- Eric Staal has surgery to repair ‘core muscle injury’ 6
- After not seeing ‘eye-to-eye’ with Carlyle, Reimer will compete for No. 1 gig 16
- Two down, one to go: Wings ink Tatar to three-year, $8.25M deal 12
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal 63
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal (63)
- Avs and O’Reilly agree on two-year deal, but questions remain (45)
- Trotz plans to let Johansson, Kuznetsov, and Burakovsky compete for time at center (43)
- New Caps regime plans to keep Ovechkin at RW (for now) (42)
- Rangers and Kreider avoid arbitration, agree on two-year deal (39)