May 23, 2012, 1:06 AM EST
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.
- With worst save percentage in NHL, Oilers fire goalie coach 16
- Pat Quinn, ‘one of hockey’s most respected individuals,’ has died 11
- NHL on NBCSN: Bruins seek perfect game vs. Penguins 5
- Legendary hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov has died 14
- Canucks’ Hamhuis placed on IR 3
- Firing Dallas Eakins ‘would be so unfair,’ says Taylor Hall 31
- ‘It sucks for us, it sucks for the fans’: Oilers losing skid hits six games 17
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ 99
- ‘We did not want to disrespect our fans’: Leafs salute supporters after beating Red Wings 5
- Video: Demers sends Stoll flying with massive open-ice hit 8
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ (99)
- Prout drops Lucic: ‘As far as I was concerned we were engaged in a fight’ (88)
- The Leafs didn’t salute their fans last night, so that’s a thing now (78)
- Jack Johnson filed for bankruptcy, parents allegedly took advantage of him (58)
- Wild put Harding on waivers (Updated) (52)