By Pat Pickens
The National Hockey League’s favourite whipping post is at it again.
Like it or not, the Phoenix Coyotes still exist. Barely.
And, somehow — as they sit on the precipice of disintegration — they’ve somehow come back to life.
It almost seemed as if Greg Jamison’s purchase — which would have secured hockey in the desert for years to come — made the Coyotes complacent. With much of its core returning from its magical Western Conference Finals run, Phoenix started the year a lackluster 2-4-1, while Jamison prepared to finalize his purchase.
Yet, when Jamison missed the City of Glendale’s Jan. 31 deadline, the Coyotes were left in purgatory yet again. Though Jamison proclaimed he’d still make efforts to buy the team, It is believed that the sweetheart deal — in which Glendale would reportedly pay Jamison an average of $15 million per year over 20 years — was off the table.
It’s been said before, but it seems as if the hockey experiment in the desert is about to end. Jamison was supposedly the club’s last-ditch effort for an owner. But if he couldn’t find the funds to buy the club with that agreement, how can he be expected to pay even more?
It’s only a matter of time before Saskatoon, Seattle, Quebec City or some other city, gets a club. Or worse, the team folds outright.
Yet, this doesn’t seem to faze the Coyotes, In fact, not only do they laugh in the face of financial ruin, they seem to dominate on-ice while in turmoil. Phoenix has earned points in five of its last six games — the Coyotes’ only loss came to the still regulation unbeaten Blackhawks.
Phoenix enters its game Monday in Colorado as the Western Conference’s No. 10 seed. The Coyotes are just one point out of eighth spot and two points behind the sixth-placed Nashville Predators.
Consider also that Phoenix is 3-1-1 since Jamison’s deal fell through. How is that possible?
Obviously, Mike Smith’s return helped. The Coyotes starting netminder, who missed four games with a lower-body injury, has pitched two shutouts since returning from his injury.
Perhaps, also, Phoenix has the jailbird mentality. Long-term criminals sometimes struggle to deal with freedom, since prison’s structure fits them. Maybe the Coyotes are only able to find success in turmoil for the similar reason?
Whatever the reason, Phoenix is climbing the ladder. The west better take notice too. If Phoenix can continue to flourish under fear of financial failing, another deep playoff run could be looming.