Then there is the Arizona Coyotes. Low event, low excitement, low value for the ticket buyer, and a perennial low finisher in the National Hockey League standings.
Boring? Calling the Coyotes boring does a disservice to tedium. It’s like calling the Stanley Cup a spittoon.
The Big Takeaway
We’re old enough to recall The Mad Trapper Jacques Lemaire, whose New Jersey Devils, and later the Minnesota Wild, put their own success ahead of the good of the game. The Devils won, but left behind a game so bereft of excitement that the rulebook had to be re-written, most specifically to eliminate obstruction and open up the neutral zone.
Now, just as the game is at its fastest, most entertaining place in years, the Arizona Coyotes come along with a plan to slow everything down.
“It is a bit boring,” agreed Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom, “but teams are going to do that to us. We come with a lot of speed, and we have some guys who like to carry the puck in and create some things off the rush.
“They’re a really boring team to play, but we’ve got to find a way to beat that.”
The Coyotes work hard, which might be entertainment enough when you’re spending $20 for a hockey ticket, a hotdog and a beer in the desert. But at Canadian prices, watching the Coyotes roll through your town and squeeze the excitement out of the game like a bartender squeezing a lemon is, quite plainly, a ripoff.
Sure, you say. It was good enough to win last night in Edmonton.
Indeed, the Coyotes ground out a 3-2 overtime win over the Oilers. They won, fair and square, showing more offensive zeal in 2:01 of overtime than they did in 60 minutes of regulation time.
The Coyotes are 9-4-1, off to their best start in years, we assume. It’s hard to recollect any of the Coyotes starts, or finishes, over the years.
But let’s revisit this, ‘Well, it wins,’ theory, shall we? Has nearly a quarter century of stultifying, dead boring hockey ever won anything in Arizona?
Has it even come close?
For 23 seasons, watching the Coyotes has been like reading a philosophy thesis. They wrap the game in a neutral-zone straight jacket, and strangle the entertainment out of the game like 20 pythons. Vice grips on skates, they are. A bank vault from which excitement can never be withdrawn.
“We know Arizona,” Klefbom said. “They just pack it in, and they are standing like a wall on the blue-line. It works against us sometimes, but … it’s so boring to play against. Yeah, not fun.”
They’ve done it this way since they came into the league in 1996 — and do you know how many playoff series the Coyotes have won since then? Two, both in the spring of 2012, under current Oilers coach Dave Tippett.
Yes, they’re 9-4-1 this season. Boring has given the Coyotes a good month, after nearly 25 years of subterranean finishes, but we’ll ask you this:
If boring worked, would Arizona be the NHL’s welfare state, drawing on the league’s revenue sharing program since the day after they left Winnipeg?
If this style sells hockey tickets, then why don’t the Coyotes sell any? Would Arizona’s home attendance rank 27th this season, after being 29th last season?
If this style was a business plan, would the Coyotes have hit double digits in owners since they left Winnipeg for the desert? Honestly, there are ’82 Skodas with fewer owners than this franchise has had.
They’ve missed the playoffs for seven straight years. Made the playoffs four times in 18 years. Nearly two decades of rigor mortis shinny that has produced two victorious playoff rounds since 1996.
Boring? OMG, even their opponents can’t stand it.
“It’s heavy. The battles are hard, there’s not much room out there,” said Darnell Nurse. “It’s not boring, so to speak. But you know you’re not going to get that many opportunities.”
• Oilers defenceman Joel Persson was at fault for the 2-1 goal, making the kind of unforced error that the Coyotes so eagerly feed off of. It wasn’t his first mistake of the night, and he didn’t see another shift after that second-period goal by Carl Soderberg.
“He struggled the whole game, he had a tough night,” Tippett said. “The pace of the game was a little bit much for him to handle tonight so we had to play somebody else in that place. It is a fast-paced game, a hard game. For whatever reason he just didn’t have it tonight.”
“It’s good that we score this goal, and we get a point. Maybe in the end it’s the point we need. I think it’s a good point,” offered the Swiss national. He wasn’t positive the goal was his. “I knew that I touched it. Kass told me he probably touched it too. In the end I didn’t know who was the last guy to touch it. Good for me, and good for him that he gave me that. It’s really good.”
The St. Louis Blues are in town Wednesday, followed by Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils on Friday.