As the old saying goes, win or go home but for the Phoenix Coyotes it could be win or go north. News of the franchise's possible relocation north of the border to Winnipeg have surrounded the team for most of the season and now the Coyotes might have another reason to win, besides hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The Coyotes came to the Phoenix area in 1996, after the Winnipeg Jets were forced to relocate due to financial trouble. The Jets were the second smallest market in the NHL and after the smallest market, the Quebec Nordiques, moved to Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche, it was only a matter of time before the Jets would suffer the same fate.
The move to Glendale, Arizona came with mixed reactions. Jets fans, to this day despise the Coyotes and want a team back in their city and they might be on their way to getting their wish.
The league, who currently owns the team, has recently admitted that Winnipeg is the top choice if the Coyotes need to be relocated. The Coyotes have been been in financial trouble for quite some time, having borrowed money from the NHL last season and failing to turn a profit in their 15 year history. The franchise has lost an estimated $30 million a year and is now currently worth just under $200 million.
Now the Coyotes have a chance to write their own story. There is only one way that the players and staff will be able have a say at staying in Phoenix and it will take something they haven't been able to do and that is win playoff games.
Fans come out to see a winner, no matter what city and it will take plenty of winning to get the fans out of the desert heat and into the rink. If they can put together a good playoff run this year, it could draw a lot attention to the team, which could only help boost revenues. We're not saying they have to win the Stanley Cup, though they were our pick from the Western Conference when the season began, they just need to get passed the opening round and see what happens from there.
Last season the Coyotes clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2001-02 season, while reaching the 100 point mark for the first time in franchise history. But with all the success in the regular season, the Coyotes came up short in the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Detroit Red Wings four games to three. The franchise hasn't advanced out of the first round since 1987.
It's just about a year later and the Coyotes are back in the same scenario – the opening round against the Red Wings. The Coyotes finished the regular season with 99 points, which was good enough to earn them the sixth seed. They already trail the series 1-0, after losing 4-2 in Detroit on Wednesday night, in a game where they scored the opening goal, before giving up four straight which eventually was insurmountable.
If the Coyotes want to win the series, they will have to rely heavily on their goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov had another brilliant season, posting a 2.48 goals-against average to go along with his 36 wins. The defense in front of him is full of veteran leadership with Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucoin and Derek Morris. Their biggest problem is their offense. Once again they will rely on their captain Shane Doan, the only remaining Winnipeg Jet to lead the team with his ability to score. He finished second on the team this season in scoring with 20 goals and 40 assists. Hardly impressive numbers for a team's second biggest threat. Many of the other offensive threats have managed to stay under the radar putting up average numbers over the course of the season.
Now with the playoffs in full swing, it is time to see how the story plays itself out. No one really knows which city the Coyotes will call home in the next few years but if they can find a way to build a winning tradition, it might be Glendale.