It seems like it’s been forever since the Coyotes had that incredible playoff run, which ended on May 22, 2012, in overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
It was a bittersweet way to end what was a magical season for the Coyotes. They won 42 games, they won the Pacific Division, and made it to within seven wins of a Stanley Cup title.
All of that success surely had Coyotes fans hyped for what was to come in the 2012-2013 season, but unfortunately a near four-month labor stoppage brought any and all momentum the Coyotes had to a screeching halt.
Thankfully, all parties involved have worked through their differences, and it looks like the NHL regular season will begin on January 19th.
The board of governors ratified their end of the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday, which leaves the 700-plus players to approve the CBA via electronic vote. The vote is expected to be finished by either Friday or Saturday.
Training camps would then open on Sunday, and following that the regular season.
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett met with members of the media on Thursday to discuss the upcoming regular season.
Naturally, both men are excited to see hockey return to Arizona.
“The beauty of it is to me, the way I look at it is the 10-year deal, we don’t have to talk about this for 10 years,” Maloney said.
Because of the condensed nature of this coming season, teams won’t have nearly as much time to prepare as they’re normally used to.
That’s fine for Maloney, because to him, that ups the excitement factor even more.
“Games are exciting when mistakes are made,” Maloney said. “Now, we’re not a team that hopefully won’t make that many mistakes, but it’ll make for great hockey.”
The Coyotes were fortunate to lock in center Shane Doan for four more years, but the team lost some key cogs from last year in Adrian Aucoin, Michal Rozsival, Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt. Unfortunately losing players is a natural part of the sport, you can’t keep everyone forever. The team was able to bring in forward Steve Sullivan, formerly of the Penguins, to replace Whitney.
“He’s a very similar player, he probably has a little more speed than Ray,” Maloney said when speaking of Sullivan.
Maloney also singled out goalie Mike Smith, who he sees as being “hungrier” than he was last year.
“When I look at it from my seat, I just don’t think there’s a real big learning curve,” Maloney said.
“I like where our team is at,” Tippett said. “I’m sure were just the same as 29 other teams, everybody wants to come out of the gate and do well.”
Tippett said getting that strong start and staying consistent in the way the team plays hockey will determine just how far they advance this season.
Due to the shortness of the upcoming training camp, Tippett said it’ll be more review for the players, with a “few new wrinkles” thrown in there for good measure.
Winning the division last year did wonders for the Coyotes, in ways they never dreamed of. I say that because in this 48-game season, the only opponents the Coyotes will face will be divisional and conference opponents.
Tippett says the team will go into the season with the same mindset as last season, the mindset which won them the division and got them home-ice in the playoffs.
“When you have your division games and your conference games [and] no games outside of it, it just brings that much more importance to it,” Tippett said. “That’s why I think you’re gonna see some great hockey, because it’s gonna be like a mini-playoff series right through.”