Travis Hair, our estimable Five for Howling Coyotes blogger and knower of all things Dog, shares his thoughts on the start of the NHL season:
With the NHL Regular Season starting today, it's as good a time as any to preview the Phoenix Coyotes for SB Nation Arizona. With the Diamondbacks' season over, the Cardinals looking like they're going to implode at any moment and the Suns just getting underway, now is as good a time as any to get on the Coyotes' bandwagon.
Five for Howling has previewed the team elsewhere, but here are the Cliffs' Notes so you can get up to speed with the hometown hockey team.
Ilya Bryzgalov - Last year, he was a Vezina Trophy Candidate and was probably the single biggest reason the Coyotes ended up where they did. He won 42 games for the Coyotes and was second in the league in shutouts. If the Coyotes want to repeat or improve on last year's finish, they'll need him to come up huge again.
Ray Whitney - Brought in though free agency, Whitney is a player that knows how to win. Known as "The Wizard," he's a great puck mover and racks up the assists with regularity. He brings more experience to a team that could still use it. He's won a Stanley Cup before and knows what it takes for a team to make it to the Finals.
Kyle Turris - While he's no longer a "rookie," so to speak, he was rushed onto the big club back in the 2008-09 season. He spend all of last year on the San Antonio Rampage, the Coyotes AHL farm team, bulking up and growing into an NHL player. He made the team out of camp this year and is ready to actually be a player on the team rather than a kid that's a work in progress.
Pressure of Expectations - The Coyotes have been a sub-par team for much of the last decade. Last year, they shattered that mold with a 50-win, 107-point season. All of the sudden, rather than just expecting to be in the basement, somewhere the team can't afford to be, they want even more than a first-round exit in the playoffs. The collective media has made a big deal of not being able to "sneak up on" teams this season, but that's garbage. This is a team that has gotten even better and wants to be better. The fans finally expect some measure of success, though, which this franchise is unaccustomed to. They'll need to put that aside to be successful again.
The Ownership Garbage - Yeah, this ownership thing is still dragging on. The Ice Edge Holdings guys have deferred to the new buyer in town, Matthew Hulsizer, a super rich investor-type out of Chicago. That this thing has been dragged out so long isn't the fault of buyers or the league, but rather the City of Glendale's City Council. If I had to bet, they'll drag it out just a little longer past the November elections, so whatever happens, it doesn't hang around their necks for that. Thanks for playing with the fans so you can get re-elected, guys.