It won’t be long until we know whether or not the NHL playoffs are a reality or merely a fantasy for the underachieving and underwhelming Arizona Coyotes.
Not too long ago the Coyotes were in a comfortable place regarding earning a playoff berth. Things have changed pretty significantly though, and they are now on the verge of missing the playoffs altogether. What happened?
There are only so many things that management can do with the funds they have to work with to field a competitive team. As it turns out, Antti Raanta and Clayton Keller have fattened their wallets, but Raanta is injury-prone and Keller hasn’t shown much of anything even though he gets “primo” ice time. Phil Kessel has pretty much been invisible too, and when there is a sighting, it’s a fleeting view of him not making any impact at all on his way back to the bench.
Conor Garland, bless his heart, has more drive and “fortitude” than Keller and Kessel combined. That firecracker deserves much more money than he’s getting now, and he’ll certainly get it somewhere. Taylor Hall is another player that has under-performed thus far, and if things continue to go south under the current regime, there’s no chance that he’ll want to be part of a team that’s trending downward as it approaches the playoffs. Hall needs to be surrounded by skillful complementary players, but there’s a dearth of those on the current roster.
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In recent years, Coyotes’ fans normally knew early on that their team wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, but being loyal hockey fans, they traveled hither and yon to the west valley to watch their heroes occasionally win a game but most often lose to some very good and entertaining teams.
This season, however, the reality and the disappointment are pills more difficult to swallow because the Coyotes had, on paper, an experienced and talented team. Good goalkeepers, solid defenders, and a host of goal scorers were finally going to lead us to the promised land. Paper tigers all. As circumstances would have it, the Coyotes have woefully under-performed and took a disheartening turn almost, but not entirely, into oblivion. The playoffs, once a wonderful and achievable possibility, are now pretty remote.
I know that many ‘Yotes fans are clinging to some semblance of hope or faith or both, and I understand those sentiments. Why is it that once-confident Coyotes’ fans looked forward to the games, home or away, believing that the Coyotes would garner two points regardless, but now cringe when they look at the upcoming schedule?
Who are the current team’s leaders on the ice? Where are they? Win or lose, Shane Doan at least gave fans some comfort and sense of pride knowing that the Coyotes’ captain was going to show some leadership and battle to the final whistle.
The Coyotes lack leadership and direction on the ice and off. Consequently they’re a rudderless “middle of the NHL pack,” non-playoff team – again.