Coyotes magical season ends, another off-season with questions begins

Arizona Sports News online

“It is a story that needs to be told.”

That is how forward Mikkel Boedker described the 2011-12 Phoenix Coyotes. And what a story it was.

To name just a few highlights, the season consisted of: Shane Doan getting his first career hat-trick, the team almost goes unbeaten in the month of February, Mike Smith becomes one of the elite goaltenders in the league, Pacific Division champions and reaching the Western Conference finals. Those were just a few bullet points.

“We climbed so many hurdles with the doubt that people had,” said Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith as he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers on Thursday. “Where we finished and what we accomplished this season was beyond expectation. To get where we got with the group of guys we have in here has been a heck of a ride.”

“This group was great and it was so much fun,” added Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “I really can’t explain how much I enjoyed this team and this group.”

So begins the off-season and it wouldn’t be a Coyotes off-season without many questions involved.

Optimism continues to be the word surrounding the ownership situation. A $17 million price tag for management of hockey as set by the city of Glendale seems to be one of the things getting in the way of signing on the dotted line for Greg Jamison and his group. How that and some other details get resolved remains to be seen.

“We are all optimistic that this is going to be resolved, that Greg Jamison and his group are going to own this team,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney expressed. “In a couple weeks we will have a little more clarity and where we are at. It doesn’t have to close by June 20th, we just have to know where we’re going.”

Direction is crucial if this team wants to have continued success and Maloney is hoping that this can all happen sooner rather than later.

“For me personally its about budgets and what I have to work with,” Maloney explained. “Our payroll is in great shape, we can obviously spend but if we need to go lower we can go lower and still maintaing a good product.”

A stable organization is something Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett says will help continue the Coyotes in the right direction.

“It would be nice to go into year end meetings and tell the players that we are stable and lets move forward instead of we will see what happens,” Tippett stated. “Everything you hear right now is positive and I will reiterate it again, when we were playing, the league and our management did an excellent job of not letting it be a distraction.”

Though ownership is the biggest question pertaining to the Coyotes off-season, it is not the only one.

The face of the franchise Shane Doan is now an unrestricted free agent.

“The biggest issue to me is Shane and getting him committed to us,” Maloney explained. “If hypothetically we don’t know the ownership situation and free agency begins in July, I would rather not let Shane get into free agency, I am afraid of what might happen.”

“I really hope it gets done,” said Done about the Coyotes ownership situation. “Not just for me but for the organization that we have the opportunity to add to out group, keep our group and add to it. That’s vital.”

From those comments one would think that Doan see’s himself as part of the Coyotes future going forward which is a good sign coming from someone who’s contract is up.

Mike Smith seemed to come out of no where with his lights-out performances throughout the season and playoffs. He now enters the final year of his contract and it is the hopes of the Coyotes that he can be signed long term.

Despite all the success, scoring and power plays were a problem for the team all season. The team seems to be set with Smith in goal along with great young defenders in Yandle and Ekman-Larsson, but finding front line scorers seems to be the only spot the Coyotes will really look to improve.

After all of these questions of where the organization stands, where important free agents stand and what the team needs to do to get better, the collective bargaining agreement ends in September.

It will be one hurdle after another this summer. But despite all the hurdles, the Coyotes organization feels they have paved the way for continued success and do not plan to stop at a western conference finals appearance.

A born and bred Arizonan, Jared has had great passion for the hometown teams all his life. He now channel's that passion into covering the pro, college and high school teams around the state as a Multimedia Reporter for Sports360AZ.