VIEW FROM THE TOP: Phoenix Coyotes
As the self-appointed spokesmen/woman of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, we are using the idea of "To the victors go the spoils" quite seriously. What we will do between now and the night the Stanley Cup banner is raised in the United Center is point out the shortcomings of all the teams that won't have four crisp new banners in their rafters. We continue this series with the Phoenix Coyotes.
This summer, Renaissance Sports & Entertainment bought the Phoenix Coyotes for $170 million, which is great until you realize they only had $45 million of their own money to put up. The rest of the purchase price and operating capital comes in the forms of a $120 million loan from Fortress Investment Group, and an $85 million loan from the NHL. It took the NHL 3 years to sell the Coyotes. Man, nobody wants to buy a hockey team...wait, the Devils sold in a matter of weeks for over $300 million? Oh, never mind.
The Phoenix Coyotes are not owned by the NHL for the first time in years. Coyotes fans (and we've been listening, believe me. There aren't that many, so it's easy to pick out individual voices) have long held that if they got stable ownership and a playoff team, Jobing.com Arena will fill up. Their stable ownership...while it's nice that their marketing slogan is "Here To Stay!", they have an out clause in their deal with the City of Glendale and the NHL that kicks in if they lose $50 million in 5 years. According to Wirtz family accountants, the Chicago Blackhawks are awash in red ink. So...
Playoff team? Let's have a look...
The Coyotes' big free agent signing was Mike Ribeiro from Washington. He's coming off his first season since 2007-08 in which he averaged over a point a game. Which isn't bad, until you realize that 27 of his 49 points came while skating on the Washington Power Play. So unless he managed to smuggle Alexander Ovechkin into the desert in his gear bag, those numbers will take a hit. After spending a year feeding Ovie on the man advantage, he's probably looking to one side and seeing Mikkel Boedker and looking over to the other side and seeing nothing. Then he'll look back behind him and see Shane Doan sucking wind trying to keep up. Not good. This could be a tough year for Captain Christcheck. His modus operandi is to cross check anyone who skates past him while he's trying to defend. But at this point that pretty much includes everyone in the NHL not named John Scott. Last year Doan looked so old on the ice that while he was skating I was expecting an announcer to start reading the side effects of some medication. David Moss has a NTC, which is confusing as hell. Radim Vrbata was never good as a Blackhawk, and last year he finally started to look like Blackhawk Vrbata again.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a pretty good defenseman. Keith Yandle isn't bad either. After that? Yeesh. Derek Morris' defense at this point has been reduced to yelling at opposing players to get off his lawn.
Zbynek Michalek will have his name misspelled often. Morris and Michalek also have NTCs, which is as confusing as the one Moss has.
Mike Smith got a deal for the same number of years, and a few less dollars than Corey Crawford. The Desert Diver managed to parlay one season as a starter into a huge payday. He and the Phoenix fans have something in common - it's put-up-or-shut-up time. And with the guys Smith has in front of him this season, his chances of catching lightning in a bottle again are both slim and none.
Part of the Coyotes' stadium deal involves charging for parking in the same complex where there is also free parking. Missed it by that much.
ARE THEY BETTER THAN THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS?:
Arooooooo, uh, no.