Welcome to another weekly edition of Conference Call Tuesday, where we collaborate with the people who know our Western Conference counterparts best: their own die-hard fans, to talk shop and look ahead to the 2014-15 season.
This week, we look at a team that was just outside the Wild Card race come season’s end, and has had many changes, including new ownership, in the last 12 months: the Arizona (formerly Phoenix) Coyotes.
The Coyotes began the 2013-14 season under new ownership, with the club guaranteed to stay in the desert for five more seasons. Their roster remained largely unchanged from the group that brought them three straight playoff appearances, before the team failed to make the post-season in the shortened 2013 year.
Mike Ribero was brought on-board, and Brandon Yip was the ‘Yotes other off-season aquisition. The Coyotes opted to re-sign existing players, including Mike Smith, Lauri Korpikoski, and Mikkel Boedker.
The Coyotes had a brilliant start to the campaign, with 9 wins in the month of October, a franchise record. The Coyotes slowed off their torrid pace as the season wore on, however, and the Coyotes couldn’t seem to muster the same results they got at the Jobing.com Arena, while they were away. Their 22-14-5 home record was blemished by their 15-16-10 record on the road.
The ‘Yotes were very much in the Wild Card race when the month of April came, but seven straight losses put them out of contention for the second straight year. The Coyotes salvaged their losing streak with a win in their final game, a 2-1 decision over the Dallas Stars, which two weeks before, was looking to be one of the biggest tilts of the year, as far as playoff implications go.
The Coyotes made a splash early in the off-season, picking up forward Sam Gagner from the Tampa Bay Lightning, just minutes after the Bolts acquired the pivot from the Edmonton Oilers in a salary dump situation. Like one year ago, the Coyotes didn’t make many moves over the summer months, and in fact, lost more than they gained: Radim Vrbata is off to Vancouver as a free-agent signing, and the ‘Yotes bought out Mike Ribero’s contract after one year.