The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Tuesday night and for the first time in four seasons, the Phoenix Coyotes will not be one of the 16 teams playing for the right to call themselves champions.
Coming off a franchise-best season last year in which the team won the Pacific Division and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, the Coyotes had high hopes for this season. Unfortunately, a variety of reasons derailed their season and now they are forced to watch the playoffs instead of playing in them.
What exactly went wrong?
Many things went wrong. The Coyotes remained on the cusp of playoff contention all season but in the end couldn’t quite make it. Here is a look at five reasons why the Coyotes missed the playoffs.
Locked out momentum
Any momentum the Coyotes had after last season’s magical run was lost to the 113-day lockout. The Coyotes were unable to shake off the rust and build chemistry, starting the season 2-4-2.
Free agency bust
The Coyotes attempted to fill the void left by Ray Whitney’s departure by signing Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan. Lombardi only picked up eight points while Sullivan contributed 12. The lack of production contributed to Phoenix falling to 21st in scoring.
Smith not as stellar
The Coyotes were only going to go as far as Mike Smith could take them. Unfortunately, he battled multiple injuries and struggled to play consistently well. He showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season, posting five shut outs and a 2.58 goals-against average, but it wasn’t enough to help the team reach the postseason.
Injury bug bit hard
Smith missed a big chunk of the season with both groin and head injuries, Lombardi was out with a shoulder injury for about a month, David Schlemko missed 16 games with a shoulder injury, Zbynek Michalek and RadimVrbata both missed over 10 games with broken feet, Lauri Korpikoski missed 12 games while Derek Morris and Martin Hanzel each missed nine. Rusty Klesla also missed 10 games. These are all players who could have made a major difference for the Coyotes.
Special teams not special
The Coyotes haven’t had a decent power-play in years and this season was no exception. The Coyotes power-play ranked 25th in the league, converting on just 14.8 percent of their 169 opportunities. The penalty-killing unit, ranked eighth last season, fell to 22nd while giving up 34 power-play goals. Special teams can make or break a game and the Coyotes just weren’t good enough.