Upper Body Injury… with the Phoenix Coyotes

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It’s the 2nd installment of our wildly popular Question and Answer series, “Upper Body Injury…” After tackling the Q’s and the A’s with Jay over at Low on Oil… this week The Royal Half takes on Jenna over at Hipchecks, a Phoenix Coyotes blog. Now, I’m sure when the season started, EVERYONE predicted that the Coyotes and Kings would be battling it out for 2nd in the Pacific come Christmas time… well, they were wrong. The Kings and Coyotes are battling for 1st, as both teams are within striking distance of the San Jose Sharks. Jenna has been blogging about the Coyotes since December of 2007… which in the terms of a nerd hockey blogger makes her an elder statesman. She’s a transplanted midwesterner who loves the game of hockey… especially when being played in the middle of a desert. To see what this Desert Dog fan thinks of Wayne Gretzky’s tenure as Coyotes coach or how she deals with the serious fact that her favorite team may relocate any day now…check it out after the jump!

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1) So what the heck is the difference this year from last? Is there one thing you can point out that has enabled these Coyotes to be one of the best teams in the West this year after being one of the worst last year?
There are several differences. I think two of the biggest changes are there is an actual system and we are not dependent on kids. The coaching staff has a plan and is sticking to it. They aren’t juggling lines every five seconds and are keeping together what works. They also are noticing what doesn’t work and fixing it in practices. The other major change is we brought in veterans and sent the youngsters to the AHL. I think it was a lot to ask of Tiki, Boeds and Turris to carry the team last season. This off season Maloney brought in cheap, but effective leadership, especially on the blue line. Adding Vandermeer and Aucoin has really strengthened the blue line. We proved to have a solid defense in place when we lost Jovo, Sauer and Z and it wasn’t the end of the world (last season that would have spelled disaster!) And getting Fiddy has really helped with the PK and winning must needed face-offs. They may not be big names, but they can contribute and work hard every night.

2) What are a fans thoughts on the Gretzky era in Phoenix? Is there any correlation between the team doing well after he ended his time with the franchise?

I think the majority of fans were happy when Gretzky resigned. Gretzky was a great player and could have done much for the Coyotes had he chosen a different role. Instead, he gave a hand at coaching. Any other coach would have been let go long before. There seemed to be no actual system in place under Gretzky, unless you count line juggling and dump-n-chase as systems. I think Gretzky could have been a great ambassador of the sport. He could have been the Mario Lemieux to the Coyotes. Instead, he tried coaching and wasn’t able to see that he was not a great coach. Or he saw it and his ego got in the way. Either way the old saying is true, Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

3) Is this Coyotes team built to last? How does the future look for the core of this team?

The future of the Coyotes is very bright. We have a lot of talented youngsters who are a year or two away from the NHL. We also have a lot of draft picks, thanks to the wheeling and dealing of Don Maloney. We are getting a solid group of vets in Phoenix, resigning them will come down to the new owners. Hopefully they are better than the last owner who didn’t want to spend money on players (don’t ask how you are supposed to build a team without spending money on players, that is why we were so horrible for awhile). Then there is Don Maloney. He is always looking to get something for nothing. Some examples? Trading Carcillo to Philly for Upshall and a pick. At the trade deadline, he dealt away most of the upcoming free agents he knew he wouldn’t be able to sign, such as Telqvist and Morris. We got a solid player in Prucha for Morris (plus some others that I don’t really remember at the moment and am too lazy to go look up). He also got rid of the cancer Jokinen and got us Lombo. Overall, he has made some great trades; he is not a stupid man.

4) I’ve been to Phoenix a few times and people I’ve met there told me that Glendale was the wrong part of the city to build an arena in… that it should have been built closer to where the fan base lives in Scottsdale. Is this true?

It may be true but Scottsdale voted no to having the Coyotes there. They made that decision themselves. The Coyotes needed to get out of the Suns arena, as they were getting hosed by the then owner of the Suns for rent. Since Scottsdale said no, Glendale jumped at the chance. The West side was (and still is) the fastest growing area of the Valley. Glendale has Cardinals stadium and two baseball spring training stadiums (I can’t recall which teams). In my opinion, people need to get over it. Scottsdale had their chance and didn’t want the Coyotes. It is what it is, can’t change it now.  Pretty much all the fans I know live somewhere in the West Valley. The few I do know in the East Valley go to all the weekend games. They buy partial plans for the weekend games.
People also like to exaggerate how long it takes to get to the games. I remember someone telling me it takes them 2 hours to get to the arena from downtown Phoenix. I called them on it. I work downtown and it takes me maybe 45 minutes, even when the 10 is down to two lanes. People in Phoenix are lazy when it comes to driving; anything more then 10 minutes is just too much for them! It’s like they think they live in a small town. Have they never been to another large city? I can tell you that not every Wild fan lives in Minneapolis. They all come in from the suburbs, which at rush hour can take a long time to get downtown. Same goes for Chicago. I’ve never been in LA at rush hour, but I am sure it’s similar. [Editor Note: Yes, getting to a 7:30pm game at Staples Center can be a tremendous pain in the ass.]  At Westgate, we don’t pay for parking and have one of the best arenas in the NHL. Just get over yourself and make it out to a game already. Stop making stupid, lame excuses!

5) I think for the first time in a while, an NHL franchise is in serious danger of being relocated. How does this change your approach as a fan of the team and what would you do without hockey in the desert?

I go to every game I can. I go to every event I can. I buy everything I can from a jersey to Coyotes Charity items. If this is the last season my team is here, I am going to make every effort to enjoy it. I am not taking advantage of the fact that they will always be here. I cheer my heart out at every game. I go to warm-ups; I go to practices when I can. I really don’t do anything different but make sure that I enjoy the games. I think I appreciate them more then in years past.
I know others have said if the team moves, they will move too but that is not really something that is feasible for me. I would just have to suck it up and get Center Ice and make road trips to California to see Flyers (my first hockey love) games. I don’t know if I would be a Coyotes fan if they moved. It would be difficult to watch other people enjoying the team I watched come together, that I stuck with through thick and thin. It would be horrible to watch them go to the finals in another city after suffering through those horrible Moyes’ years.
UPDATE: You can check out my answers to Jenna’s questions over here.
The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season Ticket Holder since 2002. He has seen the following goaltenders play in person for the Los Angeles Kings… Kelly Hrudey, Grant Fuhr, Byron Dafoe, Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin, Cristobal Huet, Roman Cechmanek, Mathieu Garon, Adam Hauser, Jason LaBarbera, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Dan Cloutier, Yutaka Fukufuji, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones.You can follow The Royal Half on Twitter @TheRoyalHalf.