How the NHL Lockout Will Affect the Phoenix Coyotes
Sunday marked the beginning of the NHL lockout—the second in eight years.
It is highly unlikely that the season will start on time on Oct. 11. Neither the league nor the NHLPA has committed to face-to-face negotiations to end the labor dispute, and it may be months until there is NHL action.
In an official message released on their webpage, the NHL said the following:
This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.
One of the teams that will be most affected by the lockout is the Phoenix Coyotes.
Even before the lockout, the Coyotes franchise was in turmoil. The team has spent the last three seasons without an owner. Former Sharks CEO, Greg Jamison, was on track to purchase the team and keep them in the desert, but Jamison and the NHL have faced opposition from the city of Glendale, where the Coyotes home rink is located.
Here is how the ‘Yotes will be affected by the NHL lockout.
The Coyotes had their best campaign in franchise history last year, but the faces in the locker room will look tremendously different this season.
Veterans Ray Whitney, Taylor Pyatt, Michal Rozsival and Adrian Aucoin all bolted for new teams in the offseason. Whitney was the team’s leading point getter and Rozsival and Aucoin were big contributors along the blue line.
Forwards David Moss, Nick Johnson and Steve Sullivan were brought in to contribute on offense, while former Coyote Zbynek Michalek was signed to fill the void left by the departure of Aucoin and Rozsival.
The reason the Coyotes were so successful last year is because they had chemistry and flawlessly ran coach Dave Tippett’s system.
With new faces, and players who were with the team last year taking on bigger roles, it will take time to adjust to the new roster.
Due to the lockout, the players will not be able to use the team facilities. When the season does start, the players will be thrown in the fire with no preseason and little practice as a team.
The team has been participating in a series of informal skates in Phoenix, but those are far from being as effective as a Dave Tippett practice or training camp.
The Coyotes will need time to mesh, and the lockout will prevent that from happening, at least right away.
The Clock is Ticking
While the Coyotes’ roster is littered with youth, there are some key players that are aging.
Doan is 35, Derek Morris is 34 (and looking older than that on the ice) and the recently signed Sullivan is 38. All three are past their prime, and if the league were to miss an extended period of time, it would hurt the remainder of their careers.
On top of that, Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon and Mikkel Boedker will all be unrestricted free agents next offseason, with Lauri Korpikoski set to be a restricted free agent.
Oh, and add breakout star goaltender Mike Smith to that list. He has yet to sign an extension with the team and will be a free agent next summer.
The team has already lost players from their Pacific Division championship team, but by next offseason the roster may look completely different.
They need to capitalize on their momentum from last season and get the most out of the names they already have on their roster. The lockout will significantly hurt their chances of doing that.
Alienating the Fan Base
The Phoenix Coyotes, by far, had the worse attendance in the league last year.
According to ESPN.com, the Coyotes filled out only 72.5 percent of Jobing.com Arena last season per home game—nearly 10 percent worse than the next closest team.
Hockey has not thrived in the desert, especially in recent years. The lockout won’t do anything but drive away the fans that the team gained during their spectacular playoff run last season.
This morning Coyotes President and COO Mike Nealy released a letter addressed to the fans of the team, saying (h/t Five for Howling):
The NHL has opted to temporarily “lock out” its players until a new CBA has been negotiated and formally put into place. The Coyotes are hopeful that the duration of the lockout will be brief, and we respectfully ask all our loyal and passionate fans for their patience during this time.
If Jamison hopes to buy the team and make them profitable, the lockout will only make that harder. Casual fans were not quick to get behind a team without an owner, and they will be even less likely to get behind a league that misses games because of the second lockout in a decade.