Many fans have looked to the Coyotes' improbable run to the Western Conference Final and Pacific Division Championship as signs that the team will possibly compete in the Stanley Cup Final this year. While the lockout shortened season will allow for a more crapshoot feel than most seasons, recent history has not been kind for teams making consecutive playoff pushes.
For a league that was once ruled by dynasties, the NHL has been a model of parity in the sense of recent champions. You have to go back to the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings for the last time a squad repeated as Stanley Cup champs. The Phoenix Coyotes will be looking to buck the trend with their upcoming season.
Playoff fatigue may seem silly after the players have all offseason to recover, but consider that over the past four seasons since the Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins met in back-to-back finals, only two teams have appeared in the Conference Finals in consecutive seasons - the Chicago Blackhawks (first losing to Detroit and then defeating San Jose en route to their championship) and the San Jose Sharks (twice losing in the Conference Finals). And it's more than just consecutive appearances - of the 16 teams to play in the Conference Finals over that same period, 14 different franchises have been represented. And of the 28 teams to play in the Conference Finals since the last lockout, 19 franchises have made at least one appearance.
Does this have any true predictive power? It's not clear. One thing that is probably true is that the playoff fatigue should not be as big a deal as although the Coyotes played an extra month and a half of hockey at the end of last season, they will be as fresh as anyone after seven months of lockout induced vacation.
Are the Coyotes more akin to the Blackhawks putting the final pieces in place before a successful run, or the Tampa Bay Lightning, fighting unexpectedly to the Conference Finals before a disappointing season saw them watching the playoffs from home. We've already discussed pretty much every aspect of the Coyotes' roster and special teams, so it's almost time to start prognosticating. It's gonna be a whirlwind four months and every injury and bad bounce will be amplified that much more.