Through the final days of 2014, we here at Five for Howling have scheduled lists of the Arizona Coyotes' five best stories, moments, games and players of the year. You can find the best stories here, and best moments later today. Since I only wrote the first of these four stories, I will share with you you my picks for all of the categories.
Without further ado, here are my year-end selections:
- While our most popular story of 2014 was the Mike Ribeiro buyout and subsequent fallout, the story I most enjoyed writing was this one. It's about a Coyotes fan who found solace for personal hardship though Coyotes hockey and was lucky enough to win the 50/50 raffle shortly after returning from his wife's funeral. The winnings helped cover the cost.
- The latter half of 2014 did not provide many memorable Coyotes moments, but the first half sure did. My favorite came on Feb. 7 before a 2-0 Coyotes win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The pregame ceremony honoring the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic ice hockey team, and the meet and greet the night prior, was an awesome moment for any American hockey fan. I was not alive to see in the win in person, but that did not make this moment any less special.
- Im going to cheat on this next one because it's my post and I can do what I want. Because the recap did not get posted until 2014, I can justify picking the Coyotes-Oilers game from last New Year's Eve as the game of the year. The back-and-forth affair ended in a spectacular OT goal by Keith Yandle. Go watch the highlights from that game again.
- I considered four players strong candidates for Coyotes player of the year. I will reveal them in reverse order. No. 4 was Shane Doan. He scored 18 goals and 42 points with two games to go in 2014 after returning from a terrible illness. He may not be the 60+-point producer he once was, but he still finds a way to put up respectable numbers.
- No. 3 is Keith Yandle. The leading Coyotes point scorer of 2014 with six goals and 49 points, Yandle's offensive game from the blue line had become a staple of the Coyotes. Does he have his defensive problems? Sure. But coach Dave Tippett uses Yandle in a way that accentuates his positives and allows him to put up point totals comparable with other elite offensive defensemen.
- The runner-up is a young player who got off to a strong start this season but has since cooled off. Mikkel Boedker was Arizona's No. 2 scorer in 2014, posting 17 goals and 46 points. While I would like to see a little more of a shoot-first mentality from the Dane, I believe this season will finally be the year his reaches the 20-goal mark.
- My choice for Coyote of the Year may not be on the team much longer. Antoine Vermette gets the nod for me, with his team-leading 20 goals in 2014. His 45 points overall ranks third on the team, but his ability in the faceoff circle and his strong two-way game makes him a clear choice for this spot.
- This last point is not end of year related, but I think it's important. The Coyotes continue to have a dilemma in net. Mike Smith's contract dictates trying over and over again to somehow find a way to fix what's wrong, while Devan Dubnyk's numbers dictate that the team should play him more often. Long-term financials have to be taken into consideration, but when preaching accountability, one must ice the 18 best skaters and start the best goalie.