The Phoenix Coyotes experienced a roller coaster of a week. They defeated their arch rival Kings, they lost to the lowly Sabres and beat the best team in the East, in that order. After spending as much of the last 10 days in southern California as I have in Arizona, this week's musings will be a combination of outdoor hockey thoughts and Coyotes coverage.
Before the NHL heads into the final week before the Olympic break, here are a few tidbits and notes from the week that was in Coyotes hockey and outdoor hockey in LA:
- My LA experience was wonderful. Even beyond the novelty that outdoor hockey in LA brings, the atmosphere and performance put on by the NHL was top-notch.
- Speaking of outdoor hockey out West, after seeing the successful proceedings in Los Angeles, I am fairly convinced Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area can host a Stadium Series game.
- The Coyotes' ownership group remains committed and eager to bring an outdoor game to the Valley and have pounced on the opportunity that next year's Super Bowl brings. The influx of tens-of-thousands of sports fans to the Valley, with money to spend, is very promising.
- The Challenge is obvious -- can Arizona fill a 50,000+ seat stadium for hockey? With the right build-up and the right opponent, yes they can.
- I believe the Chicago Blackhawks would be the best choice of opponents for an Arizona outdoor game. It makes the most sense financially and is the safest option for the NHL. When the Blackhawks are in town, the Coyotes sell-out. With both the 'Hawks and Super Bowl in town, filling Chase Field should not be too worrisome.
- Connor Murphy's second chance in the NHL should prove to be a successful one as he will be playing easier minutes than the ones he saw with Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier this season.
- Murphy appears well on his way to a successful NHL career. He is a smart player who has all the tools of a top-4 defenseman. He needs to add a little size, however, as he is on his back far too often.
- Antoine Vermette has really blossomed this season. For a guy who was thought of as a 3rd line C/W combo when he arrived in Phoenix, he has rounded his game out and become a solid top-6 forward. He is undoubtedly the team's MVP.
- Don Maloney told fans at Saturday's town hall meeting he is unwilling to sacrifice the future (top picks and prospects) for immediate, temporary help. While some fans may not be happy with that statement, I think it a very wise, long-term approach. GMDM has drafted well and Ray Edwards and his Pirates staff have developed players well in recent years, no need to mortgage the future for temporary success.
- The official announcement of the inevitable name change to the "Arizona Coyotes" has sparked debate over whether it's a good change or not. I think the change is smart and having the name "Arizona" on merchandise should help sales in the rest of the state.