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From the editor's desk: loyalty to the Valley

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Arizona is often criticized for not having a passionate fan-base. So why do players keep coming back here?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the August month has dried up most of the NHL's news for the time being. The Arizona Coyotes do not appear to be on the verge of any signings or trades, and there are only so many times you can go over roster projections before you start saying the same things.

Yet it's also in this quiet period that I find myself particularly grateful to be following the Coyotes; for once the more tumultuous offseason storylines this summer have nothing to do with the Desert Dogs or the City of Glendale. It does partially suggest why so many players seem eager to return to the Valley after playing stints in Arizona.

Antoine Vermette returns triumphantly after winning the Stanley Cup; at this juncture, coming back here will definitely allow him to play a ton of top line minutes. Why not live the dream for as long as possible?

Zbynek Michalek's trek back is another intriguing turn of events. After a fruitless playoff run in St. Louis, Michalek's services as a right-handed shot are hardly commonplace in the league. There are plenty of teams still in the mix for a title that would have loved a cheap veteran deal. Yet Michalek also come back to Arizona.

Boyd Gordon is back this year, joining recent Coyotes like Derek Morris and Matthew Lombardi as former Coyotes who made multiple runs in Arizona. And of course, all of these players are second in loyalty to the Valley to Shane Doan, who seems to be in no hurry to go chasing a Stanley Cup somewhere else.

But why? What could make so many different players with varying degrees of success all choose to return to Arizona?

The weather probably helps, but living out of a suitcase for half the year is the norm in the NHL. What seems more likely to me is that Arizona's oft-maligned status as a fair-weather city is actually quite enjoyable for many players.

Look at Evander Kane in Winnipeg, or Phil Kessel in Toronto, or Tyler Seguin in Boston. Life becomes a fishbowl in some of these markets. Everything you door don't do - earns scrutiny, criticism, and second-guessing. It doesn't matter how skilled these players are or how big their contracts are; inviting strangers into every portion of your hockey and non-hockey life has to be exhausting.

So, in this sleepy part of the hockey offseason, shout-out to the sleepy Arizona market. Maligned as the fan-base is, and ridiculous as the off-ice issues are, NHLers just can't seem to get enough of the Valley of the Sun.

Thoughts

  • The schedule makers continue to be kind to the Coyotes, as four of their first six home games will be against Pittsuburgh, Boston, Minnesota, and the New York Rangers, all of whom draw well when they come to town.
  • Looking back on Louis Domingue's departure for Europe, and I see something between a divorce and a separation from the Coyotes. General Manager Don Maloney (at least publicly) doesn't seem that upset about the move overseas.
  • Domingue's 5v5 save percentage last year was 91.38% (albeit with a much smaller sample size), compared to 91.37% for Anders Lindback and 91.21% for Mike Smith.
  • Could Domingue have won the backup job for the Coyotes? Absolutely. But even if he did, he would not be playing nearly as often as he will in Europe.
  • This is exciting:

  • It may not be NCAA level, but expanding opportunities for women to play hockey at a highly competitive level is nothing but good for the sport in Arizona, and around the nation as a whole.
  • Between the Women's Canadian Hockey League and the National Women's Hockey League, the NHL has no excuse to not use its resources and reach to help improve women's hockey participation. It's not just the right thing to do; it's a sound business strategy to expand hockey's audience.
  • We've already received several submissions for our #AskFFH series. Thank you so much for your contributions! And if you still haven't asked a question yet, we want to hear from you too!