Don't forget about the Phoenix Coyotes

Everyone is focused on Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose and
Buffalo (and some others of course) but unfortunately the only coverage
the Phoenix Coyotes are getting this year generally have to do with the
situation surrounding their ownership issues.

Yet the Coyotes are a
team that has maintained a high level of play all season, have a great
shot at being successful in the playoffs and barring a historic collapse
will finish with the best regular season in team history, and the best
since Winnipeg’s 43-win season in 1985.

The Coyotes sit 4th in the
West and most likely will not finish any higher unless they find a way
to overcome San Jose for first in the Pacific.

With a win tonight, the Coyotes will have the best regular season in franchise history, starting to put the finishing touches on one of the more remarkable turnarounds a team
has had from one season to the next.

Dave Tippett has instilled a
sense of professionalism and pride in a team that has been lost for far
too many years. I understand the hope was that Wayne Gretzky would have
been able to do the same, but he’s just another example that not every
former great player can translate their skill into coaching.

the beginning of the season some — including myself — believed that
the Coyotes were winning based on the exceptional play of Ilya
Bryzgalov. Yet if you watch them play you see that it’s not just great
goaltending that’s leading the Coyotes, it’s the fact that this is a
team that truly plays as a team. Every player buys into the
system and what their role is and it translates into the product on the

This is a team that can be very dangerous in the playoffs,
and will be one that no one wants to face in the postseason. Their
confidence in the system and in each other will be extremely valuable,
and Tippett’s defensive style will frustrate any team that relies on
it’s offense to win games. He’s brought some old-school approaches to
Phoenix and it’s causing nothing but trouble for their opponents.

aren’t without their flaws, however. The Coyotes struggle to score
goals, which led to the number of moves they made at the trade deadline.
The power play is the worst in the NHL, and the team is hoping that
Mathieu Schneider can help cure some of their extra-man woes. And while
their winning has started to bring fans back, you can’t exactly say that
Phoenix has home-ice advantage at this point.

Just making it out of the first round of the playoffs will be a
heck of an accomplishment and something the Coyotes have never done
since moving to Phoenix.

The disparity between what’s happening on
ice and what’s happening off ice with the Coyotes is jarring, but under
Tippett’s steady approach the team is much more calm and reliable than
their ownership situation. And it couldn’t have come at a better time;
the NHL is strictly against moving the team if at all possible and with
the Coyotes winning again — and if they continue to win in the playoffs
— then it will become much tougher to do so in the near future.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”