Ask The Coach: Is Phoenix the feel good story of the year?

Welcome to the debut edition of Ask the Coach. This segment on Coincidental Minors will allow our readers to interact with Staff Writer and minor hockey coach/board member Danny Amodeo. Feel free to ask any NHL-related or hockey fundamental questions via Twitter @DannyP29, and he will answer as many as possible.

(BridgetDS/Flickr)

This week’s question comes from Twitter user @_D0M3STIC, who asks: “Is Phoenix the feel good story of the year? Franchise in turmoil, yet they are going strong in the playoffs and filling the arena!”

@_D0M3STIC, that’s a very good question. The Phoenix Coyotes are definitely a feel good story in the NHL this year. Despite the entire season, having to deal with rumours about the stability of the organization in Phoenix, the Coyotes performed on the ice, ending up by finishing third in the Western Conference. The Coyotes went into the first round of the playoffs as underdogs against Chicago and were able to upset the Blackhawks, winning the series 4-2.

In the second round, the Coyotes defeated the similarly structured Nashville Predators 4-1 and will now move on to face the equally surprising Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.

In addition to the on ice results, on Monday May 8, NHL Commissioner Gerry Betman announced that a group of investors headed by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison plans to purchase the Coyotes in the near future. This makes the Coyotes a leading contender for feel good story of the year, however, in my opinion, a few factors work against the Yotes in this case.

The Coyotes lost approximately $20 million this year, and despite their home attendance increasing in the playoffs and a new owner on the horizon, making the Coyotes work in Phoenix for the long term doesn’t seem possible. Yes, the attendance has increased in the playoffs, but once again the Coyotes had a difficult time filling the building in the regular season, which lead to considerable financial losses. The fans come when the Yotes are winning or competing in the playoffs, but the very easily trail off. The cloud that hangs over the Coyotes due to their financial problems and shaky fan base always will remain ahead of the Coyotes on ice play in discussion, which is a shame for the players on the team who work hard and deserve proper credit. The feel good story of the playoffs? Maybe. But the entire season? Not so much.

For me, the feel good story of the year has to be the return of Canada’s beloved Winnipeg Jets.

(BMusik1/Flickr)

With the Jets flying again, they have provided Canada with its seventh active NHL team and given the province of Manitoba a shot of life and pride. Coincidentally, Winnipeg lost its previous team, the 1979 Jets, to Phoenix in 1996. With the team back in Winnipeg, the league has seen success and devotion from the city and the fans, as it was one of the leaders in home attendance this season (though it also has one of the smallest arenas in the league). In addition, the cult-like following of the Jets and the crazy fan base in Winnipeg has made the organization a hot topic of discussion this year. Everyone in the hockey world views this season as proof that hockey in Winnipeg is very possible in the long term, and this organization, lead by the passionate people at True North, is something that fans can attach themselves to as the Jets continue to fly.

The success of the Jets financially has also given hope to several other locations in Canada that are looking to add an NHL team soon. There has been talk of a second team in Toronto, a team in Hamilton, Newmarket, Saskatoon, Sask., and Quebec, though many are just speculation.

In addition to the aforementioned financial success that the Jets experienced this season, the team also played meaningful hockey as well, fighting for a playoff spot essentially until the last few games of the season. The Jets story has been truly remarkable and a bright future certainly lies ahead for the young and energetic club, which is why I think the Jets take the cake for the feel good story of the year.

While we’ve covered both the Jets and Coyotes, another feel good story has emerged in the NHL postseason.

As the New Jersey Devils defeated the highly favoured Philadelphia Flyers and will now head to the Eastern Conference Final, 40-year-old goaltending legend Martin Brodeur will get another shot at another Stanley Cup Ring.

Brodeur did not have an amazing regular season, with a .909 save percentage, a 2.41 goal against average and a 31-21-4 record in an injury pledged season. However, the vetern netminder has of late looked like the Brodeur of old, sporting a 8-3-1 record with a .920 save percentage and a 2.05 goals against average in the playoffs thus far.

The future Hall of Famer is leading the Devils on a remarkable run that has surprised many. If Brodeur is able to win the cup at 40 and continue playing at the high caliber that he has been playing at in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, it would be a remarkable end to an amazing career. Regardless of what happens, he will go down as the greatest goalie of all time.

All in all, there have been a few exceptional feel good stories this year, and the Coyotes may be one of them, but I give the final nod to the Jets.

– Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer

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