by Mike Chen on 02/17/09 at 05:30 PM ET
Just a little while ago, I spent some blog space talking about how I could watch any game in the Western Conference right now because the races were so tight. Well today, I’m thinking that we’re quickly getting to the write-off point. I’ll give the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche five games to turn it around (“turn it around” = seven out of ten possible points or better).
For Colorado, I don’t think anyone’s that surprised. Suspect goaltending, injuries, a spotty defense, and an overall lack of depth generally amounts to bad news. However, the total collapse of the Coyotes is pretty remarkable. Right before the All-Star Game, the Yotes seemed to have their groove on and had a nice hold on sixth place. Losing half a dozen in a row can quickly destroy any sense of hope. The strange thing is that as Phoenix has gotten healthier, their play has gotten worse. When your top power play unit has Shane Doan, Olli Jokinen, Peter Mueller, Ed Jovanovski, and Derek Morris, it shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as it has been lately.
The NHL Live boys (not sure which members of their now-rotating cast were hosting) were talking about how patience has to be wearing thin with Phoenix regarding their youth movement. I wouldn’t go that far; after all, they’re really only in Year 2 of the rebuild when you look at players like Mueller, Michalek, Turris, Porter, and Yandle. These things take a little time, and whether the team is in Glendale or somewhere else, they should mature together and provide on-ice stability for years to come.
In the meantime, for the Coyotes and every other team that still thinks they have a chance, I’m beginning to think that scoreboard watching becomes an exercise in futility. When there are so many teams creating the separation—and one overtime game can screw everything up—it’s time to stop hoping Team X loses and Team Y wins because ultimately every division is represented equally in the race. That means that everyone’s going to be beating up on everyone, and some teams will surge and some teams will slump, then they’ll reverse. Rather than watch the competition, it’s smarter just to focus on the finish line (90 points according to James Mirtle) and ignore the ruckus surrounding them.
Check back in a week or so. Depending on how Phoenix and Colorado do, things could be a lot less interesting but a little more stable.
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