by Mike Chen on 03/02/09 at 05:50 PM ET
(Bonus points if you got the reference in the post title)
Stick a fork in ‘em, they’re done.
We’ve talked for so long about how the Western Conference was filled with a tight race where all 15 teams could make the playoffs. About a week ago, I proposed that if the Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes didn’t get at least seven points in their next five games, they’d be out.
A few losses later, you can count the Western Conference now as the Magnificent 13.
while the Avs and Coyotes could still theoretically put together a huge push and make the eighth spot, the realistic point of view is that both have too many teams to overcome. If they sat respectively in 9th and 10th place with the same deficits, that might be different. The problem with the logjam is that it creates little traction—teams winding alternating winning and losing streaks, and ultimately the shuffle doesn’t shuffle all that much. With a higher emphasis on inter-division play, things become too reliant on scoreboard watching and schedule.
In other words, if you want to leapfrog a half-dozen teams or so, you’re going to need a better strategy.
I don’t think anyone’s too shocked that the Avalanche are starting to fade away. Injuries, poor goaltending, and a transitioning roster all made this essentially a go-between year. However, for the rising Coyotes, it can’t be anything but a disappointment.
Much of that disappointment falls on the shoulders of two guys: Olli Jokinen and Ilya Bryzgalov. Jokinen started off the year strong, then fell into a long slump where he looked out of place and at times disinterested, then finally picked it up when it was too little, too late.
Bryzgalov, who was such a rock for the team after arriving in Phoenix last season, fell prone to long streaks of inconsistency. Perhaps the defense was that much worse after losing Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton in the deal for Jokinen, but one has to be honest when looking at the amount of soft goals Bryzgalov let in.
The good news is you’d rather be out of it right before the trade deadline than after it. Now Colorado and Phoenix can acknowledge their Seller status and max out their tradeable assets. With so few teams actually being in Sell mode—and so many teams believing they could make a playoff dent if they just make it—it’s a good time to be an auctioneer.
For the Coyotes, their wealth of developing young talent (Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris, Kevin Porter, Viktor Tikhonov, etc.) means that they should be better next year. History has shown us that a surge in the 2nd or 3rd pro season is as likely as the cliche of the sophomore slump. These desert dogs are trending upward.
As for the Avalanche, it’s time to finally say goodbye to those glory years and acknowledge that rebuilding could take a few years. Some of the pieces are in place—most notably Paul Stastny—but too many holes remain. With too many big dollars eaten up by over-30 defensemen and no real long-term goaltending solution, it’s not pretty. In the words of U2’s Bono, it’s time to go away and dream it all up again.
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