If one team surprised more than any other last season, it was the Phoenix Coyotes. Mired in an off-ice soap opera fueled by self-righteous Canadian pundits and the ineptitude of the City of Glendale, it's amazing that they were even able to play hockey at an NHL level in that environment.
But not only did they play: they succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams, and certainly beyond the dreams of the fans in the desert. It was, in no uncertain terms, the best year in franchise history from an on-ice perspective, at the Coyotes rallied to a 107 point finish.
Their first round loss to the Detroit Red Wings was certainly a disappoinment, but now, the 'Yotes look to rebound from that loss and learn from last year's experience. Will they be able to make a return trip to the postseason, and will they be able to move beyond the first round?
With help from Travis Hair of Five For Howling, we look at Five Burning Questions surrounding the 2010-11 Phoenix Coyotes.
1. Can the Coyotes repeat last year’s success?
TH: I don’t know that the team will get 107 points again, but the team can certainly come close. They’ve managed to fill most of the weaknesses created by players leaving and improved in a few areas. The squad looks mostly the same so it should work out just fine.
2. Can Kyle Turris finally break into the lineup this year?
TH: He’s still pushing it in camp and if he can beat out Kyle Wellwood he’ll likely center the first line. He’s looked very good in camp and looks like an NHL player physically rather than the kid he looked like back in the 2008 season. IF he wins the spot it’ll be a big year for him.
3. Will Ilya Bryzgalov be as effective as he was last season?
TH: He’s looked great in camp and the preseason and I have yet to see anything that makes it seem as though he’s going to drop off. The defensive system Tippett has in place really helps him a lot.
4. How will the loss of Zbynek Michalek effect the blueline?
TH: He was a big part of the leadership and shutting down the opposition. The team will certainly feel his loss a bit, but his absence creates the ability to bring in some of the youth that’s ready to play. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has looked great in camp and while he may not be Zbynek Michalek (yet) he’s certainly looked great. The team will most likely miss him most early in the season though as OEL grows into that job.
5. Can the Coyotes get out of the first round of the Playoffs?
TH: Yes. Plain and simply. Last season was the first trip to the playoffs in a very long time. They pushed the Red Wings to 7 and will be hungry to get back. The team will be better off for that experience and push through to the second round, beyond that, who knows.
Be sure to read an in-depth preview of the Coyotes over at Five For Howling. SB Nation Arizona has you covered as well.