for my #5 pick in the West I'm going out on a limb and picking the surprise team in the west:
Who'da thunk that one man could make the kind of difference that Ilya Bryzgalov has made for the Coyotes this season.
For years I'd been wondering why the Ducks hadn't gone with Ilya more until I remembered that J.S. Giguere had somehow managed to parlay one incredible playoff run into a Stanley Cup a few years later behind one of the best defensive pairings of the last 20 years, in Pronger and Niedermayer. And good for him. It's nice to see 17 shots a game and get paid mad scratch along the way.
So when Nieds came out of retirement the Ducks couldn't find room for a goaltender like Bryzgalov, who in my opinion was actually better than Giguere. Well along came the 'Yotes to sweep up the best backup nobody wanted and the rest is history. These days the Coyotes are actually *gasp* respectable.
Shane Doan, believe it or not has become somewhat of a semi valuable fantasy player along with the likes of future superstars Peter Mueller, and when he heals up Martin Hanzal. Who as it turns out might actually be gaining popularity among an otherwise sleepy...lets face it, comatose Phoenix fan base.
In the words of Will Ferrell in Zoolander "That Hanzal is really hot right now"
Life gets to be kinda slow when the mercury is leg humping 120 degrees farenheight for 8 months of the year. And it's hard to drive through the gridlock out to middle of nowhere Glendale to see hockey played on the only existing large sheet of ice for 1000 miles in any direction. I get it. It's desert hockey. Feel the heat!
Despite the natural obstacles the addition of Bryzgalov was nothing short of a boon for the team as it allowed Phoenix's forwards to focus offensively. Wayne Gretzky seems to have rediscovered the hard way that hockey is much easier to play when you have a good goalie and aren't constantly backchecking. Shocker!
The future may be arriving a bit sooner than expected in the Valley of the Sun, and I have to admit, it's kind of exciting, if not still embarrassing every time they beat the Avs this season. I mean they did have the only sweaters I've ever seen which mildly offended an entire culture (that stupid southwestern style hockey coyote) while also being completely crappy.
Look for the Yotes to surprise a few people and make a spirited run into the playoffs...and yeah I never thought I'd be writing that...