Things are wrapping up in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and it's been an exciting couple of weeks. First the spoiling, then the favourites battling back to prove their dominance, then the last minute near elimination surprise comeback and the conclusions remain more or less true to what was predicted.
The big surprise has definitely been the Phoenix Coyotes, the little organization that could. They almost couldn't a year ago, and that was with the coaching and support of the Great One, the one and only Wayne. Most of the critics explained the pitiful performance of this team by the fact that they were young, inexperienced and often made rookie mistakes because, they were, well, rookies. Other people would explain this through the old those who can do, can do and those who cannot, well, teach. Maybe the Great One was just too great to know how to transfer his natural skills to anyone else. It's like that brilliant math teacher that you have in high school who can out-formula the best of them but doesn't know how to write it out for simpletons like you.
And it could be that all the things going on outside of the locker room were also a factor in the poor play on the ice. There were financial difficulties, management problems, that crazy deal with the jobing.com arena and very poor game attendance could not have gone unnoticed by the team. For all the silly things that they say in interviews, players aren't stupid people and they know when things on the outside aren't going well.
It's incredible to think that despite all of these difficulties, the near-bankruptcy and the bitch fight between Balsillie and Bettman, that this team has managed to pull itself together to put on a real fight against THE Detroit.
This story had all the makings of a great Hollywood film. Dirty laundry got aired in a very public way, with details of a possible betting scandal with the Great One's wife, talks about conflict with him and the rest of the management, details about bonuses and trade talks and rumours and secret meetings with perspective buyers before filing for bankruptcy, and any number of imagined things also occurring. One could imagine jerseys being printed for the Hamilton Coyotes or Balsillie plotting to turn off the Blackberries of his enemies or using them to send Bettman subliminal messages.
Then the good things started to happen and the dust started to settle. Bettman won a decisive battle over Balsillie, who will be back one day, and the NHL settled things, albeit on a provisional basis with the city of Phoenix and the banks. The Great One also made a quiet exit from this mess. The acquisition of Shane Doan has been a positive factor for this team as well, but it alone doesn't explain how a team pulls itself out of the obscurity and the mud to become a real challenger. Could it be that this is a team defined by adversity? If so, they're an incredible force to reckon with and a victory over the Red Wings would make them the Cinderella story of the year.