9 PHOENIX COYOTES EXPECT THE FIRST SUCCESS SINCE THE REAGAN AND ZIEGLER YEARS

October 05, 1997

The last time this franchise won a playoff series Ronald Reagan
was president of the U.S., John Ziegler was president of the
NHL, and you didn't know anybody with a laptop computer. After
10 years of playoff failure, the Coyotes (until 1996-97 they
were the Winnipeg Jets) must play into May if they are to shed
their reputation as inconsequential. "We were good enough to be
in the final eight last year," says Phoenix general manager
Bobby Smith, whose Coyotes were nonetheless bounced in the
opening round by the Mighty Ducks. "This franchise needs playoff
success."

To that end, Phoenix signed free-agent power forward Rick
Tocchet, who has skated many hard miles in his 13-year career
but who should fit in nicely on the first or second line, where
the Coyotes have unquestioned talent. Last season left wing
Keith Tkachuk became the fourth player to lead the league in
goals (52) while getting more than 200 penalty minutes. New
coach Jim Schoenfeld, however, prefers that Tkachuk, who was
suspended last week after refusing to play in preseason games
because he wants his contract renegotiated, spend more time
menacing goalies on the ice than in quiet contemplation in the
penalty box. Before Tkachuk's suspension he was lobbying to
again play with Craig Janney, the slick passing but soft center,
instead of Jeremy Roenick, who will be moved back to the middle
after spending much of last season on the wing.

Like the prototypical freewheeling Western Conference team that
the Coyotes are, Phoenix has only a smattering of talent on
defense. It includes goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, underappreciated
defenseman Teppo Numminen and 21-year-old Oleg Tverdovsky, a
restricted free agent who, as of Monday, had not signed a new
contract. He's one of perhaps 10 NHL defensemen capable of
breaking a neutral-zone trap with his dazzling skating. But too
much may be expected of journeymen defensemen Gerald Diduck and
Murray Baron, who actually may be as inept as he appeared last
season.

If the Coyotes are to be more than early-round playoff fodder,
they must give more ice time to--in hopes of getting more
production from--a stockpile of gilt-edged 21-and-under
prospects: right wing Shane Doan, center Chad Kilger and
defensemen Deron Quint and Jason Doig.

The Coyotes aren't ready to drink from the Cup, but they can
toss back a few beers with the big boys.

--M.F.

COLOR PHOTO: RICK STEWART/ALLSPORT [Wayne Gretzky] COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Eric Lindros]

NHL 'S BEST

PASSER

1. Wayne Gretzky, Rangers
2. Adam Oates, Capitals
3. Paul Kariya, Mighty Ducks

POWER FORWARD

1. Eric Lindros, Flyers
2. Keith Tkachuk, Coyotes
3. Brendan Shanahan, Red Wings

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)