29 Phoenix Coyotes Managing partner Wayne Gretzky is the only star left in this rebuilding franchise

October 12, 2003

This year's Coyotes are being marketed as A NEW BREED, with
redesigned brick-red retro uniforms, a new coyote mascot that
looks more wild than Wile E. and a sparkling suburban arena
scheduled to open for hockey on Dec. 27. Alterations in the team
itself, though, have left it with little bite. Last season's big
free-agent acquisition, right wing Tony Amonte, was dealt to the
Flyers at the March trade deadline. Then in the off-season
defenseman and captain Teppo Numminen was shipped to the Stars in
a three-way deal. The Coyotes also moved Danny Markov, one of
their top four blueliners, to the Hurricanes. In each transaction
Phoenix got younger, less expensive players in return. The team's
best player, 36-year-old goalie Sean Burke, is also trade bait
and may never play a home game at the new arena if Phoenix starts
the season slowly. The franchise's most recognizable face,
managing partner Wayne Gretzky, has even heard grumblings from
the local media about how rarely he attends games. The largely
anonymous roster has led many prognosticators, including SI, to
pick Phoenix to finish last in the powerful Western Conference.
"That's irrelevant," says general manager Mike Barnett. "The only
thing that matters to us is what we do on the ice."

If Phoenix is to stay out of the cellar, one of its young
forwards must develop into a star. The best candidate is
24-year-old left wing Ladislav Nagy, who the coaching staff
believes can be a 40-goal scorer. "He can take it as far as he
wants to," says coach Bob Francis. "He has elite skills." In his
four years in the NHL, however, Nagy has never scored more than
23 goals in a season.

The Coyotes also need a healthy season from the injury-plagued
Burke. Phoenix lost just six of the 22 games he appeared in in
2002-03, but Burke missed the majority of the year with a right
knee sprain, a sprained left ankle and a groin ailment. The
defense is big (average size 6'3" and 215 pounds) but green and
will struggle. So will the Coyotes, no matter what they are
wearing. --P.M.

COLOR PHOTO
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (KOLANOS) KRYS KOLANOS

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 29
DEFENSE 29
GOALTENDING 13
POWER PLAY 26
PENALTY KILLING 26
G.M. AND COACH 22

INSIDER

The Coyotes have some talent, such as F's Ladislav Nagy, Daymond
Langkow, Shane Doan, Mike Johnson and Krys Kolanos, but no
impact players, something they sorely need.... G.M. Mike
Barnett has made Phoenix more pugnacious with the acquisitions
of tough guys Cale Hulse and Tyson Nash.... If brittle G Sean
Burke cannot play at least 65 games, the Coyotes have no chance
to even be competitive.... The defense is young and talented
but mistake-prone.

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)