Reports of the demise of the Phoenix Coyotes remain greatly exaggerated — for now.
Tales that the team was headed to Quebec or Seattle or Oklahoma City, Kansas City or (fill-in-the-blank) City remain pipe dreams of the media and hockey fans in those areas.
Glendale citizens Ken Jones and Joe Cobb, bless their to-the-republic-for-which-it-stands hearts, weren’t able to collect enough 1,800 signatures and prove that everyone hates hockey in Arizona, and the Glendale City Council, for better or worse, really does have the ability to speak for its citizens.
So if Greg Jamison does indeed have the money to purchase this orphaned, yet pretty darn-successful-of-late hockey team — we’re all waiting, Mr. Jamison — the field is now clear for him to do so.
He’s met with GM Don Maloney and talked budgets. He’s stood before the city council and extolled the virtues of youth hockey. He’s told us all about his track record with the Sharks. But now it’s go time. Where are you, sir? A city and Valley that has fought hard to keep a sport alive for you is waiting.
What about the on-ice product, in which the national media reports that the Pacific Division champs and Western Conference finalists are falling apart like a rusted-out Chevy? Ray Whitney is gone. Adrian Aucoin and Taylor Pyatt are gone. And Shane Doan, the captain of the team and face of the franchise, has a list of suitors as long as his hockey stick.
The Coyotes have “replaced” Whitney with Steve Sullivan, a speedy, skilled NHL veteran who was Sidney Crosby’s linemate in Pittsburgh last year. He’s not going to put up the 77 points that Whitney had last season, but he’s not 40 years old and he’s not going to cost $4.5 million a season either ($1.85 million plus incentives). Sullivan gives Maloney more room to add firepower to the forward lines and lock up guys like Mike Smith and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to long-term deals.
But the lynchpin to everything: the fate of the team for next season, and likely the fate of the team period, is Doan.
If he stays with Phoenix, the ownership will be completed (once again, any time now, Mr. Jamison) and Maloney will know how much budget he has to work with. Add two more forwards with 20-goal capability, and a little power play flair, and the Coyotes have a team more than capable of going to the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
That’s pretty good, considering that over the same span, the other three pro teams in town have been to the playoffs a combined four times.
But if Doan leaves — something he doesn’t want, the Coyotes sure don’t want and the new ownership group might not be able to survive from a PR standpoint — what could be a very good off-season for the Coyotes becomes the beginning of the end.
The talk in the Up-Town
By his standards, Justin Upton is having a lousy season. A year after he hit 31 homers, finished fourth in the MVP balloting and led his team to the playoffs, Upton had 35 RBI at the All-Star Break and was striking out at a rate only Mark Reynolds could appreciate.
But is that enough of a reason to trade a 24-year-old you have locked up through 2015 when your team is only four games behind two flawed teams in the National League West?
The buzz is Arizona wants to deal, but I think Kevin Towers is smarter than that. Why trade him now, when he’s slumping and his value isn’t as strong? If this team is in it to win it now, they should go to war with the core of this team and hope that Ian Kennedy’s recent improvement is a sign of a better second half.
Hold the Mayo
The Suns need a shooting guard, Eric Gordon isn’t likely to escape from New Orleans and OJ Mayo is available. Seems like this is going somewhere.
I don’t have a big problem with Mayo at a reasonable price, but the market has been wacky this year. He’s coming off a so-so 40-percent shooting season on a team that had lots of other scoring options and often left him open thanks to double teams. That’s not going to happen in Phoenix, and there’s no Steve Nash to get him to the ball in the right situations. The last thing the Suns need is another shooter who can’t score with a hand in his face.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.