Oilers vs. Coyotes: A Team vs. the Idea of a Team

You can criticize this article when you can name five current Arizona Coyotes without having to use Google
Zack Kassian, maybe the one Coyote you can easily name on the roster.

I just watched the Edmonton Oilers beat the Arizona Coyotes, and I have a problem.

I am not sure if the Coyotes are real. Is this actually a hockey team that plays in a major professional league, or more the idea of a team?

The Oilers won 8-2. The Coyotes were outshot 35-18. Last night was already the Coyotes’ 20th road game of the season as their schedule is front-loaded with trips away from their new-but-temporary home on the Arizona State University campus. It is being renovated so it can at least be a reasonable facsimile of an NHL arena. With only four home games played, this is a team that hasn’t been in the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena enough to have earned the right to call it theirs.

This is a lineup filled with guys you think you remember playing for other teams, but really you were thinking of someone else. OK, you would know former Oiler Zack Kassian, who got into fight with Klim Kostin near the end of the game. Kostin’s reward? Answering a number of post-game questions from reporters about his fight, and not about the goal or the assist he also had in the game.

I could write “Pavel Betlach,” and right now you’re not sure if he plays for the Coyotes or not.

But, if there’s anything Oilers fans can take away from the bloodletting of a sort-of team on a Wednesday night, it is that they didn’t play down to their opposition. Far too many times, we’ve seen the Oilers keep things too close against teams that are well outside the playoff race. A win over the Chicago Blackhawks went down to the wire. There was a loss to the Buffalo Sabres this season, though a red-hot Eric Comrie in goal did have a say in that one.

It was nice to see a game that should have been a laugher actually turn out to be a laugher. It was a night where the fourth line could play extended minutes and build confidence, with both Derek Ryan and Kostin finding the back of the net.

“I think it was important for us to come out and have a full 60,” said Ryan. “Especially that third period, we were up by a little going into it, and we came out with a mature, professional period where we didn’t let our feet off the gas.”

“We knew they are a work-based team, and we needed to have the mentality that we had to outwork them early,” said two-goal man Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”

The Coyotes have been on the road for more than a month. This was their 14th road game of the trip. So, on top of not having star power in their lineup, they were also dog-tired. We understand that the franchise is in an unusual situation, being evicted from their arena, forced to find a temporary home and then needing to be away from Mullett Arena while work is being done there. But, it gets to the point where the comedy becomes a tragedy.

“I’ve never been on a road trip for 30 days, I can imagine it’s pretty tough,” said Ryan.

So tough, in fact, that you can’t believe it would happen in a professional league.