Coyotes Throw in Towel with Deadline Activity, Send Wrong Message to Squad

Michael JenkinsContributor IIIApril 4, 2013

The Coyotes' Raffi Torres was dealt to San Jose today
The Coyotes' Raffi Torres was dealt to San Jose todayChristian Petersen/Getty Images

Wednesday was going to be an interesting day in Glendale, as the Coyotes front office had a dilemma to figure out. Were they still in the playoff race at noon today, sitting in 12th place but only two points out of the eighth and final playoff position, or were they too far back, having to overcome five teams in front of them to secure a playoff berth?

The answer, according to the team, was pretty obvious based on the deals that they made. Forwards Raffi Torres, Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi were all shipped out to different destinations at the deadline, leaving this team bare in the offensive talent department as they still try to figure out how to qualify for the playoffs.

All three were impending free agents at the end of the season, but the team decided to try and get something for them now rather than wait until the season was over.

Torres was traded to the division rival San Jose Sharks, who were looking to replace some grit when they dealt Ryan Clowe to the New York Rangers. The Coyotes received a third-round draft pick in 2013 in return for the versatile and physical winger. The 31-year-old Torres will be looked at to provide some secondary scoring for the Sharks as they look to jump up from their sixth-place position in the Western Conference standings.

Sullivan was dealt to the New Jersey Devils for a seventh-round pick in 2014. The veteran winger was brought in on a one-year deal with the hopes that he could replace some of the scoring that the departed Ray Whitney took with him to Dallas. That did not happen as Sullivan has struggled this season, only scoring five goals and collecting seven assists in 33 games. The 38-year-old Sullivan will jump into the middle of a playoff race with the Devils, as they sit in the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Lombardi was sent packing to Anaheim, where he will join a Ducks team that sits in second place in the Western Conference. The Coyotes received center Brandon McMillan, a first-round draft pick in 2008 who has split time between Anaheim and the AHL over the past two seasons. Lombardi had missed some games due to injury, but only produced four goals and four assists in 21 games with the 'Yotes. The 31-year-old Lombardi will help the Ducks with their transition game and can be counted on to help on the second power-play unit and penalty-killing situations and provide some solid center and wing play on the third and fourth lines.

What I find troubling is that after such a spirited display on Tuesday night against the Kings that truly kept their playoff hopes alive, the team guts its chances of qualifying by trading three key and constant contributors.

Some will argue that these three have underachieved since they have been here and that argument would have some merit. My answer to that would be the question of who do the Coyotes suit up in their place? Alex Bolduc, Paul Bissonette, Andy Miele, Chris Brown, etc.? Those names are not names a "playoff" team would throw into their lineup on a nightly basis.

Others would argue the fact that the three were free agents-to-be and the team needed to act now to get something in return. OK, I understand that as well, but the return on these three was next to nothing (sorry, Mr. McMillan).

A third-round pick this year? That player might never make the team. A seventh-round pick next year? You are better off restocking your soda machine Moneyball-style, as that player will most likely never factor in the Coyotes' lineup. And Brandon McMillan, who was so valued by the Ducks that they have given up on him to pick up Lombardi.

My whole gripe is that you don't send this message to the team after winning such a big game on Monday night. Even though their backs are against the wall on Thursday against Detroit, you have to expect that the consistent contributors will come out somewhat flat after losing three teammates this week.

The Coyotes' front office let everyone know today that their season was over. With Mike Smith potentially being out for a while and the team sitting where they are, they might be right. But, if the team is going to stay here long-term, what message does it send to fans that you are throwing in the towel this early, when the team finished so strong at the end of last season?

The Coyotes, the only team that is playoff-worthy in the Valley of the Sun, just threw in the towel. Where does this leave Phoenix as a sports town? The Suns stink, ASU lacks talent in everything, the Cardinals have serious issues and the D'backs are rebuilding, which left the Desert Dogs as the only bright spot in the Valley sports scene.

I believe that ship has now sailed as well—maybe along with the franchise.