Does Amonte make the young
Coyotes a contender?

Updated: July 22, 2002, 2:47 PM ET
By by Thom Henninger, STATS. Inc.
It's been barely more than a year since star forwards Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick were shown the door, as the new ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes embarked on a cost-cutting and rebuilding phase. The young Coyotes weren't expected to make the playoffs in 2001-02, but they stormed into the postseason on the strength of an NHL-best 33 points (15-5-1-2) after the Olympic break. Then they put a charge into the hockey world with a Game 2 victory over dangerous and heavily favored San Jose in the Shark Tank. That first-round series suddenly looked up for grabs, tied 1-1 in games with the Coyotes returning home to America West Arena, where they had won 12 of their previous 13 contests.

As it turned out, the Coyotes failed to win on home ice and bowed out in five games. Still, the season was a big success for a re-tooling Phoenix club that wasn't supposed to get anywhere near a playoff berth. And the new regime responded by reversing its cost-cutting course and signing right wing Tony Amonte to a four-year, $24 million contract on July 12. Despite scoring "just" 27 goals in 2001-02, Amonte has averaged 37 goals and 36 assists a season during his last six years in Chicago. He brings speed and finesse to Phoenix, plus more scoring punch to a club that had four young scorers step up last season.

A key development during the 2001-02 campaign was the emergence of four Phoenix forwards -- each 25 years old or younger heading into last year -- who combined to collect 40 goals in 23 games to lead the Coyotes' post-Olympics surge, and who totaled 102 goals and 211 points during the regular season.