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13 Phoenix Coyotes Will the signing of star Tony Amonte lead to success in the postseason?

On the August afternoon on which prized free-agent right wing
Tony Amonte arrived in Phoenix, soon after signing with the
Coyotes, the temperature climbed above 110[degrees]. "I wasn't
prepared for the weather," he said. "It caught me totally
off-guard." If Amonte feels the heat now, wait until he tries to
turn his new club into a contender. No team has endured a
postseason drought comparable to the Coyotes', who have lost 11
straight playoff series, dating to the franchise's first 17
seasons as the Winnipeg Jets, and have never advanced past the
second round in their 23-year history.

Phoenix hopes Amonte can change that. Despite scoring a modest 27
goals with the Blackhawks last season, Amonte averaged 39 goals a
year over the previous five seasons and is the league's active
iron man with 410 consecutive games played. Wayne Gretzky, the
Coyotes' managing partner, coaxed Amonte into signing for less
money than he could have commanded elsewhere by convincing him
that Phoenix was a team on the rise. By today's standards, the
four-year, $24 million contract could be a steal.

The Coyotes went 15-5-1-2 after the Olympic break to finish with
95 points and earn Bob Francis the Coach of the Year award.
Goalie Sean Burke, a Vezina finalist, enjoyed the finest season
(33-21-6, 2.29, .920) of his resurrected career. The 159 points
produced by Phoenix defensemen trailed only Detroit's 167. But
the balanced attack of the Coyotes' no-name forwards was
Francis's biggest accomplishment. The team had four 20-goal
scorers to compensate for the off-season departures of All-Stars
Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick. Third-year forward Daniel
Briere had 32 goals and will likely center a line with Amonte and
Shane Doan.

Gretzky hopes that the addition of Amonte, along with a few
other touches, will spell success. Wayne's younger brother,
Keith, is a scout. Over the summer Gretzky hired former Oilers
teammates Paul Coffey and Marty McSorley to serve as a
consultant on the power play and coach of the team's minor
league affiliate in Springfield, Mass., respectively. Now, if
only the Coyotes can start winning playoff games the way
Gretzky's Oilers did. --Brian Cazeneuve


Daniel Briere, who scored 43 goals in the past two seasons
combined, led the league in shooting percentage over that span



OFFENSE 7 Amonte upgrades unit; expect Savage, Nagy to excel
DEFENSE 7 Young, physical back line has huge upside
GOALTENDING 11 Burke, Boucher form solid one-two combination
SPECIAL TEAMS 9 Lots of weapons make power play potent
MANAGEMENT 8 Proactive G.M. Barnett made smart move hiring Coffey