2012 rewind: Coyotes’ run to conference final

Top 10 Arizona sports stories of the year, as selected by FOX Sports Arizona staff.

No. 2: Western Conference final caps breakthrough year for Coyotes

Fifteen years after arriving in the Valley of the Sun, the Coyotes finally have momentum. Fifteen days from now, that momentum could be gone.

If the NHL season is canceled as a result of this protracted, frustrating and illogical lockout, no team stands to lose more than the local one, which has been fighting for its very survival since it moved to Glendale.

But let’s not dwell on dark things. The 2011-2012 season was one to celebrate. The Coyotes accomplished multiple firsts. They won the first division title in franchise history. They won their first playoff series since arriving in the Valley. Captain Shane Doan recorded his first career hat trick in memorable fashion, and the team advanced to its first-ever conference final.

Riding the Vezina Trophy-caliber play of goalie Mike Smith, an impenetrable penalty-killing unit and the all-for-one, pack mentality that coach Dave Tippett preaches, Phoenix overcame a shortage of top-shelf talent at the forward position and myriad off-ice distractions, including poor attendance and continued ownership uncertainty, to go further than any team in franchise history had before.

With Doan back in the fold, Greg Jamison closing in on the purchase of the team and the best GM-coaching duo in franchise history here for at least one more season, there is real hope for the future of this franchise. That is, if the current owner (the NHL) doesn’t screw it all up.

–Craig Morgan