When you take a look at the standings in the NHL's Western Conference, it's easy to see things are looking up for the Phoenix Coyotes. After years of futility, the team is now starting to develop plenty of young talent around a solid core of veteran players like Shane Doan, Oli Jokinen, Ilya Bryzgalov and Ed Jovanovski. Put it all together, and the Coyotes are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race a little less than halfway through the regular season.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes and head coach Wayne Gretzky, the most important number for the Coyotes these days isn't the point total in the standings, it's the numbers on the balance sheet. Earlier this month, David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail detailed the tale of woe that is Phoenix's balance sheet, with the team losing $30 million per year over the last two seasons. The line from that story that was most chilling, came from one former NHL governor who declined to be identified:
"I don't know how they can sustain the losses," one former governor said."The team loses so much money you can't sell it. If I were offered the team for a dollar, I'd say no because you can't fix it."With the financial position of Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes on the brink of collapse thanks to the ill health of his trucking company, Swift Transportation, logic dictates that those losses can't be sustained for much longer. And if ESPN.com's Scott Burnside's latest report is correct, the NHL is already making preparations for what looks like an inevitable financial collapse.
It is estimated by the former governor that the Coyotes have lost more than $200-million since 2001 - at least $70 million beyond the purchase price.
According to Burnside, the league is taking an active role in finding new investors for the team, as well as working with the city of Glendale to renegotiate the lease on the team's home, Jobing.com Arena. Apparently, the league is going back to its list of prospective owners to see who they might entice into taking the Coyotes off Moyes' hands, but with the global credit crisis still very much a fact of life, one has to wonder just where anyone would be able to find the capital to be able finance the purchase of any team, never mind one in financial distress like Phoenix.
One name that isn't on the NHL's shopping list of prospective owners, at least for now: Research in Motion founder Jim Balsillie, who remains comitted to buying a team and moving it to Southern Ontario. One wonders how much more money the Coyotes will have to lose before the league dials him up.