The Coyotes lost a couple of players on the first day of free agency this off-season. Both Boyd Gordon and Jason LaBarbera went to the Edmonton Oilers and left a hole in the Coyotes family. This hole is not felt so much in their stats with the team but in the kinds of people and players that they were.
First let’s take a look at right-winger Boyd Gordon. Gordon spent two seasons as a Coyote and he truly encapsulates the mantra, “Hockey the hard way.” Oh, and according to my four-year old son, Boyd is Flash Gordon’s brother. Last season he posted a 57.3% for faceoff wins, and that number ranked him in the top 20 for the entire NHL. Add that number to the fact that he was the winner of the Hardest Working Player award at the end of the last season and you start to see the kind of player he is. Every game, every shift, every minute he is working and working hard. Wether it is the key faceoff on the power play or the 3rd blocked shot on the penalty kill he is out there giving it his all. Gordon helped other players to play better and his grit and determination will be missed.
Next, we turn to Jason LaBarbera who wore a Coyotes jersey for four seasons. Last season, as back-up goaltender to Mike Smith, LaBarbera went 4-6-2 with 2.64 Goals Against Average and a nice .923 save percentage. The story of LaBarbera cannot be found in those stats or even on the ice. LaBarbera was the moral lifter, the spirit booster, and every bit the heart and soul that defines the Coyotes. He is the locker room guy, the guy that gives you the words to go out there and fight for one more period, the guy to think of you first and himself second, a true team player. This past season LaBarbera traded in his usual rocker motif on his helmet for a tribute to Pat Tillman. If you don’t know that story go look it up. He paid tribute to a fallen hero he had never met, that was the kind of classy person LaBarbera is on and off the ice.
The Coyotes lost some true grit and heart in free agency this go around but I’m sure we will find it again in others, the Coyotes are resilient that way. To Gordon and LaBarbera we will miss you but wish you all the very best. To Edmonton, take care of our boys and have fun watching the depth they bring to your team!