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The news that Dave King will join the Phoenix Coyotes as an assistant coach is interesting on many levels - and a sign that the beleaguered NHL team is trying to get it right on the ice, if not in the board room or the bankruptcy court. King ran Monday's practice just before the Coyotes boarded a flight for Everett, Wash., and the continuation of their exhibition season.

In a year of incredible uncertainty for the franchise, and particularly their young emerging players, King is just what the Coyotes need at this stage - a teacher, first and foremost, someone who will help the Kyle Turrises and Mikael Boedkers of their world get better.

That's just a smart business decision, no matter where the franchise might happen to land; no matter who may end up owning the team.

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For Phoenix, the one happy byproduct of all those years at the bottom of the Western Conference standings is that they've landed a nice young nucleus of talent.

But as anyone who's followed the NHL long enough knows, talent can wither on the vine. Talent, without direction, often fails to meet its considerable potential. There is no end to the list of highly drafted players who, for whatever reason, fall along the wayside, unable to meet the promise of their teen years.

in order to retain whatever value there is in the team, that is the thing the Coyotes most need desperately to guard against - seeing their prospects go off the rails, just because of all the off-ice distractions.

This may well turn out to be a lost season for them, even if general manager Don Maloney believes that a siege mentality could develop and draw the team closer together. That's possible. . . maybe. The St. Louis Blues, under Harry Ornest's ownership, once had just that kind of season, back in the Brian Sutter years.

But even if it doesn't happen, and all that the Coyotes manage to do this year is to keep the development curve inching slowly upwards, they could be one of those teams that turns the corner in a hurry, as soon as stability returns to the ownership group.

With Wayne Gretzky is still in limbo, Ulfie Samuelsson is the nominal boss in Phoenix, with Doug Sulliman as the only other remaining returning member of the coaching staff. Sean Burke, who played for King on a handful of Canadian national teams, was added as a goalie coach today, replacing Grant Fuhr.

King and Burke have a history that dates back more than 20 years; and should be a good fit on a staff led by Samuelsson, who is privately getting good notices for his coaching acumen. For King, who has a winter home in Phoenix anyway, this is the perfect soft landing after coaching in Germany and Russia these past few years.

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For a franchise operating on a shoestring budget, with no real sense of what happens next, King's veteran presence lends an aura of stability, just when the Coyotes need it most. Plus, he gets to coach the grandson of his long-time rival, Viktor Tikhonov. What could be sweeter than that?

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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