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Sports People: Gretzky-led Coyotes again fail to make the playoffs

GLENDALE – The Phoenix Coyotes fell victim to their inexperience in yet another unsuccessful season.

For the seventh year in a row, the team will not be in the playoffs.

Still, coach Wayne Gretzky and general manager Don Maloney believe that with the maturing of their many youngsters, and the addition of an experienced player or two, the Coyotes will finally be back in the playoffs.

“I think we made it clear two years ago,” Gretzky said, “we’d stick to the program. The youngsters are going to be the future of this team. You’ve just got to believe that’s the right way to go.”

The disappointing season played out with the backdrop of financial uncertainty for a franchise reportedly losing $30 million a year.

Commissioner Gary Bettman insists the team will stay in Phoenix. But just how much money this financially-strapped franchise will have to sign new players depends on whether reports of potential new investors, or new ownership, reach fruition.

“If I learned anything, we were too young this year,” Maloney told The Associated Press on Monday. “We probably need to be a little more mature up front. I think that will only help our younger players. If we have the wherewithal to reach out and grab a couple of midlevel players, that’s great. If not, we’ll work it out.”

Seven players on Phoenix’s season-ending roster are 22 or younger. Another five are no older than 25.

“You need a core of veteran guys,” said team captain 32-year-old Shane Doan, who had a career-best 31 goals this season. “We have a few and we need to probably add a couple of more veteran guys just to take the pressure off the young guys so it’s not like every single night they’re counted on. When they have it, they can contribute, but for the most part they can learn a little bit.”

The Coyotes finished 36-39-7 for 79 points, tied with Los Angeles for 13th out of the 15 teams in the Western Conference. That’s down from 83 points in 2007-08.

“I can say I’m disappointed in the season we had,” Maloney said. “I felt we could have been better, should have been better. I don’t think we had enough players play to the level they’re capable of.”

Phoenix entered the All-Star break in the thick of the playoff race at 24-19-5. The Coyotes promptly lost their next six, nine out of 10 and 16 out of 20.

Chiefs sign Thomas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City added another veteran linebacker to its rebuilding roster Monday when it signed free agent Zach Thomas.

In an effort to fix one of the weakest positions on a team that went 2-14 last year, the Chiefs have acquired Mike Vrabel in a deal that also brought quarterback Matt Cassel from New England, and signed Monte Beisel.

Thomas, 5-foot-11 and 242 pounds, has 182 starts during a 13-year career, mostly with the Miami Dolphins. He has made the Pro Bowl seven times, but not since 2006. He played last year with Dallas and was an unrestricted free agent.

Bucs sign QB Leftwich

TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed quarterback Byron Leftwich as a free agent.

Leftwich, heading into his seventh NFL season, was a backup for the Steelers last year and threw for two touchdowns as Ben Roethlisberger’s fill-in. He spent four seasons as the starter in Jacksonville, which selected Leftwich in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2003 draft out of Marshall.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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