The 2014-2015 NHL season for the Arizona Coyotes is one that they hope to never have to relive. With a 24-50-8 record, the club never wants to be put in that position again. The team looks to the future with positivity as the prospective players and key players of their team will come into training camp healthy and hungry for success.
“A couple days away obviously you take the frustration of the game out, but the frustration from the season is still there,” Dave Tippett, the Coyotes head coach said. “It was a tough season for the organization and obviously there’s some things we need to clean up.”
Injury plagued season for key pieces
When you best players are plagued with injury, it’s hard to find a groove. Key pieces like Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal were noticeably absent on the roster for the majority of the season. An emergency splenectomy in Winnipeg for Boedker and back surgery for Hanzal meant the team had to fill the void for their most prominent players.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson was the only player to play in all 82 games. There was an unfortunate struggle for the team to stay healthy, and that meant players were constantly going back and forth between their AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates and Arizona.
“You never seem to get into a rhythm,” coach Dave Tippett said on the amount of up-and-down the team had with their players this season. Undoubtably, there is so much young talent, and they exercise their use of their AHL arsenal, but the team staying healthy is something that really is vital in their success next season. All of the call-up’s creates a team dynamic that isn’t consistent, and for success they need consistency all around.
Next season the team is hopeful that Hanzal and Boedker will be in tip-top shape by training camp. While they might have a ways to go, both recoveries are going well and they will not be written off for the start of the next season.
The lottery pick heard ’round the world
Finishing as one of the bottom two teams in the league has its perks. This upcoming NHL Draft is one of the most promising that they have had in a very long time. If you haven’t heard the names Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel swirling around the hockey world recently, then you must be under a rock.
The draft lottery is finally coming up on Saturday, April 18th, and it could mean big things for the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, or even another team that wins that first pick in the lottery. The Coyotes are guaranteed one of the top three picks in the draft. While any of the top three picks will be a valuable asset, to top two players will be the most NHL ready by the time of training camp.
“Obviously that’s a big thing for a lot of people around the league, but I think it’s putting a little too much pressure on some individuals,” Said Captain Shane Doan. “You watch them play and see what they’ve done historically it’s unbelievable, the two of them, with Eichel and McDavid, its pretty special… Neither of their teams have been handed the championships. That’s playing against boys, you come and play against men in the NHL.”
Bright future ahead for OEL
Anyone who has been following along this season knows that Oliver Ekman-Larsson was the team’s very best offense and defense. Being chosen team MVP did not come as a surprise to all of those who have been watching his best season thus far.
With a personal best 23 goals and 20 assists, he lead the team in scoring and even scored the most goals in the league among defenseman. His overtime heroics got him noticed early in the year, but the numbers he put up by the season’s end were what really surprised everyone. He is undoubtably one of the most underrated players in the league, and he deserves much more recognition than he has gotten.
“It’s been a long year first of all. I was just trying to do my best every day and that’s all you can ask for,” Ekman-Larsson said about last season.
After putting on a good amount of weight last offseason (came in at 195), it was obvious he was uncomfortable at the beginning. It took him a bit of time, but he was able to get used to it, and he says he is happy with the weight that he is at now (186). He feels much better and said:
“I’m just going to try to get better; work hard in this offseason. [I’m going to] try to get stronger and quicker. See if I can get better in ‘d’… I want to defend a bit better, too. I just want to improve my game all over the ice. I’m a good skater and if you take that away I’m not going to be that good. I’m not going to be that successful out there. Obviously I want to get stronger, and it’s going to take some time.”
Team leadership’s future in question
There is a whole lot of uncertainty regarding the team’s leadership going into next season. The first person in question is captain Shane Doan who has not publicly made any decisions yet about next season. He says he will talk things over with his family this summer, but nothing has been decided yet. Thirty-eight year old Doan has been with the team for 19 seasons, and while they’ve come relatively close, he has never raised the Stanley Cup. This could be a big factor in his decision due to the fact that he is getting older and there is uncertainty about how much longer he will play.
“There’s no question to me he can still play,” said Don Maloney, who plans to meet with Doan and “figure out how to make things better” when Maloney returns from the U-18 World Championship in a few weeks. “He can still be a contributor.”
Another questionable piece is head coach Dave Tippett who is obviously frustrated with the way the whole year went. Tippett has not made any decisions, but the team has to really be willing to put the effort (and money) forth in order to be contenders. He said that he “can’t see himself doing that again” in terms of the season they just had.
“I don’t think anybody wants to go through this again;that’s just the reality of it. We’re in this business to win,” said Tippett. “You don’t want to get in situations where you have to trade players away at the deadline. Those are not situations you want to be in, so the quicker we can find solutions to that the better for everybody”
Coyotes go to the World Cup
Due to their early summer, some Coyotes players have been given the opportunity to represent their countries in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic. Seven players from the Coyotes have been put on a roster thus far.
- Mike Smith (Canada)
- Mark Arcobello (United States)
- John Moore (United States)
- Connor Murphy (United States)
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sweden)
- Tobias Rieder (Germany)
- Martin Erat (Czech Republic)
Team looks to fill voids where needed
The center position is going to be one of the team’s main priorities this offseason. Filling the space where Antoine Vermette once was is going to be big. There is no doubt that they struggle offensively and they definitely need to get a player who can produce.
“When I say a three-to-four year plan, that’s to be a legitimate Cup contender, not just a playoff team,” general manager Don Maloney said at Monday’s press conference. “We will be introducing some younger players, but we know to compete in the West you need some experienced players.”
The team who is normally known for their A+ defense really lacked this season, and it is a huge factor in staying in games. They need a veteran presence on the blue line, and it is essential in their success going forward.
“As far as center ice and defense, they are two areas that need improvement,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “Center ice is just, losing Vermette and you’ve got Chip and Joe there that are usually better suited for a bottom line, to basically replace Vermette is a hole that we need to fill. I think we need a more veteran, harder presence from the blue line.”