At 8:33 p.m. Sunday, the Phoenix Coyotes' 2013-2014 season officially came to a close.
The game, once possibly a playoff decider, was decribed as "hollow" by head coach Dave Tippett. His team may have emerged as the victor in a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars, but no matter the outcome, he and his squad will take in the playoffs from their couch for the second straight year.
"I was up awful early (Sunday morning) having a cup of coffee, watching the sunrise...just thinking about how this day could have been and really it (was) hollow," said Tippett. "Standing on the bench, that's a hollow game. That's a very frustrating game for a coach."
For the Coyotes, the close of the season saw them play their worst hockey of the year. The team lost seven straight games, one game away from the worst losing streak in franchise history. With just one win in April, the team managed to tally 11 goals while giving up a whopping 22.
Sunday's game was full of moments that mirrored the season. The Coyotes fell behind early and played their best hockey while working to catch up. Once the game was tied, they drifted between mediocre and decent hockey, with a few good spurts of real puck sprinkled in.
"We've overachieved here," said Tippett of the season. "Almost the identity is an overachievement and I didn't feel like we overachieved enough. There were times when you could see it start to come but then there were times where we started to slip back and that was the frustrating part."
The Desert Dogs were also without chief netminder Mike Smith for the 11th straight game. He hasn't played since injuring his leg against the New York Rangers in late March. His replacement, Thomas Greiss, was decent in his stead though some felt that losing Smith was a turning point. Admittedly, Greiss gave up two goals of note that led to dropped points, but an entire season cannot be pinned on one man.
"You look through the season and you try to figure out where a point here or a point there could have made a difference and we didn't find it," said captain Shane Doan.
The next step for the Coyotes will begin Monday, as each player will sit down separately with both general manager Don Maloney and Tippett to discuss their future with the team and the upcoming season. With seven pending unrestricted free agents and one restricted, plans will have to be made sooner rather than later about the identity of the new Arizona Coyotes.
"I know some of these young players…are ready to come in," said Tippett. "But how many of them or where they fit, that will depend on how the rest of the summer goes."
Until next season, folks.