John Chayka, Coyotes remain patient with trade deadline weeks off
Two weeks before the NHL trade deadline, the Arizona Coyotes see themselves past a turning point.
Sometime around late December, something began to click, if only because the team’s health improved. Arizona is 6-8-5 since Dec. 22. The Coyotes have found themselves playing close, heading to four overtimes and four shootouts in the past 14 games.
Two games ago, in a 4-3 overtime win that required a rally form a 3-0 deficit, Arizona won on the stick of rookie Clayton Keller.
“Those are the types of instances throughout a season where, again, the record is what it is, but you get those types of performances and those are the types of things that drive a team into the future,” said general manager John Chayka while visiting Doug & Wolf’s Newsmakers Week on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
“Our group’s really come together the way we hoped in terms of the way we play, the way we defend.”
Don’t expect the Coyotes to make any major shakeups before the trade deadline. Chayka spent his first year on the job selling and the past offseason knocking down the remaining pieces to the old regime’s roster — especially to reconstruct the defense.
Now, Chayka expects only to make a move if it helps usher the young core’s development forward, and that could come particularly on the frontline.
“We’re continuing to evaluate: Is there an opportunity up front to add a stabilizer, to add a guy that can help grow those young players, like the Derek Stepans? But those are difficult guys to get, especially at the deadline.
“The deadline, it’s intended for those teams that are gearing up for the playoffs. However, it’s also an opportunity where there is a lot of action.”
In short, Chayka believes the glue to his vision is finally starting to set. He said his staff’s second go-around is finally starting to lead to on-ice improvements.
With that, the general manager feels good about the trajectory of the Coyotes.
“I understand it’s been a while since this team has made the playoffs but what I also understand when I research those teams that are almost continually in that rebuilding phase, what they do is they have a year like we’ve had — where we’ve kind of scuffled in terms of our results — and then they’ve switched the plan up and they start chasing their tails, and they start making some more panic-type moves. Or they switch the vision.
“We’re doing a lot of good things. It’s one of those momentum things, where again, it starts slow and it builds up momentum.”
HE SAID IT
On the long-term arena situation remaining unresolved: “Off the ice, really what our focus is, how do we build the business? How do we build the hockey team? We all know the history of being out in Glendale and what that means economically and that it’s not sustainable. I think that’s been very clear from every stakeholder involved. I think what we look at is, ‘How do we find that solution?’ Our fans deserve a great world-class facility in a convenient location where we can sell out the building and they can be excited to come to the rink every day.
“Until we find that solution, we want to keep our focus on the ice. We want to keep the focus on Rich Tocchet, Clayton Keller, the fans that come out to watch those guys. Having said that, we’ve got the top people in the world working on this, working around the clock to try to find the best solution for the Coyotes.”
On Max Domi’s struggles (three goals, 20 assists in 55 games played): “In order for us to get where we want to go, these young players, they’re most susceptible to these ups and downs. For Max, it hasn’t been the best year in terms of goal production, but he’s been playing the center position. It’s a very difficult position at a young age to be able to produce from.
“If you can play the center position, you can play the wing position. As he transitions here, we probably see him long-term as probably being a winger. But this is all part of growing his game and we think it will be helpful when he does transition back.”