The NHL All-Star break is coming at a good time for the Arizona Coyotes.
While the league’s stars will convene in Columbus this weekend, the Coyotes — save for defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson — will try to use the time off to regroup in the midst of an ugly six-game losing skid that was punctuated by a one-sided 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night.
The Coyotes are 16-25-5 on the season and their 37 points are the second-fewest in the league.
Head coach Dave Tippett joined Bickley and Marotta Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and was asked if this is the low-water mark during his six-year tenure in the Valley.
“Very much so,” Tippett said. “We were miserably outplayed and outclassed in (the Chicago) game and you come away from it with a not-very-good feeling, that’s for sure.”
The Coyotes’ point total is their lowest at the 46-game mark since they relocated to the Valley from Winnipeg in 1996. Their goal differential of minus-51 is the second-worst in the league and their lowest at this point of the season ever (previous low was minus-29 in 2006-07).
Tippett mentions core players — namely goalie Mike Smith and defenseman Keith Yandle — as team members who need to step up their play moving forward. Smith ranks last in the league among qualified goaltenders with a .887 save percentage and a 3.51 goals against mark.
“If you told me Smitty’s numbers would be what they are at the midway point this year going into the season, I would have laughed at you,” Tippett said. “Just in the fact that I didn’t expect us to be in this situation — and if Smitty’s numbers were there, we were going to be in this situation.
“That’s the biggest one for me. It’s abnormal from his other seasons. He’s had times where he has had a little stretch of games where he hasn’t been as good as maybe the others, but this is a long stretch that certainly is very concerning.”
Yandle, a nine-year veteran, has a plus-minus of minus-20 — one of the worst marks in the league. But Tippett doesn’t see that as too big of a surprise.
“Yandle is minus-20, that’s just when you’re a team that doesn’t defend very well and you’re chasing a lot of games, Keith spends a lot of time on the ice when we’re behind and trying to get back in games,” the coach said. “When your structure isn’t very good in those situations, you usually end up costing yourself some minuses.
“Both of those guys are top players for us and their stats aren’t very good. That kind of reflects where our team is at.”
There are two ways the head coach of a struggling hockey team can approach time off at the All-Star break. He can either agonize over what has gone wrong in the season’s first half or just forget about hockey and try to refresh for the remaining contests.
Tippett won’t necessarily choose either method over the next few days.
“(I’ll probably do) a little bit of both,” he said. “You’ve got to take a step back and catch your breath, but it’s not as if we don’t have a lot of work to do. There are a lot of issues with our team that we have to continue to look at.
“Nobody is happy with where we’re at. Now, it’s about fixing them and moving forward. There will be some time here over the break to just kind of reflect on where we’re at, where we want to go, where the rest of the season goes and if we can get it in the right direction.”
The Coyotes resume their season next Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center — in what will be the fourth game of an eight-game road trip.