Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka enjoying the bumpy 2018-19 season

Feb 11, 2019, 11:31 AM | Updated: 11:43 am
Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 9...
Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 11, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)
(Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

The Arizona Coyotes have had plenty of challenges thrown their way this year.

Between being riddled with injuries to having travel complications on a Canadian road trip, it may have felt at times like nothing has gone right. But in a way, that might have made things that much better: Despite the injuries and the adversity, the Coyotes remain in the playoff picture in February.

For large portions of the season, the Coyotes have been without forwards Michael Grabner, Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk and Vinnie Hinostroza; defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Kyle Capobianco; and goaltenders Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper.

That’s one way to test the depth of your organization.

“It’s been a tough year but at the same time, it sounds odd, but it’s been a really enjoyable year,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said during Newsmakers Week with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “It’s something that — it’s tough not to feel proud of the guys after a lot of the games they play. Like you said, it’s a lot of depth, a lot of guys getting called up from Tucson, a lot of guys that played lower in the lineup that are getting a chance higher up in the lineup and that’s what sports is about.

“You never want to test your depth, that’s never a good sign, but at the same time when you do and it’s able to show some resolve, that’s a really good sign for us for now and into the future.”

Maybe one of the best examples of depth showing resolve is Conor Garland, the forward who came up from Tucson earlier this season and has shined in his new opportunity.

The 22-year-old made his NHL debut this year and has scored 11 goals with three assists for 14 points in 28 games. Going into the game against Dallas on Saturday, Garland’s 11 goals since Dec. 22 were the 11th-most among all NHL players in that span. He also became the first rookie in Coyotes history to score a goal in four consecutive games.

“It’s been a difficult season in terms of the injury front, but at the same time, it’s been a very successful season,” Chayka said on Monday. “We’re still in a fight here and I know our guys down the stretch are going to make a push. Hopefully we get some guys back healthy and that helps us make that push. I think if you look at progress year-over-year, everything’s trending up, everything’s trending the right way.

“We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us and a lot of the heavy lifting still to go, but at the same time, things are progressing in a really strong and positive way. My hope is that the fans really enjoy our young group and our style of play and the way that Rick Tocchet coaches this group and down the stretch they can come and support these guys. They’re playing their butts off every single night and it’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be a part of.”

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Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka enjoying the bumpy 2018-19 season