Coyotes hold meetings with players reviewing season, looking ahead
It’s typical for NHL teams to hold exit meetings with players at the conclusion of the season.
Right now, though, teams can’t say for sure whether their season will continue or if it’s over.
“Myself and our GM John Chayka, we had player calls,” head coach Rick Tocchet said in a video call with reporters last Friday. “We had 15, 20 minutes per guy, talking. It’s not exit meetings because I still believe that we’re going to play in the next couple months, I’m trying to be optimistic. But I think it’s important that you stay connected with the team. I know it’s a little harder to do that.
“So we had basically somewhat recap of the first 70, what’s expected and then also the future. So we did that the last couple of days. I’ve had a couple of zoom meetings with our coaches the last week.”
While it’s not known how the 2019-20 NHL season proceeds from here, the games that have already been played are set in stone. The Coyotes arrived at the coronavirus-caused halt at 33-29-8, in fifth place in the Western Conference Wild Card standings with 74 points.
Arizona once held first place in the Pacific Division but fell out with a 3-8-4 stretch from January to February.
“We just kind of talked,” defenseman Jakob Chychrun said Thursday of the meetings. “The first bit was about your season individually. Then kind of talked about the future and what they expect from you and where they think you can improve. It was good. They were good phone calls, good conversations.
“It’s always nice to speak with them and just kind of give ideas and receive information on how they feel and vice versa. So it was a good talk.”
Chychrun’s season was unique. Battling injuries in previous years, he got in 63 games in 2019-20 — the most since his rookie season three years prior. He and Alex Goligoski emerged early in the season as a strong defensive pairing.
“My year personally I think it went pretty well,” he said. “I think there’s a little more opportunity there with a few injuries and I think was able to take advantage of it and play some bigger minutes, which was very nice. I definitely enjoyed that.
“I think as a team, too, we started really good. I think we started how we expected to and kind of started to fall off a little bit. Obviously we lost control of first in our division there and we started to kind of find it again. I think for us as a group, it’s just that consistency and buying in like Toc always says to our system and the way we have to play every single night.”
Forward Clayton Keller, meanwhile, had similar remarks on Tuesday about the individual meetings. He said he was asked what he was up to during the down time and that they talked about the past and future. He also happens in the middle of a move.
“I’m moving out of my place now and going to my parents’ house where I have a nice shooting area there, which I think some of you guys saw from last summer,” he said. “So it will be good to go in there and keep shooting, stick-handling and keeping everything intact, I guess.”