Mix of veteran, core and young players make up ‘hungry’ Coyotes
GLENDALE — After one of the busiest offseasons in recent memory, Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is excited to get the 2021-22 season started.
He believes he put together a group that is out to prove to fans that they belong in the NHL.
“Someone asked me, ‘What kind of hockey team did you build?’ We built a hungry hockey team,” Armstrong said at media day on Wednesday.
The Coyotes roster turnover was dramatic over the offseason, and the direction of the franchise is not a mystery to the players.
At least seven new players are expected to fill the opening day lineup, not including two new goalies.
With a new head coach in Andre Tourigny and key pieces traded away from last season, the Coyotes are in full rebuild mode.
“There isn’t too many teams in the history of the NHL that have had this much turnover in a year. I don’t know if expansion teams have,” forward Christian Fischer said.
There is a small group of returning core players, including Fischer, defenseman Jakob Chychrun and forwards Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Lawson Crouse.
They have also added veterans who are playing to prove their worth and earn future contracts. That list includes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and forwards Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel. Armstrong also like the leadership those players can provide.
“Leaders are hard to find in the NHL,” Armstrong said. “We’ve got leadership that most teams don’t have in the NHL.”
Although expectations are low, Tourigny is excited to focus on moving forward and controlling the things that he can control.
“We will not talk about what we don’t want them to do and we won’t talk about how they did it,” Tourigny said. “We just talk about how we want to do things, the rest is out of our control.”
Most of all, the team is looking forward to getting on the ice and hitting the ground running.
“I know it was a shorter summer this year, but it actually felt like it was going by pretty slow, so it’s just nice to be back,” Chychrun said.
The NHL is moving back to an 82-game regular season and the Coyotes enter the year having to adjust to division realignment. That will involve more traveling and new teams on the schedule compared to the limited scope of opponents the team saw last season.
“There’s so many great places to play and different buildings,” Keller said. “I think all of us are super excited about that.”
The team hits the ice for its first practice on Thursday. Their first preseason game comes Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, and the regular season begins on Oct. 14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
— Tourigny said that Phil Kessel has not yet reported to camp due to a foot injury suffered a few weeks ago
— Armstrong stated that after the busy offseason, the team was not expected to make many more moves during the regular season. He did, however, mention the possibility of using acquired draft picks as trade assets down the line.