Arizona Coyotes excited, optimistic about improved team chemistry
Believe it or not, another hockey season is here.
The newly-renamed Arizona Coyotes open their 18th training camp since moving to the Valley in Glendale Friday morning.
The roster, admittedly, looks different than the 2013-14 edition. Gone are Mike Ribeiro, Radim Vrbata, Thomas Greiss and Paul Bissonnette. New faces include Sam Gagner, B.J. Crombeen, Joe Vitale and Devan Dubnyk.
But there is also an ingredient that’s present heading into training camp that wasn’t necessarily there last season, according to general manager Don Maloney.
“I thought our mix was off last year,” Maloney told Bickley and Marotta Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Even when we were winning early on, I didn’t like it. I feel better about what we have (now).”
The Coyotes did start the season off well, going 18-8-5 in their first 31 games before things went south in mid-December. They went 19-22-10 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Head coach Dave Tippett felt the lack of cohesion as well.
“At times,” he told the show. “We had gone from this ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality to now we have not just an owner, we have nine of them. We talked about it at training camp (last year), we want to be a great organization and if we got ownership, we’d have to prove that.
“I think it’s human nature, everybody took a big sigh of relief and forgot to put the hardhats on and go to work.”
Tippett, like his general manager, feels confident about the chemistry in this year’s group.
“I look at our team right now, and I feel optimistic,” he said. “We’ve got some parts that we’ve brought and in they’re maybe not the flashiest parts, but they’re parts I think that can help.”
Maloney, who was armed with more free agent dollars than normal last summer after new ownership took over, signed Ribeiro to a four-year, $22 million contract. It didn’t work.
The veteran saw a sharp decrease in production and the Coyotes bought out the final three years of the deal after news of issues in Ribeiro’s personal life surfaced.
“That was a move we made thinking we were bringing in a front-line player,” Maloney said. “Some people fit into organizations and some people don’t. Over the course of the year, he just didn’t fit who we are and who we wanted to be. So we made the hard choice to move him along and out.”
Captain Shane Doan, who is entering his 19th season (20th calendar year) in the NHL, also loves what he sees from the collection of players in Coyotes sweaters.
“This group of guys, I mean we’ve never had a bad (dressing) room, we’ve always had good rooms, but this group of guys is spectacular,” he told Bickley and Marotta. “The guys we brought in with Gagner, Dubynk, Vitale and Crombeen — those were the best guys in their rooms, and now they’ve all come to our room which is really exciting.”
Fans will get a first chance to see the rebuilt chemistry of the Coyotes Monday night when they split their squad to take on the Los Angeles Kings in a preseason game at Gila River Arena.