Arizona Coyotes need to believe they can win
GLENDALE, Ariz. — When the doors of the Arizona Coyotes’ dressing room opened after a 20-minute players-only meeting following Thursday night’s 4-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the players inside preached two things — accountability and belief.
The Coyotes have lost seven of their last nine games and six in a row at home, failing to score in their last 8-plus periods of play inside Gila River Arena. A team that less than three years ago played in the Western Conference Final, now sits at the bottom of that conference, with a third consecutive playoff-less season staring them in the face.
“We talked about belief,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said of Thursday’s post-game meeting. “(You) can’t question when you get scored on, you’ve got to stick to the system and do things simple.
“When we’ve had success it’s been through doing things simple, playing the exact same way day after day, game after game, period after period, shift after shift. Then you get away from that, then things can get away from you and we look like we look.”
Inconsistency and mental errors have plagued Arizona’s game this season, as they sit with a record of 10-14-3, the second-worst mark in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to be better as a group. Our belief in each other has to be better and we’ve got to have belief in the fact that we’re a good enough team to win,” Doan said.
Many have questioned the talent level of this year’s team, but a lack of mental toughness may be Arizona’s biggest flaw.
“It’s a great group, but it has to transfer into results on the ice,” goalie Mike Smith said. “Saying that, I think we’ve done a lot of talking, and one thing I take out from a lot that’s been said, is there has to be a belief in here that you can win. Until there’s a belief you can win, you can come back, you can hold leads, you’ll just continue to struggle.”
And struggle the Coyotes have, finding ways to lose games in a myriad of ways, including games in which they’ve held multi-goal leads. However, the Coyotes have not been able to muster a lead as of late.
“You’re still in a hockey game when you’re down two goals,” Smith said. “Three, four is getting a little out of reach, but you still have to believe that you can come back even if you’re down. When you’re up in games, same thing. But right now, it’s deflating. You can see it in body language, whatever it may be, but it’s the belief that you can win.”
Smith added that everyone on the roster needs to be accountable; coming up with excuses will just continue to lead the team down the same path over and over again.
That accountability starts with him.
The Coyotes have allowed far too many goals this season, giving up 3.11 goals per game, 25th in the league.
“I’m done with excuses. It’s got to stop,” Smith said. “It’s easy to point fingers at everyone else but at the end of the day it’s what you can do to be better. I’ve got to be better. It’s that simple.
“When you’re paid to be a top player on your team you’ve got to perform like one. That hasn’t happened.”
Smith ranks 40th in the NHL in goals against average (3.23) and 43rd in save percentage (.891). He is the 13th-highest paid goaltender (11th-highest cap hit) in the league with four more years left on his current deal.
Arizona is in the midst of a five-game homestand that may determine the fate of its season. Do the Coyotes add pieces to fix their issues or do they sell pieces of their own to the highest bidder and look toward the future? The Coyotes say they need to believe they can win, but that belief has to manifest itself sooner rather than later in order to save the season.