Tourigny: Coyotes must focus amidst losing streak, doubts over future arena

Feb 20, 2024, 5:56 PM | Updated: 6:29 pm

Amidst a 10-game losing streak, the Arizona Coyotes are going through a time that head coach Andre Tourigny can simply describe as frustrating. The Coyotes haven’t won a game in a full month, with their last victory coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 22.

“You create expectations, and all the fans have expectations,” Tourigny told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “You want them to be proud of the team, be passionate for them. So when we haven’t been successful like we have been in the last 10 games, you take that at heart, and it hurts.”

The team hasn’t found an arena for the future, either. NHLPA executive director Martin Walsh said he was “extremely disappointed” with how Arizona has handled its arena situation. The Coyotes currently play in Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena.

“It’s a distraction,” Tourigny said. “Here we have an objective to win the Stanley Cup, and when we look at this point, distractions will come from everywhere. If we can’t deal with Marty Walsh making some comment, then we have a long road ahead of us.”

One of the telltale problems for the Coyotes over this dreadful stretch has been the team’s allowance of first-period goals at a rapid rate.

For example, take their loss against the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 8 that ended 3-2. All three of the Golden Knights’ goals came in the first period, and Arizona couldn’t recover.

The opposing team has led after the first period versus the Coyotes in six out of the 10 losses. Tourigny expressed that going down early puts more pressure than needed on the team.

He used an example from Arizona’s most recent loss against the Oilers. It only took Edmonton a little more than two minutes to score in that game, and the Coyotes ultimately ended up losing 6-3.

Tourigny expressed that those types of situations make the players hold the stick a little tighter because of the pressure to get the result.

“Right now, I think the biggest battle for us is making sure mentally we have a mindset that where we are focusing way more on our performance rather than our results because the results will get under our skin,” Tourigny said.

The Coyotes are one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and this stretch of losses is only part of the process for Tourigny and Arizona. Every player in Arizona’s top five for points is under 30 years of age.

All of the losses lately have to be taken as a learning experience for the young squad. Tourigny said that it’s up to management to have patience and keep that big-picture mentality for the future. For the coaches and players, it’s about speeding that process up.

“We’re in no rush as long as we do it right now,” Tourigny jokingly said about performances on the ice. “We want to speed up this process. We want to grow the most we can every day. It’s not about where we grow in three years, it’s where we will grow the most today. Then let’s do it again tomorrow. If we can cut one or two years off the rebuild, let’s do it.”

Before this stretch of losses, the Coyotes were in the hunt for a wild card spot for their first playoff berth since 2020. Now, they lie 10 points away from the St. Louis Blues, who hold the last spot for a trip to the postseason. Their five-game win streak earlier this season seems like a distant memory.

With their next two games being against two playoff hopefuls in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, the lights look dimmer and dimmer for Arizona’s season. However, Tourigny only sees this as a chance to rise above expectations.

“We have a really tough task in front of us, and we need to be up for the challenge,” Tourigny said. “When you stumble, now you have the duty to get up and be stronger. If you don’t, you’ll never know how to react when you fall. We have a knee down right now, let’s get up and show what we can do.”

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