Accountability should be theme as Coyotes open 2015-16 season
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Among the billions of things to admire about Shane Doan is his penchant for self-critique.
The 2014-15 season was brutal on the Coyotes captain. Arizona stumbled to its lowest point total since arriving in the Valley in 1996. Management and ownership did little the previous offseason to improve the club, then GM Don Maloney traded away three of Doan’s favorite guys when he dealt defenseman Keith Yandle, center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Zbynek Michalek at the trade deadline.
For the first time in recent memory, Doan allowed negative thoughts to cloud his vision.
“I think so, and that’s unacceptable,” he said Thursday. “You can’t let your emotions and your feelings run away and control your attitude and, as my dad always said, your altitude. You have to make sure you’re not too high or too low. Win or lose, you have to show up the next day, ready to work.”
The buzzword for the Coyotes throughout training camp has been growth: growth on the business side of the franchise; growth of the fan base; growth of the young prospects who have made the roster and the ones in the system; growth in available resources; and growth in compete level after a disastrous 56-point campaign.
Here’s another buzzword that was making the rounds on Wednesday: accountability.
“We all have to be held accountable for the jobs we do and I’m no different,” general manager Don Maloney said. “We have expectations for the team this season and beyond. It’s our job to meet or exceed them.”
Any objective look at the Coyotes roster this season would reach the conclusion that this is not a playoff team. The team is short on scoring as its four goals in six preseason games suggested. It’s still missing a perfect complement to Oliver Ekman-Larsson on its top defensive pairing, (although Michael Stone could change that). It’s still too early to rely on the prospects to elevate the team and it’s difficult to compare the Coyotes to the Western Conference’s other teams and come away with postseason expectations.
On the flip side, the Coyotes have had too many excuses since they arrived in the Valley, and certainly since they moved to Glendale. There was the infamous bankruptcy, the years of NHL ownership, the annual summer scuffles with the Glendale City Council. There was a shortage of revenue which translated to a short-changed roster and there was an inexperienced ownership group that was still finding its way.
“The first year, it’s probably fair to say we were intoxicated by what owning a team meant and I think that’s pretty typical of a new group,” Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. “I think this is the first year where we really understand what it means to be owners and that includes accountability.
“We have to provide the necessary resources to be successful, we have to be there and listen to what our experts say and we have to make the right decisions.”
IceArizona has done plenty of that behind the scenes by beefing up the scouting department, making improvements to Gila River Arena and embracing the analytics movement with more technology and the hiring of assistant GM John Chayka.
Critics will point to the Coyotes’ lagging payroll. Arizona’s actual money spent on salaries is $54,374,444, the lowest total in the NHL according to generalfanager.com. The Coyotes’ $58,922,537 cap hit is also the lowest in the NHL, and just $6.1 million above the cap floor, with nearly $5 million attributable to that infamous contract for retired defenseman Chris Pronger.
On the flip side, the Coyotes were pushing hard to complete a trade for defenseman Dougie Hamilton (he went to Calgary instead) that would have added nearly $6 million more per season to their payroll. In a thin free-agent class, they weren’t going to add pieces simply for the sake of adding payroll while removing opportunity for some of their young forwards.
“It’s still early so we don’t know if things will change, but we said we’re going to be a young team so there has to be accountability for making sure there is growth,” coach Dave Tippett said. “My focus is solely on the accountability of players and we’ve got lots of work to do there.”
Both Tippett’s and Doan’s futures were in doubt this season due to a variety of internal issues from ownership all the way down to the roster, but both are still here.
No matter how short-handed this roster may be, and no matter how difficult the goal of competing for a playoff spot may seem, in their most introspective moments, Doan and Tippett still recognize they have a role to play and a job to do — one for which they are still well compensated.
“Everybody has said all the right things so we’ll see how it goes,” Tippett said. “It’s time to go to work.”
Season opener: Coyotes vs. Kings
Time: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN Phoenix 620 AM