Along with missing the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, the Arizona Coyotes have also been kind of a boring hockey team, at least as it relates to their offense. They have some exciting young players, and their long-term outlook is promising, but over the past three seasons they have ranked 27th, 24th and 29th in goals scored, and 28th, 29th and 23rd in shots on goal.
That, obviously, is a glaring lack of offense.
A lot of that comes from the fact it has been a rebuilding team that hasn’t had the pocket books to really go out and bring in impact talent, but some of it is also due to playing a tighter, more structured defensive system under coach Dave Tippett.
New coach Rick Tocchet seems to be looking to change some of that and bring a more up-tempo brand of hockey to the desert and give his young players a little more freedom.
Here is talking about what he wants from his team, via Sarah McLellan of AZcentral.
“I don’t want to take the stick out of guys’ hands,” he said. “We have some creative, young players here. So I want them to be creative. I don’t want them to think too much. I want them to play a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure on the opponent.”
“I’m not going to sell the farm,” he said. “It’s not going to be 3-on-1s all night. That’s not going to happen. But I think you have to be calculated, and the one thing with these young guys, they’re sponges. They want to learn. They want to learn how to practice. They want to learn how to play.”
Of course, most new coaches upon taking a new job say something similar to this. Nobody gets hired and on the first day says, “we are going to play a boring, dull, bland style of hockey.”
A lot of times it still comes down to the talent on the ice.
But in Arizona’s case a fresh approach and start might actually lead to a more exciting brand of hockey, and a little more freedom for their young players with the puck could be a boost not only for the entertainment value of the team, but also for the results on the ice. You obviously want young players to play smart, but you also don’t want them to be afraid of making a mistake.
Either way, it is going to be an exceptionally young team that could have as many as nine players on the roster this season age 23 or younger, assuming prospects like Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller play their way onto the team. That young core was given a lot of complementary pieces to work with this summer when general manager John Chayka acquired Derek Stepan, a top-six center, Niklas Hjalmarsson, one of the steadiest veteran defenders in the league, and Antti Raanta to take over the starting goaltending job.