The Arizona Coyotes have taken a step back this season, in a year where many figured they’d move forward.
For head coach Dave Tippett, it’s been exasperating.
On Monday, Tippett touched on one of the biggest issues that’s plagued the Coyotes this season — turnovers — and shared a blunt analogy in describing his team’s puck control (or, lack thereof.)
“It’s just playing the game at this level,” Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “You gotta play the game at this level, and you gotta take care of the puck. That’s just as simple as that. If you want to be a winning team, you take care of the puck.
“If you don’t, you give up a bunch of outnumbered rushes and you beat it around like a tennis ball and that’s what you get.”
This, of course, isn’t the first time Tippett’s sounded off this season:
• Two weeks ago, he blasted goalie Mike Smith and defensemen Luke Schenn and Alex Goligoski for their “brutal” efforts. (Four nights later, he again called out Goligoski by name.)
• After healthy scratching and demoting Anthony Duclair to AHL Tucson, Tippett said Duclair’s recent recall wasn’t on merit. “His experience with the AHL was very average — at best,” Tippett said.
• In the wake of a 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh in December, Tippett said the Coyotes “did not play or compete at an NHL level.”
• In addition to Smith, Tippett has also criticized the play of backup netminder Louis Domingue.
Frustration levels have been really high in Arizona this year, and not all from the head coach. Shane Doan was visibly displeased after Martin Hanzal was shipped out at the trade deadline. Jamie McGinn, the club’s biggest free agent signing, was made a healthy scratch in mid-February. Smith tore into the team following a listless effort in Edmonton two months ago.
And we haven’t even touched on the ongoing arena saga.
Again, a good chunk of these frustrations have to stem from failing to build on last year. The Coyotes finished with 35 wins and 78 points, respectable totals given two of their top four scorers were 20 years old (Duclair and Max Domi).
This year, the next phase of the youth movement was supposed to take place.
The club did try, giving seven rookies their NHL debuts, but the learning curve has been extraordinarily steep. Tippett’s made mention of that several times, explaining that inexperience and youthful mistakes need to be masked by strong veteran efforts — of which the Coyotes haven’t gotten enough of.
Frustrating times indeed.