Don Maloney and Dave Tippett have watched their Arizona Coyotes allow the most goals per game (3.88) in the NHL this season and, simply put, they’re sick of it.
“They’re certainly concerning,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Our defending hasn’t been near where it needs to be, and it’s two-fold. We haven’t defended well and gotten behind in games and then you chase games, and then you really look like a sloppy team. We’ve had too many games like that this year.”
And that’s perhaps the most perplexing development as the Coyotes tackle Game 9 tonight against the Panthers: The principles that built this team haven’t delivered. Character, chemistry and compete were the buzzwords that guided General Manager Don Maloney’s summer renovation project, and all have been inconsistent.
“We’re not anywhere good enough the way we’re competing right now,” Maloney said. “So we need to get better or things are going to change around here probably sooner rather than later.”
The Coyotes are a tough team to figure out.
In September, Maloney said Arizona would make a “concerted effort” to give young prospects a shot at making the NHL, and gave a sobering preview of what he expected for the year.
“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” he said, per Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.”
That approach didn’t last long.
In early October, the club scrapped the proposed youth movement — sending first-rounders Max Domi to junior and Henrik Samuelsson back to the AHL — because, according to Maloney, the Coyotes “need to be a playoff team.”
“We just think for our franchise right now, we have to be competitive,” Maloney explained, per the Arizona Republic. “We need to be a playoff team. That’s what’s going to get people excited and in the building.
“Nobody has an appetite to just throw in the towel.”
It’s hard to know what the present-day Coyotes are. All the staples that made the team successful in recent years — good goaltending, solid defensive play, journeyman vets chipping in offensively — have seemingly disappeared; as a result, Arizona has just three wins from its first eight games and is only two weeks away from a grueling stretch: From Nov. 11 to 23, the club will play six of seven on the road with tough stops in Dallas, San Jose and Anaheim.
There are rumblings of Arizona being a potential trade partner for teams looking to unload salary (the Coyotes have approximately $12 million in space) but for now, Maloney said they’ll try to figure things out from within.
“It’s more likely that we’ll maybe introduce some new players as call-ups, change the mix up,” he said. “See if that can shake things loose.”