Saturday's game will be Tippett's first with the Coyotes after his very successful six-year stint as head coach of the Dallas Stars. Tippett won't be the only newcomer on the Coyotes bench. Ten of the 23 players on the roster were not on the ice for Phoenix at the 2008-09 finale.
The players, coaches and staff members are eager to play some games. Thanks to the ongoing ownership situation, it was a long, grueling summer of uncertainty. That angst, however, has created a bond inside the dressing room that clearly was evident during the latter stages of the preseason as the roster began to take shape and Tippett came onto the scene as the new head coach.
"The vibe (around the team) is very optimistic, mostly because of the uncertainty off the ice," defenseman Adrian Aucoin
said. "I think we've used that to kind of pull together as a group."RELATED CONTENT:Video: 2009-10 Season Preview
THE HEAD COACH
|Dave Tippett. (Photo by Getty Images.) |
Tippett, of course, is the most noteworthy off-season addition to the team. The 48-year-old leader is stressing teamwork, especially when it comes to offense.
"We're going to have to be a team with what I call a pack mentality," Tippett said. "Everybody is going to have to pull their weight. As good as Shane Doan
's numbers were last year, if the next guy in the scoring standings is far down again this year, then we're not going to be good enough...The balance has to be there."
Tippett's practices are well-structured and his confidence is contagious. The players' embracement of his style showed in the preseason finale when they blanked high-powered San Jose 2-0 in Tippett's one and only game behind the bench.RELATED CONTENT:Video: Dave Tippett InterviewVideo: Don Maloney on Dave Tippett
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THE COACHING STAFF
and Doug Sulliman
, both former teammates of Tippett's with the Hartford Whalers, are back on the coaching staff. They are being joined by new Assistant Coach Dave King
and new Goaltending Coach Sean Burke
Samuelsson and King will be with Tippett behind the bench while Sulliman and Burke watch games and report to Tippett from perches above the ice.
King is a respected leader and teacher of the game. His resume includes head coaching stints with the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also coached Team Canada at the Olympics on several occassions.
|Dave Tippett and Dave King. (Photo by Getty Images.) |
“I really like his ability to break down opponents and define weaknesses,” General Manager Don Maloney said. “He probably understands the game as good as anybody. He’s really an encyclopedia on the game of the hockey.”
Burke was the team's Director of Prospect Development last season.
“For goaltenders to be successful, I think you need to establish a little bit of a team within a team,” Burke said. “To accomplish that, the goaltenders and the goaltending coach have to work together so they can take care of their business, and the rest of the team knows that that is already done and established and they don’t have to worry about whether or not the goaltender is ready.”RELATED CONTENT:Video: Let's Meet... Dave KingVideo: Sean Burke Interview
Captain Shane Doan
set career highs with 31 goals and 42 assists in 2008-09 and he is hoping to set new bests again. But as noted by Tippett, Doan can't carry the offense alone. To support this notion, the Coyotes made several key off-season moves to increase offensive production.
Veteran Robert Lang
was signed in the last week of training camp to center a line for Doan. Lang is a seasoned playmaker and a vibrant presence inside the dressing room.
"We thought we had a need for another playmaking center," Maloney said. "Looking specifically at Shane Doan
, we thought - who could we get to play with him at a very high level? Robert Lang fits that bill."
|Robert Lang. (Photo by Norm Hall.) |
Lang produced 39 points in 50 games for Montreal in 2008-09. Before that injury-shortened season, he had posted eight consecutive 50-point seasons.
"It's exciting whenever your team adds someone of his caliber," Doan said. "He's a great centerman who moves the puck well and is capable of doing everything for you playing in both ends of the ice."
Winger Radim Vrbata
, who had his best NHL season with Phoenix in 2007-08, has returned and is looking to rebound from a disappointing stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We know Radim very well and believe him to be a great fit for us,” Maloney said. "... He has the talent to score 25-plus goals while being a solid penalty killer.”
Vrbata, a native of the Czech Republic, will begin the season playing on a line with countrymates Martin Hanzal
at center and Petr Prucha
on the other wing. The chemistry and production generated by the trio turned heads all preseason.
A slimmer Peter Mueller
also raised eyebrows during training camp.
"He plays with a high rate of skill, and he's really trying to work hard to buy into what we're trying to sell, the concepts," Tippett said. " ... I thought he was our best forward (vs. San Jose) last Saturday night."
Winger Scottie Upshall
is looking to prove he can be reliable scorer in this league given ample ice time. He'll get lots of it this season. So will center Matthew Lombardi
, who, like Upshall, came to the Coyotes at the trade deadline last season and should benefit from a full season here.
Forward Daniel Winnik
will be playing with something to prove after a quiet season in 2008-09, and Mikkel Boedker
will be looking to build on a promising rookie season in which he notched 11 goals and 17 assists.
The Coyotes also added forwards Lauri Korpikoski, Taylor Pyatt
and Vernon Fiddler
in the off-season. Korpikoski brings speed to the lineup, and Pyatt (6-3, 232) provides size and a physical presence up front. Fiddler does outstanding work in the faceoff circles.
Forward Paul Bissonnette
was the final piece added to the roster puzzle. The rugged defenseman-turned-forward is around to defend his teammates when the need arises.
"He's not a heavyweight but he's a middleweight who will take on all comers," Maloney said. "I like the idea that he's hungry. He's a young guy who wants to make his mark."RELATED CONTENT:Video: Radim Vrbata InterviewPodcast: Center Robert LangPodcast: Forward Paul BissonnetteThe Desert Dog Blog: Maloney on Korpikoski TradeThe Desert Dog Blog: Maloney on Signing Pyatt
Defensively, the Coyotes are solid with Ed Jovanovski, Kurt Sauer, Keith Yandle
and Zbynek Michalek
back in the mix from last season.
Michalek is coming off an impressive season in 2008-09, during which he posted an NHL-high 271 blocked shots.
There are three newcomers on the blue line.
Seeking more grit, the Coyotes traded with Calgary for Jim Vandermeer
during the NHL Entry Draft in June.
|Jim Vandermeer. (Photo by AP.) |
"I was really impressed with Jim Vandermeer," Maloney said after watching him compete in the preseason games. "I knew he was tough, but he’s a better player than I thought. He can move the puck. He has a hard shot. And if you watch around the net, he’s a fun guy to play around."Adrian Aucoin
also came to Phoenix via Calgary in the off-season. The veteran inked a deal on the first day of free agency and has quickly become a team leader. His booming shot with his old school wooden stick makes him a big plus on the power-play unit.Sami Lepisto
came to the Coyotes in a trade during the draft, too. Lepisto earned a roster spot after an intense battle during training camp.
"He's a good player," Tippett said. "He moves the puck very well and understands the game. Plus he can play both sides and we need somebody to play on the right side."RELATED CONTENT:Video: Let's Meet... Jim VandermeerVideo: Let's Meet... Adrian AucoinPodcast: Defenseman Sami LepistoDefense Bolstered
made headlines in the off-season by leading Russia to the gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championship in Switzerland.
|Ilya Bryzgalov. |
He is eager to carry that momentum into the NHL season.
“I am expecting the whole team is going to work hard and play with passion,” Bryzgalov said. “The same thing goes for me. I have to stop more pucks than last season and give our team a chance every night to win the game. That’s my goal and that’s what I will be pushing myself to do. Last year, my goals-against average was close to three (2.98). That's unacceptable.”
Finding a dependable backup goaltender was a priority for Maloney over the summer, and he found one in free agent Jason LaBarbera
. RELATED CONTENT:
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