“This was one of the teams that was pretty high on my list earlier this summer,” Belanger said. “I don’t think things worked out the first week of July, but everything happened for a reason, and now the story of Washington is in the past and I’m looking to the future and this is a great opportunity.”
| Eric Belanger |
Belanger spent most of last season playing for the Minnesota Wild, who dealt him to the playoff-bound Washington Capitals just before the trade deadline. Playing for those two teams, Belanger notched a career-high 41 points.
The Coyotes first became interested in Belanger after he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and after searching for the right situation, Belanger found it in Phoenix just before training camp started.
Belanger, 32, has logged 634 regular-season games at the NHL level. In those games he’s recorded 121 goals and 178 assists. He also has tallied seven points in 37 playoff games.
Many fans may remember the dedication and toughness Belanger displayed last season when he returned to a playoff game against Montreal after having multiple teeth shattered after the stick of an opponent whacked him across the face. Belanger underwent in-arena oral surgery and made it back to the ice in the third period.
“I knew I was in trouble, but what are you going to do? It's the playoffs,” he said at the time.
Belanger has served as a top six forward with other teams and would like to land on of those jobs with the Coyotes.
“Every time I was put in that role I responded well and as a player you want to be one of the top guys and the chance is here,” Belanger said. “But the only real thing you can do is ask for an opportunity and it’s presenting itself right now. Hopefully I can do the job.”
Belanger has embraced the competition for spots on the roster, a situation much different than in Washington, a team that features star players in key spots.
|Eric Belanger. Photo by Getty Images. |
“I think there’s a lot of depth here and from the first couple of days, it seems like a great bunch of guys,” Belanger said. “Everybody’s on the same level. There’s no superstars here and I think that makes a big difference.”
And perhaps the most exciting thing about the Coyotes for Belanger is getting the opportunity to play for Dave Tippett again. Tippett was an assistant coach during Belanger’s tenure with the Los Angeles Kings early in his career.
“By knowing Dave Tippett from back when I was in LA and knowing a lot of guys that have played for him, they can’t say enough about him, so this felt like a great opportunity, a great spot for me and I’m happy to be here,” Belanger said.
Belanger’s ultimate goal is to help the Coyotes improve on last season’s finish.
“Nobody saw this team finishing fourth in the Western Conference (last season),” Belanger said. “Hopefully me and Ray Whitney
can bring a little bit more and we can do some damage in the playoffs.”EDITOR'S NOTE:
to watch Let's Meet... Eric Belanger.