As the off-season commences, General Manager Bill Armstrong and a number of Coyotes players held exit interviews Monday to review the 2020-21 season, discuss summer plans, and look ahead.
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Conor Garland, soon a restricted free agent, further established his role this season as one of the team's most consistent offensive producers.
The scrappy, skilled forward finished third on the team in scoring with 39 points (12G, 27A), matching his career-high set in 2019-20, despite playing 19 fewer games. He recorded 10 multi-point games, second only to Phil Kessel (12).
Garland was more than just a regular contributor to the score sheet, he earned the Coyotes 29 power plays with 29 penalties drawn, ranking in the NHL's Top 3.
When it came to assists, Garland was a "primary" source. He led the Coyotes with 27 assists, all but five of them primary.
Assists are appreciated, but Garland wants to improve his shot at scoring goals.
"I had 12 goals, but there was a lot I left on the table scoring-wise," Garland said. "I missed a lot of chances this year and had some bad bounces. Next year, I look forward to making sure that there isn't as much of a discrepancy between (assists and goals). I've got to produce more, goal-scoring wise, and that starts with me improving my shot this off-season."
Garland, 25, finished his season on a torrid pace, with seven points (2G, 5A) in his final four games, after returning from a six-game absence due to a lower-body injury.
His final point - a highlight-reel goal in the season finale against the Sharks -- stands out as one of the most impressive goals scored by a Coyote this season.
Garland's impressive year was rewarded with an invitation to play for Team USA at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia, May 21 through June 6. His agent informed him about the opportunity following the May 3 game in Los Angeles.
"I think I set the record for fastest reply telling them I would come (to the tournament)," Garland said. "It's my first time representing my country, so it was a no-brainer. I'm extremely excited. It's a big deal. It's viewed a lot differently (in Europe), you don't hear much about it here, but over there it's viewed as kind of everything. So, it's a big deal. I look forward to being able to go over there and play to my capabilities."
The following Q&A is from Garland's exit-day media interviews:
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Were you satisfied with your improved assist numbers?
The (passing) part of my game has always been there. I was a play-maker in juniors, I was a play-maker growing up. I kind of got my foot into the door in the NHL by just standing in front of the net and scoring goals, and I felt like I wasn't playing my style of hockey. I thought I could really make a jump this year in becoming a better player. I got back to playing my style, and I was fortunate to produce the way I did. I'm not coming into the league as a secret anymore. I think teams are going to realize what I do, and you have to just keep improving and keep making changes so you can keep producing.
What is something from this season that you will remember?
When you digest this season, you think about how many points you left on the table as a team, games that we had in the bag and we let two points get away from us, and then you look at the standings at the end of the year. So, I think as a group we have to keep getting better, keep maturing, understanding that we can't really have any nights off.
You are a Restricted Free Agent. How are you approaching that?
It's just something that has to be addressed. I don't look forward to it. It's not something that's on my mind. It's something that just has to happen. It's part of the process. It's the business side of the game. I have an agent for that. He deals with it. He fills me in whenever he needs to, but my job is just to play hockey -- get better and that stuff takes care of itself. Of course, I'd love to be back here, and hopefully the Coyotes want me back here, and that's something we can look forward to for years to come.
Did you dream of wearing the Team USA jersey as a kid? Do you have any memories of watching Team USA?
I remember watching World Juniors in 2010 when John Carlson scored the winner. That was awesome. Zach Parise tying it up in the 2010 Olympics Gold Medal game. I remember watching the movie "Miracle" for the first time. I think I was in the first grade. We went as a hockey team. We were playing in a tournament. We're fortunate to live in a country like this. To be able to represent (Team USA) means a lot to my family. They're extremely excited. I'm eager to get over there.
Photo Credits: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes