GLENDALE - The Coyotes plowed through the preseason, and thanks to a 5-1-2 record in eight exhibition games are a confident team heading into the 2016-17 season, their 20th in Arizona.
"We're ready to go, for sure," first-year General Manager John Chayka said. "We were one of the more active teams in the NHL this off-season and that was by design. I thought we needed a refresh and to change things up, but at the same time it wasn't just change for change's sake. I thought we were very disciplined and specific in the areas of our team that we were trying to address, and I feel confident that we addressed some of those deficiencies."
Arizona's main focus of the off-season was to improve defensively. To that end, the Coyotes signed proven NHLers Alex Goligoski and Luke Schenn, and drafted Jakob Chychrun with the 16th overall pick in June. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Connor Murphy, Michael Stone, Kevin Connauton and Zbynek Michalek already on board, it's a solid mix.
"We've added some veteran presence on the blue line to go along with guys that have been in the League for two or three years now that can really add some depth to our blue line," goalie Mike Smith said. "There's been a lot of good changes that have gone on this summer and I think everyone is really excited about getting started."
Smith, who missed a big chunk of last season because of injury, is healthy again and excited to re-establish himself as an elite NHL goalie this season. Louis Domingue is a solid backup and likely will play between 20-30 games.
The Coyotes are loaded up front with Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder - the top five point-producing forwards last season - all back for 2016-17.
Additions include Radim Vrbata, Jamie McGinn, Ryan White and prospect Dylan Strome, the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
"Our team is looking to try and make the playoffs this year," Domi said. "We're looking forward to the challenge and it's going to be a lot of fun. The new faces are going to help us out a lot and some guys coming back are going to do the same things they did last year and more. It's an exciting group and I can't wait to be a part of it. We're looking forward here. We're not looking back. We're not dwelling on anything that happened in the past. It's a good group and we're pretty confident in our group. It's just a matter of executing now. We've just got to do our job and the rest will take care of itself."
Strome and Chychrun are two of five rookies who made the Opening Night roster. The others are forwards Lawson Crouse, Laurent Dauphin and Christian Dvorak.
"We have a great mix of young and old, experienced and inexperienced ... and I think across the board we've improved," Chayka said. "The strength of our team is going to be how we play together as a team under Dave Tippett, who I expect will do a great job with our group. We have high expectations. Our group is looking to take that next step and be a competitive team every night, and with that comes the expectation of making the playoffs. That's the goal and I think we have a group that can do that."
The Coyotes, who last reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011-12, will begin the season at home on Saturday vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. After that game they will embark on a grueling six-game road trip vs. Eastern Conference teams.
"I think it's phenomenal," Head Coach Dave Tippett said of the schedule. "I think it's great for our team to get on the road. It's a great test. We'll see what we're made of early, especially with as many young guys as we've got. We'll throw them right in the fire and we'll get a good read on our group."
Video: Coyotes GM John Chayka discusses roster and season