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Coyotes Quickly Turn Attention to Next Season

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – Coyotes players gathered their belongings, bid each other farewell and then scattered for the off-season on Monday morning after posting a disappointing 24-50-8 record in 2014-15.

"It was a disappointing year," forward Sam Gagner said. "Obviously we had higher expectations to start the year. It didn’t go the way we wanted but it’s important for everyone here to remain focused on what our ultimate goal is - to get back into the playoffs and be a contending team. I think next year that we have to come ready to play. It takes a good summer of working out and training and making sure you’re prepared. I think you’ve got to be motivated going into the summer, especially after a year like that."

Photo by Norm Hall.

General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett spoke with the players before they departed and then both addressed the media in a formal setting for the final time this season. Preparations for next season, they said, will begin immediately.

"We have to sit down as an organization and go through everything and it will take a few weeks to do that," Tippett said. "I met with all the players and Don met with all the players. We will get together and collaborate and see where we are. I don’t think anybody wants to go through this again. We are in this business to win and we don’t want to get in situations where we have to trade players at the deadline. The quicker we can find solutions to that the better for everybody."

Maloney agreed.

"I’m not going to spend a lot of time doing an autopsy on the season publicly," Maloney said. "We’re going to spend the next few weeks really taking a hard look at everything in the organization, from the management to the coaching, the training staff, how we treat the players, to how we work in the off-season - all that kind of stuff - and improve... I just think that we have to move the puck better and we have to defend better. You look at the teams that have success, it’s those teams that can get the puck and get it up ice in a hurry and get it out of trouble."

The Coyotes are eager to see what will happen on Saturday night when the NHL conducts its Draft Lottery. Arizona has a 13.5 percent chance to win the lottery/the overall first pick, and a 20.0 percent chance to finish second. The worst the Coyotes can do is end up with the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

"It was a rough year," goalie Mike Smith said. "I think no one is happy with how the season started and finished and everything in between. Some positives that came out of it is we will get a good draft pick and we have a good group of guys to build around, so that is exciting."

Photo by Getty Images.

Captain Shane Doan, who has one year left on his contract, said it was a difficult season because he expected this year’s team to be much better than it ended up being.

"(Finishing last in the Western Conference) really was a surprise and I think that was the most frustrating part, but right now it is just disappointment that another season is done,’” Doan said Monday after bieng asked to describe his emotions at season’s end. “At the same time, I am grateful I got to play in the NHL for another year, so it is what is.”

Maloney said while the team will become much younger next season, he is expecting Doan, 38, to be a key cog yet again.

"There’s no question to me that he can still play," Maloney said. "He can be a contributor. It’s up to us to bring him some better players to take those minutes that he always plays against the top defenders on the other team. He’s done it for 15 years. So, I know he’s frustrated with this season, but almost everybody is. That’s why you need to take a deep breath and give it some time. I told Shane when I talked to him very briefly this morning that I’m going to Europe next week, but when I get back we’ll get together and we’ll figure out how to make things better."

Maloney closed his press conference by discussing the future of Goaltender Coach Sean Burke.

"His position with us is going to be evaluated in the weeks ahead," Maloney said.

In addition to coaching the goalies, Burke also serves as Assistant to the General Manager.

Many of the Coyotes players will keep playing in the coming weeks. Four players – Louis Domingue, Henrik Samuelsson, Jordan Szwarz and Klas Dahlbeck – on Monday were assigned to the American Hockey League where they will try to help the Portland Pirates qualify for the AHL playoffs.

Seven other players are expected to compete at the IIHF World Championship in Prague in May. They are Smith (Canada), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sweden), Martin Erat (Czech Republic), Tobias Rieder (Germany), Connor Murphy (USA), John Moore (USA) and Mark Arcobello (USA).

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