GLENDALE - Coyotes players reported to training camp at Gila River Arena on Thursday morning and first-year General Manager John Chayka set the bar pretty high for them.
"Chayka said that we were going to go 82-0 so that's his expectation and that's our expectation," Captain Shane Doan told reporters during the Media Day portion of the day. "We understand that's maybe unrealistic, but that's going to be our goal. We want to find ways to win every night. We have to be better than we were last year by quite a bit. There were times last year when we were good and I think the goal for our group should be to consistently hold ourselves to a high standard."
The Coyotes will take the ice - in three teams of 20 players - for the first time on Friday at 9:30 a.m. The goal from that moment on will be to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs next spring for the first time since 2011-12.
"We've talked a lot about just kind of taking that next step as an organization," Chayka said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We're not striving for mediocrity here, we're striving to be the best. I want my guys to kind of focus on the process of getting better day to day … We've got a lot of new faces here but you trust the process and you believe in what you've done. I have a lot of confidence in the group we have here to take that next step and be a team that's expecting to win."
Several members of the Coyotes, including Head Coach Dave Tippett, did not report to camp on Thursday because they are still participating at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. They are defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek, and forwards Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder. The latter remains unsigned for the season.
Tippett, who served as an assistant coach with Team North America at the World Cup, is flying back to Arizona on Friday and will likely arrive at training camp in the afternoon.
"There's no reason why we can't take another step forward," Tippett said. " ... We have to be a better team and expect to win every night rather than just hope to grow."
Goalie Mike Smith reported to camp excited to pick up where he left off at the end of last season. Smith said he feels confident and will approach his job somewhat differently this season.
"Over the last few years I think I've put a lot of pressure on myself to carry the brunt of the load," Smith said. "I've thought a lot about it over the summer, (about) just being myself and not trying to put too much pressure on myself and just try to go out there and not be a superhero and just be a solid influence back there. Hopefully that's good enough to get us into the playoffs."
Newcomer Alex Goligoski said his transition to the Coyotes has been seamless and that the good vibe around this up-and-coming team is palpable.
"Our expectations are really high (and) I think they should be," Goligoski said. "A core group of guys last year took a good step and there's no reason why you can't build on that with a lot of good players returning, and they brought in a lot of good players. Everyone is healthy, so knock on wood it stays that way. We have high expectations in here and you can definitely get that sense."
Forward Radim Vrbata is technically a newcomer but not really. He's back for a third stint with the Coyotes and is excited by how the team looks on paper.
"It feels really good to be back," Vrbata said. "I think if I were to compare it to when I was leaving, I think you have a lot more talented guys with a lot more skill and speed. That's exciting to see. Overall I think it's a more talented team than we had in previous years."
Forward Max Domi, who, along with forwards Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook, posted a solid rookie season in 2015-16, is eager to see what the team can accomplish this season.
"I think our team is looking to try and make the playoffs this year," Domi said. "We can't look too far ahead, but it's going to start with a good preseason. After that it's just game by game for 82 games. We're looking forward to the challenge and it's going to be a lot of fun this year. 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."
Defenseman Michael Stone continues to rehab from a serious knee injury suffered last season and will be limited at training camp. Meanwhile, defenseman Kevin Connauton will not be among those skating at training camp on Friday because he suffered a lower-body injury during an informal skate this summer.
"I don't think he'll be out for too long," Chayka said of Connauton. "He's going through the rehab process right now. He certainly won't be here for the start of camp. I'm hopeful he'll be back up and running soon."