GLENDALE – The Coyotes scattered for the off-season on Monday afternoon, much sooner than any of them had expected in the team’s first season with new ownership finally in place.
"We certainly came into this year with the expectation to be a playoff team," General Manager Don Maloney said. "That to me is a minimum goal for this franchise. It didn't happen, and so now we have to figure out what went wrong.”
Phoenix notched a 37-30-15 record and finished in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, two points behind Dallas which grabbed the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
|Kyle Chipchura. Photo by Jon Kingston. |
Unlike past seasons under Head Coach Dave Tippett, the Coyotes failed to maintain leads in many games and those blown leads ended up costing them points and ultimately a playoff berth.
"Our inability to maintain the lead -- whether it's the first, second or end of the third period -- is troubling,” Maloney said. “And we have to figure out why that is. And I don't have an answer for you today. You can't say, ‘Oh our goaltending wasn't as good or we need better defense.' That's not it. It's a team identity issue -- our ability to advance pucks out of our zone or the play of our wingers along the boards. So, there's a lot to it."
Like Maloney, Tippett was not pleased with the way the team played this season, especially at the end when it struggled to score goals and won just one of its last eight games.
"I think the biggest emotion that you put on this season was frustration," Tippett said. "The frustration came from a lot of the inconsistencies in our game. We'd have a game or two where we looked like we'd push ahead, but then we'd take steps back. That frustration was evident in our game.”
He added, "When you're playing, everybody wants to win. Everyone is saying the right things. But it's about doing. The frustration of not being able to get some stuff done was probably the emotion that was the most prevalent…It was a frustrating group."
Seven players on the current roster are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. They are (in alphabetical order): forward Paul Bissonnette, goalie Thomas Greiss, forward Jeff Halpern, defenseman Derek Morris, forward David Moss, defenseman Chris Summers and forward Radim Vrbata. Forward Brandon McMillan is set to become a restricted free agent.
|General Manager Don Maloney. Photo by Dave Vest. |
"I think if you look at some of the players we've had around here for a number of years, we've had some level of success, but we haven't the last two years, so we have to make some changes and open up opportunities for other people, figure out where our chemistry went wrong," Maloney said. "We need more energy, need more hunger into our group. I think we got a little too complacent with people being here a little too long."
Phoenix scored just 11 goals in the final eight games of the season as it tried to make the playoffs.
"We're just not good enough in that position," Maloney said of the team’s forwards.
Center Mike Ribeiro, the team’s biggest free-agent signing last summer, finished the season with 47 points - fourth-most on the team. But like many of the team’s other forwards, Ribeiro struggled to contribute offensively late in the season and notched just seven in his final 22 games.
"If I had played a little bit better, we'd have made the playoffs," Ribeiro said on Monday. "I never had my groove; never found it. It was just a hard season for me. It was one of my worst. (Now) it's about me and how I can get better. I can be physically in better shape. My main goal is to get in good shape and get ready for (next) season… I take zero positives from this season, but at least know it can't get any worse."
• Maloney revealed on Monday that goaltender Mike Smith suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee on March 24 against the New York Rangers.
"It was a significant injury for a goaltender that plays a butterfly style," Maloney said. "We knew internally that he was not going to be able to help us make it to the playoffs."
• Maloney also said center Martin Hanzal was bothered by a groin injury at the end of the season that kept him out of the lineup.
• The Coyotes finished the season with a 19.9 percent success rate on power plays. That ranks first in the Western Conference and fourth in the NHL.
• Defenseman Keith Yandle finished the season as the team's leading point producer with 53 (eight goals, 45 assists).
• The Coyotes will officially become the Arizona Coyotes during the 2014 NHL Draft Weekend (June 27-28)
• The Coyotes will no longer wear their black third sweater and will have at least one Retro Night in 2014-15 when the players will wear the franchise’s original sweaters from the 1996-97 season.
• The 2014 NHL Draft Lottery is Tuesday at 5 pm (Arizona time) on NBC Sports Network. The Coyotes have a 0.8 percent chance to win the right to the first overall selection.