GLENDALE -- Led by a stingy defense, the Coyotes made a valiant effort to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs but came up just four points short.
"I'm proud of the guys, you know, the season they had, the progress they made," General Manager John Chayka said Monday. "These guys worked hard every single night. I think they really established an identity, a culture."
Producing more offense while maintaining that high level of defense will be key to the team's future playoff bids.
"What we need to do to improve is pretty simple: we need to score more goals," Chayka said. "I think any time someone's going through and trying to diagnose what you need to do to take that next step, that's not the complicated part, or complex part. I think what we need to understand and work through is, how do we score more goals. How do we create more offense, while maintaining that fundamental foundation of being a good, stingy, defensive team. I think the easiest solution is always to look externally, and certainly, those are things we'll look at. But, I also believe there's a lot of latent potential and latent ability on this roster. I think there's a number of players that offensively can perform better, should have performed better."
Head Coach Rick Tocchet agrees.
"Well, I think coming in healthy is going to add some stuff," Tocchet said Monday. "I think some guys that did not have a good year are going to play better. I think myself as a coach has to come up with new ideas. The power play's got to get better. I've got to get some confidence in some guys ... I'll be in contact with a lot of guys. I've got some out-of-the-box thinking for some of these guys. Obviously we're going to talk about outside help, whether it's free agency or trades or whatever. We've got to get it done. We know we have to get scoring, but there is scoring in here and we know we have some guys that can score, and we've got to maximize those guys."
The Coyotes ranked 26th in the League in goals scored with 209. Not one player notched 20 goals for the first time in a full season in the nearly 40-year history of the franchise. On the flip side, Arizona was one of just seven NHL teams in 2018-19 that boasted 11 players who scored at least 10 goals. Thus, the potential for more offense is there.
Defensively, the Coyotes allowed just 2.68 goals per game. Only four other teams - the New York Islanders (2.33), Dallas (2.44), Boston (2.59) and Nashville (2.59) were stingier - and all four of those teams made the playoffs.
Tocchet said the Coyotes won't sacrifice playing tight defense in an effort to score more goals next season.
"We're not going to lose that," Tocchet said. "That's the thing I've been most proud of ... You can be a good team that defends and still be an offensive team. Some of the best championship teams, they have great offense, but they defend. I lived it in Pittsburgh. They could score, but if you look at the playoff record, they locked it down. We were comfortable winning 2-1 hockey games back then. I like this team. We can win 2-1. And we're going to have to win 5-4 some nights, too. That has to be in your DNA. So I don't think I'm going to devise a system of 'Oh, we're just going to score more, but we're going to sacrifice our defensive play,' No. Now, do you activate the 'D' a little bit more because our system's a little bit different? Yeah, I can tweak certain things. But I'm not going to tweak our identity because I'm trying to get a guy 30 goals. That won't happen."
Alex Galchenyuk and Brad Richardson led the Coyotes with 19 goals each. Vinnie Hinostroza placed third with 16, and Derek Stepan finished fourth with 15. Galchenyuk, Hinostroza and Stepan all missed 10 games because of injuries.
"We've got guys," Chayka said. " ... Galchenyuk has scored 30 goals, Michael Grabbner scored 30 goals before, Clayton Keller scored 20-plus. We've got Nick Schmaltz, he didn't play a ton for us, but he's a 20-plus goal scorer. Derek Stepan's a 20-plus goal scorer. We're talking about guys that have potential, offensively. We believe in them, we believe that they have the capabilities. They've done it their whole careers."