The goals have changed dramatically for Coyotes forwards Martin Hanzal
and Peter Mueller as they approach the start of their second NHL seasons.
Instead of just making an NHL roster for the first time, Mueller and Hanzal have spent this training camp focused on improving on impressive rookie campaigns.
And while Head Coach Wayne Gretzky acknowledges the existence of the so-called “sophomore slump” in pro sports, he isn’t worried about that happening to Hanzal or Mueller.
“I think both of them have put in tremendously hard summers to get ready for the season,” Gretzky said. “I’m not concerned about either one of them.”
Hanzal’s biggest challenge likely will be recovering from off-season back surgery.
“I have to prove myself and be better than last year,” said Hanzal, who scored 11 goals last season while excelling on defense against some of the league’s top centers. “I’m not in great shape like I was last year. It’s going to be a little bit harder getting ready because of my back surgery in the summer.”
Gretzky isn’t concerned.
“I’m not worried about that,” Gretzky said. “He looks like he has worked hard and should be ready to go for game one.”
In their exit interviews last spring, Gretzky told Hanzal and Mueller not to worry about the “sophomore slump.” He also asked them to work hard over the summer.
“I told them to take a few weeks off, regroup and rest up, but get focused and start training and they did that,” Gretzky said.
Mueller worked on his skating over the summer, and added muscle mass and tone by working out at Athletes’ Performance Institute in Tempe. Regarding his thoughts on the “sophomore slump,” Mueller said it’s a non-issue.
“I try not to think about it,” Mueller said. “I just go out, play my game, and use my talents as best as I can.”