As training camp draws near, a number of Coyotes players have begun to assemble for informal skates at Gila River Arena, many taking the ice together for the first time since April. With the offseason coming to a close, we touch base with a few names to catch up on the preceding months and the season ahead.
They're Back: Summer Q&A Series
Jason Demers is entering his third season with Arizona. The 31-year-old defenseman appeared in a total of 35 games during the 2018-19 season, scoring two goals and registering six assists. He played in his 600th NHL game on March 21, 2019 against his former team, the Florida Panthers.
You're back in Arizona for the upcoming season, how was your summer?
I was in Florida and New York, those were my two spots for the summer, but mostly Florida. Everybody says their summer was great, right? Great...and too long. It went well. I had a knee surgery last year so I focused on strengthening that to make sure that I was moving well, so that was my main priority, I implemented a few different styles of workouts. Overall, it was great. It was just very long, we're all just itching to get back on the ice now.
What was the highlight of your time spent away from the rink?
Me and my girlfriend went to Iceland, that was probably the best thing about my summer. We did a 10-day trip; we went to Spain and London, and then we went to Iceland, and Iceland was awesome.
Did you keep in touch or train with any of your teammates during the offseason?
I try to keep in touch with most guys; I usually talk to [Stepan] and [Goligoski], we usually talk at least once a week, we kept in touch all summer, Richardson as well, we're always talking. I also try to check in as much as I can with the young guys to see how they're doing, if they're having a good summer, as many guys as I can, really.
As far as the upcoming season, what excites you the most?
Just seeing the growth of the young guys. We have a lot of guys that we think are primed to take a step forward if we're to make this next jump. The little bit of added pressure we have from the outside, it's kind of nice to have that buzz, those expectations, those real expectations of actually doing something great here this year. All of that, for me, has been the most exciting thing to come back to.
Fighting for a playoff spot up until the second-to-last game in 2018-19, what did you learn from that experience, how is the team looking to build on that?
Since I've been here it's been two years of growth. The first year I was here we had that horrendous start and guys kept battling all year even though we were out of it in December, guys played hard every single game. Last year was just us battling all year, battling through injuries, there were a lot of guys out, myself included, and I think the guys did a great job of fighting until the end. Now I think we have our identity of how we outwork teams, nothing deters us, and moving forward, that's what we're going to keep harping on.
How do you feel the roster has been improved and rejuvenated with the acquisitions of forwards Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg?
I mean, Soderberg knocked my teeth out*, so we have a nice talk coming when he gets here [laughing]. He's a great player, he gives us some depth, he can win us some big face-offs and play on both sides of the rink. Phil, Phil the thrill, he provides us with scoring, and it's nice to get a little bit of age and experience, which will certainly help all of the young guys that are already here, give them a little push. These are both guys that know what it takes, they've been to the big dance.
*I was in Dallas, I scored, and as he went to lift my stick, he accidentally missed and knocked both of my two front teeth out, but I scored the goal." VIDEO
What is driving your motivation for the coming season?
It's fun to be a part of something where it's been a while since there's been a buzz, to be the group that kind of breaks through after all of these years. They had some great seasons back when [Shane Doan] was here, some good playoff runs, but I think it's been too long of a lull. It's time to go, it's time to make something happen and make the playoffs. Our goal should be to win the Stanley Cup, it always is, but it should be our main focus.
Your goals for the 2019-20 campaign, personal and for the team, what are they?
Make the playoffs. You never just want to say 'make the playoffs'. Winning the Stanley Cup is the goal. Just keep moving forward, don't take any steps back and keep improving on the last couple of seasons.