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. "They're Back", a summer Q&A series, touches base with a few names to catch up on the preceding months and the season ahead with the offseason coming to a close.
Michael Grabner is entering his second season with Arizona. The 31-year-old forward registered nine goals and seven assists in 41 games last year, including six shorthanded goals. He led the NHL in shorthanded points with nine.
You're back in Arizona for the upcoming season, how was your summer?
I spent the summer back home in Austria, we went back once [my kids'] school ended in the beginning of June and were there for two months. It was good, it was a nice summer, the weather was pretty good this year, not too much rain. We live right in the mountains, so some summers we can get a lot of clouds, wind, and rain, but this year it was really good. I had a great time training, visiting friends and family.
What was the highlight of your time spent away from the rink?
Going up into the mountains for four, five, six hours at a time picking mushrooms with my kids, that was the first time I took them out to do that, I used to do that when I was younger with my dad, we had fun times, it kind of reminded me of when I was younger. My son also had his first hockey camp in Austria and I was able to help out with that. It was just a nice relaxing time back home seeing the family, taking it easy for a little bit.
Did you keep in touch or train with any of your teammates during the offseason?
I've been back here in Arizona for almost a month, obviously school has started [for my kids], I used to only come back two-three weeks before training camp, now it's usually six-seven weeks before because of school. I like coming back a bit early, we have a good setup here, we train at EXOS and skate at the Ice Den and now [at Gila River Arena]. I think a lot of guys like to come back early because they have everything they need, they don't need to worry about setting up ice times or getting their workouts in, you can do it all as a group and it makes it a lot more fun.
As far as the upcoming season, what excites you the most?
Just the team. I think we had a great ending to the year, obviously we wanted to make the playoffs, but I think the last 20-30 games were a big step for this team, I was hurt for a lot of it, but it was good to see how the guys battled and pushed until the very end to almost get into the playoffs, and now we have a couple of good players coming in from other teams which is going to help us, I think it's all going in the right direction and we just need to build off of it.
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?
It's nice that we had that experience and those meaningful games that late in the season, and now we need to build off of it. It's not like we had a good year, a decent year, and we go back to square one, we've got to play the way we were playing right off the bat to start.
How do you feel the roster has been improved and rejuvenated with the acquisitions of forwards Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg?
It's always tough to see guys go, but that's the business we're in, we've got a couple of good players coming in that can help the team, that can help all of the young guys we have on the team, they can learn a lot. It's all going to be positive and I can't wait for camp to get started.
What is driving your motivation for the coming season?
Obviously I didn't play half of the season last year with the injury, so I'm going to set out to play all 82 games. Seeing how the guys battled, how many injuries we had and overcame, we were still in it until the very end. Everyone on the roster is a year older, now we have to take the next step and make a push toward the playoffs.
Your goals for the 2019-20 campaign, personal and for the team, what are they?
Team-wise it's making the playoffs, hopefully make some noise there. Personal goals, I set those when I was younger, I still do, but I don't really say them out loud. At the end of the day I just want to try to help the team however I can, do my part to help us win games and get to the playoffs.