GLENDALE – Let’s go!
That was the message Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett delivered to his team – and the media – after Wednesday’s practice at Gila River Arena, the team’s last off-day workout before starting the 2014-15 season vs. Winnipeg at home on Thursday night.
“The start of the year always brings optimism … and every year brings a different challenge,” Tippett said. “Every year has new faces, new excitements, new expectations – all of the above. These are fun days.”
Indeed. Not only will the team begin a fresh season, it will do so with a new a name – Arizona Coyotes – and playing in a home rink with a new name – Gila River Arena.
“Things are going in the right direction,” captain Shane Doan said. “We just have to make sure the product on the ice is up to snuff.”
Tippett is confident the Coyotes are prepared to start the season and that this season’s team has what it takes to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a two-year absence. In other words, he really liked what he saw during a lengthy and grueling training camp.
“I feel like our team really dug into the identity we’re trying to find, which is a (team with) strong work ethic, with everybody doing their job and doing their part. I feel we have that built into our group,” Tippett said.
The Coyotes are starting 2014-15 with multiple newcomers on the roster. By all accounts, the chemistry in the room is solid.
“It’s a fresh start for all of us,” said center Joe Vitale, who joined the team via free agency over the summer. “Everyone is very confident and happy with the group, and with the character and talent that we have here. Everyone is excited to get going.”
He added, “I think we had a very tough camp, which will work to our advantage. We played a lot of games and had some long travel days. I think we’re ready to go.”
Sam Gagner is another fresh face eager to make his Coyotes debut and to start the season.
“It’s definitely an exciting time,” Gagner said. “…You train all summer and look forward to Game One. I’m excited to get back and I know everyone feels the same way. It’s nice that camp is all done and we’re all focused on playing games that count now.”
He added, “It’s a great group of guys in here and we’re all getting along really well. But it’s all about tomorrow night and getting off on the right foot. We had a good day of practice today. Everyone was working hard and we got some structure things hammered down.”
Captain Shane Doan is eager to start his 19th NHL season.
"I’m fortunate to be able to keep doing it and I love it,” Doan said. “I can’t wait to get out there and compete. That’s the best part of the game - competing and testing yourself. It’s a blast."
Doan said he believes the Coyotes can return to the postseason if they are consistent in playing the correct way.
“We’re prepared,” Doan said. “That’s a given with ‘Tipp’ and the coaching staff and the way they go about their business. We know what we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to do it. Now we just have to go and do it. That’s going to be the test.”