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‘Yotes Notes: Team Earns 22 More Points Than Last Year

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes lost their season finale, 1-0, to the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at the SAP Center to finish the 2015-16 campaign with a 35-39-8 record for 78 points.

That point total is a 22-point improvement from last season when Arizona earned just 56 points.

“People will refer to it as a rebuild,” Team President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told FOX Sports Arizona during the broadcast of the game. “If this is a rebuild, it's the fastest one I've ever seen… I feel very strongly this is a playoff team next year, and that’s what we’re all waiting for. It’s unfortunate that the season is ending early this year, but it feels a heck of a lot better this year than it did this time last year.”

The Coyotes, who ended the season with a four-game losing streak, finished just nine points behind Minnesota for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

Arizona scored 209 goals this season, 39 more than a year ago, and allowed 245 goals, 27 fewer than last season.

“We've had a lot of growth in our organization this year and (with) our players,” said goalie Mike Smith, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in the finale. “…I think the fans should be excited about what's to come here in this organization and this team going forward.”

Captain Shane Doan agreed but said there’s lots of work to be done.

“It's pretty disappointing (not to make the playoffs), but to a certain degree you're excited,” Doan said. “We at least went in the right direction… But by no means can we be even remotely satisfied. We better recognize we’ve got a long ways to go.”

• Sharks captain Joe Pavelski scored the lone goal during a 5-on-3 power play in the third period with Boyd Gordon in the penalty box for hi-sticking and Oliver Ekman-Larsson next to him for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It's disappointing that a soft call dictates the outcome of the game,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said, referring to the call on Ekman-Larsson. “I thought our group had lots of try, we just couldn’t capitalize on any chances.”

• Doan missed a big chunk of the finale after receiving 19 penalty minutes for fighting Sharks defenseman Roman Polak after Polak boarded Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder at 3:07 of the first period.

“It's one of those things that's part of our game, and it's an important part of our game,” Doan said regarding fighting Polak. “You have to do it sometimes.”

Rieder left the ice but returned later in the first period.

Doan finished the season with 28 goals to lead the team. He is just the fourth NHL player age 39 or older to lead his team in scoring. The others: Jaromir Jagr (with Dallas in 2012-13), John Bucyk (with Boston in 1975-76) and Gordie Howe (with Detroit in 1967-68).

“He had a very, very good year,” Tippett said. “It's too bad we couldn't get to the playoffs for him.”

After the game, Doan, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, told FOX Sports Arizona he needs to discuss returning for another NHL season with his family before making a decision.

“They’ve given up a lot and I’m very aware of that,” Doan said. “They want me to keep playing. They want me to do what makes me happy, but at the same time I've got to be aware of what goes on for them, too.”

• Rieder and forward Brad Richardson are the only Coyotes who played in all 82 games this season. It’s the first time in his 11-year career that Richardson has played in every game. Rieder ended the season with a team-high 154 games-played streak.

• Prospect Connor Clifton notched an assist and a highlight-reel check in the NCAA title game on Saturday. Clifton, whom the Coyotes drafted 133rd overall in 2013, plays for Quinnipiac University, which lost to the University of North Dakota, 5-1, at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

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