At this point for the Arizona Coyotes, there’s not much to get excited.
Here’s a team with the lowest team point production in the NHL. In the short matter of a few weeks, the smile and cheer from coach Dave Tippett, clearly visible in the opening weeks of the campaign, has quickly vanished. Tippett’s sessions with the media now are quiet and reserved, and much less animated.
As the season began, Tippett was clearly optimistic and spoke of his team in general terms. Now, he’s naming names, and the Arizona dressing room is quiet and taciturn. Coming into Tuesday’s game at Colorado, only the Predators and Hurricanes had fewer wins than Arizona, and the Coyotes were tied with the Islanders, the Stars and the Canucks with four victories each.
“We don’t need talkers,” Tippett said after practice Monday afternoon in the Gila River Arena. “We need doers. We’re looking for doers.”
Perhaps the biggest reason for drop in the standings is the lack of production from Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. In making the jump from juniors to the NHL last season, Domi and Duclair, on the same line most of the season, excited fans with lightning bursts of speed and a flair for scoring. Domi scored 18 goals and picked up 52 points, while Duclair added 20 tallies and 44 points.
Combined in the Coyotes’ first 11 games, they’ve scored one goal (Duclair) and picked up nine assists. This lack of production is not unnoticed.
“(Duclair’s) game has to improve,” Tippett added. “In fact, there are two issues right now. We need to find a consistency in goal and our center ice is in flux.”
With Martin Hanzal now on the injured reserve with recurring lower body issues, Tippett scrambled to find Hanzal’s replacement. That experiment appears on-going and Tippett, for the immediate games at hand, centers Jordan Martintook between Domi on the left wing and Radim Vrbata on the right side.
Coyotes Have Highest GA
Citing the need for improvement between the pipes, Tippet can only point to the latest NHL statistics. With Mike Smith down with a knee injury, Louis Domingue (3.87 goals against in nine games) has been less than sparkling. In fact, the Coyotes are dead last with a team 3.77 GA. The Flyers, with a team GA of 3.62, are just ahead.
If the Coyotes seem to be skating in the sand, center Brad Richardson has carried the offensive responsibilities. Coming into the Avs game, Richardson, who reached a career best with 31 points last season, leads the team in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). As a team, the Coyotes top the league with three short-handed goals. Richardson has scored two and Laurent Dauphin picked up the other.
“Sometimes, things just click,” Richardson said after practice Monday. “There’s no rhyme or reason. You’re working hard and trying to do the right things, and sometimes the puck will go for you. I also work hard on my game in the off-season and it’s nice to see results.”
For now, Tippett hopes for several underachieving players to catch Richardson’s spark and begin to elevate the Coyotes through the Pacific Division.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.