As training camp progresses, Arizona Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett is looking for players on the bubble to step forward and create separation.
That’s true for younger players hoping to make this team. Following a plethora of offseason changes, there could be a few roster spots up for grabs, and that’s especially exact for a winger looking for a job on the Coyotes’ third and fourth line.
“Players need to show us they are engaged in the flow of a game and have an impact on the game,” Tippett said after the Coyotes defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 5-3, Monday night at the Gila River Arena during a split-squad contest. “One guy is Michael Bunting. He’s not quite there, but did show he’s engaged.”
Tippett was speaking of the rookies’ effort against the Kings and used Bunting as a microcosm for battles on this team. Here at the advent of camp, Bunting is vying for attention and in competition with other left wings, including Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse and Laurent Dauphin for likely one spot on the team.
In Monday’s game, Tippett had Bunting on the left wing, with Ryan White in the middle and veteran Brad Richardson on the right wing. All worked well, but Bunting knows the road ahead to make this team is filled with land mines and road blocks.
“To get their attention, I just have to play my game,” he said after a two-point (one goal, one assist) night. “Yes, just play my game.”
At this point, Bunting is not flashy from an offensive vantage and his size, at 5 foot 11 and 197 pounds, represents no red wood in front of the net. Still, his grit and ability to be at the right place at the right time could gather attention.
As the coach, Tippett was not blinded by the Coyotes’ opening preseason triumph. Admitting “everyone likes to win,” he dismissed the victory as only the opening contest in what he refers to as a continuing audition for younger players. At the same time, the Coyotes lost to the Kings, 4-3, in the other half of the split-squad to the Kings at the Staples Center.
“Look, it’s the first game, and some guys looked good while others did not,” Tippett indicated. “We’ll just go forward from there.”
Regaining That Good Feeling
After the summer vacation, players were eager to get back on the ice.
One, in particular, was defenseman Luke Schenn, who had a history with coach Tippett. Schenn played for Team Canada in the 2009 World Championships, and Tippett was an assistant coach.
In the game against the Kings at the Gila River Arena, Schenn picked up the first goal of the game on the power play midway through the opening period.
“I think we have several defensemen who can operate the power play,” Schenn said, smiling when asked if he’ll skate with the man advantage. “But, this was a good start. It’s always better to win. After the summer, I think everyone is ready to get back, and to win is always a good feeling.”
For his effort, Schenn played 22 minutes, 12 seconds, and tied defenseman Justin Mache with four hits, which was most on the team.
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.