GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes went into the 2016-17 season with more expectations than the year before, hopeful a few veteran additions would mesh with their crop of talented young players.
The second step in Arizona’s rebuilding process never really got off the ground.
Set back by a pair of early losing streaks, the Coyotes never really recovered and finished with one of the NHL’s worst records for the second straight season.
“The season was kind of pull the Band-Aid off and see where we are as an organization,” Coyotes first-year GM John Chayka said Monday. “It’s not an easy season to go through, but at some point as an organization you’ve got to look at what you’ve got and this year we got a long hard look at our young players.”
The Coyotes had an optimistic slant to start the season, hoping the experience their younger players gained a year ago would translate into a step forward.
Arizona took a step back — at least in the standings.
Plagued by inconsistent play from veterans and young players alike, Arizona finished with five fewer wins at 30-42-10 and had eight fewer points with 78, tied for third-fewest in the NHL. The Coyotes lost five games on a six-game road trip in the season’s opening two weeks and had a nine-game losing streak that spanned the new year.
The Coyotes were shaky at both ends, finishing 28th in the NHL in goals-against average at 3.15 and had the fourth-fewest goals with 191 to finish 24 points out of the last Western Conference playoff spot. They also were among the worst teams on the power play and penalty kill while playing 11 rookies, including nine who made their NHL debuts during the 2016-17 season.
The good news is that Arizona got better as the season progressed. The Coyotes won three of their final four games and all that playing time for the young players should help them when next season rolls around.
“The second half of the season, I thought there was some real growth with our group,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Not just growth, but I think sustainable growth that the organization can look forward to.”
DOAN’S DECISION: The Coyotes will have to wait a bit to find out whether captain Shane Doan will retire or return for a 22nd season. Doan has been with the team since its final year in Winnipeg in 1995 and is the franchise’s all-time leader in nearly every significant category.
The season finale on Saturday felt an awful lot like a career send-off for Doan, filled with tributes at every turn, but the 40-year-old forward has yet to decide what his future will hold.
“I’m probably going to be going back and forth, thinking both ways, kind of trying them both on and see how it feels,” Doan said.
DOMI AND DUCLAIR: The Coyotes were hoping Max Domi and Anthony Duclair would build upon their stellar rookie seasons of a year ago.
It didn’t quite pan out.
Domi was third on the team with 38 points, including nine goals, but missed eight weeks because of a broken hand suffered in a fight.
Duclair never really got untracked, finishing with five goals — 15 fewer than last season — and spending a portion of the season in the minors.
SMITH’S SEASON: Goalie Mike Smith bounced back from a pair of injury-plagued seasons to earn a trip to his first All-Star Game.
Despite an early-season knee injury, Smith was steady between the pipes, finishing with a .914 save percentage while winning 19 games on a team that struggled with puck control.
LOSING RICHARDSON: Arizona suffered a blow in November when center Brad Richardson suffered a broken leg that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Richardson scored 11 goals with 20 assists in his first season in the desert a year ago and the Coyotes were already thin at the center position heading into this season.