Coyotes players, coaches becoming close after offseason changes

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When the Arizona Coyotes open the regular season at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 14, they will look a lot different than they did a season ago.

Traded were defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Vancouver Canucks), forwards Conor Garland (Canucks) and Christian Dvorak (Montreal Canadiens), and goalies Darcy Kuemper (Colorado Avalanche) and Adin Hill (San Jose Sharks). Forward Michael Bunting signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, goalie Antti Raanta signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, defenseman Alex Goligoski signed with the Minnesota Wild and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson retired.

“I think it is 15 new guys on our team,” forward Christian Fischer said Sunday before the Coyotes lost 6-3 to the Dallas Stars in El Paso, Texas, as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2020. “It’s good just to have that new jell with the guys.”

The new players include forwards Jay Beagle, Travis Boyd, Ryan Dzingel, Loui Eriksson, Dmitrij Jaskin, Andrew Ladd and Antoine Roussel, defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere, Anton Stralman and Conor Timmins, and goalies Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar.

The Coyotes also have a new coach after Andre Tourigny was hired to replace Rick Tocchet on July 1.

“I think [Tourigny] came in and has been great with us,” Fischer said. “He’s kind of set the tempo and the mindset right away. I think ‘Bear’ has been a really good leader and then all the new guys coming in, everyone’s been no problem. A lot of guys have bought in. There’s still a lot of things we’re figuring out … but for the most part every guy is in the same mindset in terms of work ethic and what it’s going to take to win the games, and for the most part I’m happy with our progression.”

Ivan Prosvetov, who likely will be the third-string goalie to start the season, is the only goalie on the Coyotes roster to play a game with them last season (three games).

Video: Arizona Coyotes 2021-22 Season Preview

“They have a lot of changes but I think they brought in some really good veterans, a really well-informed coaching staff, so we’ll see how the season goes for them,” former Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said at Kraft Hockeyville.

Arizona also will play in a new division. After being in the Pacific Division since the 1998-99 season, the Coyotes will shift to the Central Division this season with the expansion Seattle Kraken joining the Pacific.

“I think it’s pretty clear that we are becoming close with one another,” Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse said. “Obviously there were a lot of changes made in the offseason with a new coach and pretty much a full new roster, so just about that and staying on top of our systems and being on top of our game for opening night.”

It will be Tourigny’s job to guide the Coyotes back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they failed to qualify last season, going 24-26-6 and finishing fifth in the eight-team Honda West Division; the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs. Arizona made the postseason in 2020, a five-game loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round.

“For us as an organization, bringing in Bear, Andre is an unbelievable coach,” said Shane Doan, who played 21 seasons for the Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise and now is Arizona’s chief hockey development officer. “I’m excited about what he is going to do with the group. We have a bunch of young guys that we’re going to try and develop and Bear is going to be a big part of that.”

The Coyotes are 3-1-0 in the preseason. Though the games may not count in the standings, Tourigny said he knows their play now can help set the tone for the season.

“I think those guys know the importance of the game for each of them,” he said. “There’s a new staff, a lot of new players on our team. Some guys fight for a spot on the team, some guys fight for a role on the team, more ice time.”

The Coyotes have two more preseason games to make adjustments before the season begins.

“They brought in a lot of smart hockey people and I think together we can rebuild again and turn this into something special,” former Coyotes forward Dave Scatchard said. “That playoff run [in 2020] was amazing. The city was getting involved in it, there was a lot of excitement about hockey. We just have to get that back. … I think they have a lot of great talent on that team.”

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