André Tourigny knew he was embarking on a long-term project with the Coyotes. When Bill Armstrong, the new general manager in Arizona, snatched him from the Ottawa 67’s and an important role with the Canadian team, he did not dangle him the possibility of leading a winning team.
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The Coyotes have a pretty clear strategy. They chose to rebuild their team. They already have a pick truck in the 2022 draft, with three first-round picks and five more in the second round.
The word reconstruction is also synonymous with patience. For Tourigny, it was an adjustment after dominant seasons with the 67’s in the Ontario Junior League.
“When you arrive with the Ottawa 67’s or with Team Canada, you discover a new world, but there is already a cohesion within the team, told Tourigny in a telephone interview. Journal. When I arrived in Arizona, I almost felt like I was on an expansion team. We have made several transactions to build our future. We needed to become a team quickly, I needed to build chemistry. That was the biggest challenge. »
“When you’re designing a new system with a team that’s been playing together for a long time, that’s one thing. But when there are a bunch of new players, it’s very different. It took time. »
At 12e match
It took a lot of time for Tourigny to savor his first victory as head coach in the NHL. The Coyotes won their first game this season in their 12th meeting. After a 0-10-1 start, the “Yotes” defeated the Seattle Kraken 5-4.
“Honestly, I didn’t remember it was at 12e match, but I know it was long, replied the 47-year-old man with a laugh. I kept the puck from my first win. The players gave me the puck after the game against the Kraken. I keep it in memory, it is in my office. But I’m not a big junk collector. I’m not a materialistic guy: pucks, medals, that’s not the most important thing. »
Building a culture
The Coyotes aren’t a powerful team, but they’ve already taken small steps. Prior to last night’s visit to Denver, they had won three of their last six games. In the general classification, they now found themselves in 31st place, leaving the last place, now occupied by the Canadian.
While hoping for happier days in the Arizona desert, Tourigny admits juggling a rebuilding roster isn’t always easy.
“Theory is still easier than practice,” he replied. I know that we are a team in reconstruction. I know our mandate. But as a coach, I can’t look for tomorrow. I take care of my team today. I stay in the present. I know it’s a classic, but I control what I can control. When you take a break and look to the future, you just tell yourself that it’s far away. It’s no use thinking too much about it. I am working today with the aim of building a good team for the future. »
“Yes, the Coyotes have a bright future and we have several big choices for the next drafts, he chained. It’s good to talk about it poolside, but I don’t know what will happen in three or four years. I focus on building the culture of the team, I can’t let lack of effort or commitment slip away. I want to see guys who take pride in working hard and guys who push in the same direction. That is important because it can have an effect on the young people who will join the team. »
With a three-year contract in his pocket, Tourigny will have the mission to change the mentality of this team to gradually reap the benefits. And he will cross his fingers to remain the man of confidence when the team matures.
A move… to Arizona
The Arizona Coyotes will eventually move. We have been hearing this refrain for several years. But it is becoming more and more a reality. They will end their lease with Gila River Arena in Glendale at the end of next season.
Not a distraction
However, the uncertain situation of the Coyotes does not represent a distraction for André Tourigny.
“For me, it doesn’t change anything. The battle is where the Coyotes will play in Arizona. The NHL will look to find a new location in Arizona, not elsewhere. I stay in Scottsdale and we play our games in Glendale. There was a project for Tempe. We’re talking about three towns that are about 30 minutes away by car. »
“It’s like a Canadiens player who stays in Old Montreal. He can easily get to the Bell Center, but Laval or Brossard aren’t really that far. »
“I won’t hide it. There are times, about once a week, I get questions about the new rumor for our team. But despite that, it’s not a big distraction for the team. »
A good market
Gary Bettman has said it more than once. He wants to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. He has shown his faith in this market many times in the past.
“The key is the location of the arena,” said Tourigny. I also strongly believe in the Arizona market. There aren’t many things in Glendale. Phoenix is one of the ten largest cities in the United States by population. There is a lot of money, several big companies and several Canadians settled in this city. In Canada, there is also a market that is having difficulty filling its arena and that is Ottawa. Why ? This is due to the location of the arena in Kanata. If a Canadian city has trouble selling tickets, it’s even worse for an American city. »
Sympathy for Ducharme
André Tourigny was no exception. Like several NHL players and coaches, Tourigny tested positive for coronavirus. He found himself in isolation at his home in Scottsdale while his team prepared for a game against the Avalanche in Denver.
In theory, Tourigny will leave the COVID protocol tomorrow, provided he obtains a negative test.
“I’ll be back in time for the first place game, when you look at the standings upside down,” said the former Ottawa 67’s coach with a smile in his voice.
Monday afternoon, on this holiday in memory of Martin Luther King, the Coyotes will play against the Canadian at the Gila River Arena. It will be a duel between the two worst teams in the NHL.
In Glendale, Arizona, Tourigny can lead the Coyotes in relative peace. He doesn’t have to be bombarded with questions by journalists to explain his team’s setbacks. He is very aware that he is living a different reality from that of Dominique Ducharme.
“I could not imagine such a season, but as a coach of the Canadian, he replied, it must be extremely difficult for Dominique Ducharme and I sympathize with him. I know he must find this very painful. But we cannot compare the two situations. »
“In Arizona, we showed our game, we wanted to rebuild. So it’s not a surprise. In Montreal, the Canadian had reached the Stanley Cup final and there were expectations again this year. You can understand the position in the CH standings when you look at the number of injuries. Supporters, however, did not expect such a turnaround. In Montreal, there are also fans with great passion. This is not an obvious scenario for a coach. »
A good attitude
Managing expectations allows Tourigny and his deputies, Mario Duhamel (a longtime accomplice) and Phil Housley, to keep a step back. There’s no pressure to win immediately with the Coyotes. It is possible to see progress in this difficult season.
“We are proud of the direction we are taking and the attitude of the players,” noted Tourigny. I like the progress of our young people and the influence of our old people. It doesn’t mean anything, but Bill, our GM, often says that when he watches the guys in practice, he feels like he’s watching a champion team. The guys are smiling, they work and they want to learn. We could not predict that we are more a team near the bottom. »