Tourigny discusses challenging start to season for Coyotes

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The biggest turned out to be watching the players work hard and buy into what he was asking without receiving a payoff for their effort with victories. That changed in the past week when the Coyotes put together a four-game point streak (3-0-1), including winning consecutive games for the first time this season — 2-1 overtime victories against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday and the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

“I really like the attitude of our guys,” Tourigny said. “They really work hard, and they show up to the rink every day with a smile and try to be better and they care for their teammates. So you want them to be rewarded for that.”

Arizona (4-13-2) will look to make it three wins in a row when it hosts the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; BSAZ+, SNW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). Being home for a few days is a welcome change for the Coyotes after playing 12 of their first 19 games on the road.

Tourigny accepts the demanding early season schedule as part of “the reality of the NHL” he’s been adjusting to after making the jump from Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. The 47-year-old was an NHL assistant with the Colorado Avalanche (2013-2015) and Ottawa Senators (2015-16). But most of his coaching experience has been at the junior level with Rouyn-Noranda (2003-2012) and Halifax (2016-17) in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ottawa (2017-2020) in the OHL and the Canada national junior team, which he guided to a second-place finish in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

Tourigny says the biggest difference is, “your relationships with the players.” 

“Here you can have a deeper conversation,” Tourigny said. “You can be not more honest because I’ve always been honest, but maybe be a little bit more of a straight shooter with the player at this level.” 

Tourigny discussed more about his adjustment to the NHL and the Coyotes start in a Q&A with NHL.com: 

What drew you to this job?

“After a lot of discussion with (general manager) Bill Armstrong about the direction and where we wanted to go and how they wanted to build the team and the value they wanted in the team, I think all of it made me think that was a good fit. Everybody says they want to win, but are you willing to make the decisions that will really bring you in that direction in the future? And that was clear here that they were willing to do what is necessary to win on a consistent basis on the long term. So that was attractive, and building the culture.” 

Was it always a goal of yours to coach in the NHL?

“It was not something I was waking every morning and saying ‘I want to get there. That’s what I want to do.’ But it was something I knew I was capable of and I knew if I was keeping doing my job every day, one day I may have an opportunity. It’s more the mindset I have. I enjoy coaching a lot. I get enjoyment doing it whether it’s at the junior level or the international level or whatever. That’s what I like to do. So it’s not like for me not being in the NHL I was not happy. I was happy what I was doing.  … I’m just happy right now they brought me here and we have a good group of guys. They work really hard. Same thing with the coaches. So I’m in a good place right now.”

What were your emotions when you got your first NHL win against the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 6 (5-4) following a 0-10-1 start?

“I think it was many things. First, when we were on the (six-game) road trip before [that], we played a lot of good teams and we could not get the results. So at some point, you look your players in the eyes and you see them work so hard to win and not getting the reward. We lost in the third period three times on that trip, so I was looking at them and I was so happy for them to finally get a reward for their effort. That’s more the feeling I had after the game, the pride for our players.”

Did the players give you the game puck?

“Yeah, they did.”

What are you going to do with it?

“I’m not the most material guy. I don’t do much with those normally, but, with this one, I think I should start to be more careful about those things. It’s on my desk right now, so I will make sure I keep it and maybe do something with it.”

What’s the main thing the Coyotes need to do to get consistent results?

“For us, it starts a lot with our breakouts. We need to be involved to make the breakouts and get the puck out of our zone and when we do that, it changes our game a lot. But when we give extra opportunities to our opponent and we run around a little bit in our zone, that makes it extremely tough because we have to defend way too much.”

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere leads the team with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 19 games. It looks like a change of scenery with the trade from the Philadelphia Flyers this offseason was good for him. What has he been doing well?

“Everybody knows he’s a good puck mover and he can make plays with the puck, but his compete level and his attention to detail every day is pretty good as well. We’re happy about that. I did not know him before. I did not know what to expect in a sense of as a person or a pro athlete. I knew his skill set. But probably the fresh start (after the trade) was something he wanted or it’s something he’s taking full advantage of.”

Goalie Carter Hutton is getting close to returning from a lower-body injury, but his absence opened the door for rookie Karel Vejmelka (37 saves in his first NHL win against the Kings on Sunday) to get more of an opportunity. How much did you know about him before training camp and how has he impressed you?

“I did not know a lot about him before camp, to be honest. I knew his track record in (the Czech Republic), but as a player, as a person I did not know him. He’s a really introverted guy. He does his business. He has good body language, he looks assertive, and he works hard in practice. He’s really low maintenance. He’s not a guy that talks a lot. He’s not a guy who takes a lot of room or attracts your attention for the wrong reasons. He’s doing a lot of good things.”

With injuries and Andrew Ladd and forward Johan Larsson in NHL COVID-19 protocol, you had nine players out at one point. Other teams have gone through it too, but how much has that added to the challenge? 

“The way I think about it, it’s more about looking at what we can do to be the best version of ourselves. I’m not looking much about what I cannot control. So it’s a challenge, especially when it happens on a game day and you have one or two guys testing for COVID or it’s an injury. So you need to make some adjustments, but I think if you keep your focus on the big picture and the job ahead and what we can do to help the team in the present, that’s right mindset.”

What are you looking for as far as improvement as the season progresses?

“It’s about keeping that competitive attitude every night. It’s being in every fight and every game and playing to win every night. We don’t want to be the kind of team that just goes with the flow. We want to make sure we play with that urgency and have that championship attitude you need every day in fighting for every inch on the ice.”

I read you enjoy cooking. Have you had any time at home to do that?

“None.”

Any quick dishes you can make on a workday?

“If I have time today, I will make a little soup. I like my soup a lot, so that will be my cooking of the day because I don’t have a lot of time to cook or a lot of time to eat at home. That’s the reality of the NHL right now.”

Does cooking help you relax?

“Yeah, it helps me relax my mind and just chill at home. I love it.” 

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