Imagine you were in a race with 31 other racers and were meant to come in last. The group who built your car for you made sure that half of the parts of the car doesn’t work at all because they want a chance at a one-in-a-kind steering wheel that may make you one of the best in a few years. But instead of being in dead last like everyone expects, you find yourself racing at a stronger pace than some of the racers.
To be able to drive a broken-down car is a feat on its own, but being able to steer the Arizona Coyotes to become what it is today is another achievement. Andre Tourigny is not making miracles happen as the Coyotes are still way out of a playoff race. But the Coyotes are looking to tank and the group around the team has made it almost impossible to succeed with what they have been given. Over 26 million of the team’s cap space is currently going to injured reserve players and a few of them are never going to see the NHL again like Shea Weber.
There is a prize for losing so much. The first-round draft pick of this is Connor Bedard, a prospect that looks to be the best since Connor McDavid. But with Tourigny a wrench has been thrown in the GM’s plan. Since replacing Rick Tocchet before the 21-22 season, he has been making strong progress with a select few players on the team.
The two biggest names to significantly improve under Tourigny is Clayton Keller and Barrett Hayton. Both have been struggling under Tocchet and there was worry in the Coyotes’ fanbase that these two first-round draft picks were busts. But with the former Ottawa 67’s coach at the helm, they have finally shown a massive improvement this year.
Keller is having a record year. But even in Tourigny’s first year there was a massive improvement. In the four years he had played under Tochett he had only reached over 50 points once. Since the coaching change, he hasn’t had a season under 60 points. This season even without a lot of talent to back up the young star he has a career-record 80 points. Keller has become a serious candidate for the captaincy and with the right coaching he has turned from a potential bust to a franchise player.
Hayton had never played a full season with Tocchet and struggled to stay on the team while he was coaching. He had 34 games in two seasons with the Coyotes while the old coach was still around. During that time, he only recorded 7 points with the team. This season he has 39.
It’s not only the young players that had a positive effect. When Edmonton Oilers’ centre Nick Bjugstad was asked about his time with the Coyotes, he said that Tourigny was one of the best coaches he had ever had.
With his talent in motivating young players, he is one the perfect team to use those skills. The Coyotes have 22 draft picks in the first three rounds in the next three years. They have a lot of talent that Tourigny could work with. The Coyotes have a lot of pieces ready for the next step because of him.
While other coaches that are in playoff contention will be looked at for Coach of the Year. There is also a reminder that even at the bottom there could be a candidate that is working with less. Tourigny will get his time in the spotlight, it is only a matter of when.
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