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Bear market: André Tourigny is still the man to lead the Coyotes despite recent skid

Craig Morgan Avatar
February 18, 2024
Coyotes coach André Tourigny.

There are moments in journalism where you have to give voice to the fans, even if you already know the rational answer to the question you are about to ask.

The Coyotes’ eight-game losing streak creates one of those moments. 

Fans are unhappy. Fans are looking for somebody to blame. The Coyotes were in a Western Conference wild card position on Jan. 1. Seven weeks later, they were 10 points off that pace heading into brutal back-to-back games at Colorado (which they lost) and vs. Edmonton on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Fans want to see a greater compete level. They want better goaltending. They want to see the same belief that they saw from this team earlier in the season when it exceeded the wildest expectations while beating the five most recent Stanley Cup winners in consecutive games.

When teams hit tailspins like this, the coach is usually the first guy to take the fall, and there are plenty of fans and some analysts suggesting that such a fate should befall André Tourigny.

So I asked GM Bill Armstrong the question: Is André Tourigny safe?

“Of course he is,” Armstrong said. “That’s a silly question. I’m not even gonna answer that any more.”

As he has done consistently since he arrived in September 2020, Armstrong is looking at the big picture.

“We’re still moving forward as an organization,” he said. “This is just something that you go through when you’re at these points in a rebuild. 

“People forget that you’re still in the process because of our success early on, but let’s go over the teams that we’ve had losses against. We’re not talking about shitty teams here. We’re talking about top teams. Those have been disappointing losses, but those were also learning losses for us when we’re at this stage in the process.”

To a man, the Coyotes describe André Tourigny as a players’ coach. (Getty Images)

Early in Tourigny’s tenure, he was asked about the challenge of leading a team at the start of a painful rebuild. He called it the easy part where he simply had to establish a culture and a style of play without any on-ice expectations.

“The hard part comes when there are expectations and you don’t meet them,” he said. “Now people start asking questions.”

Tourigny isn’t hiding from those questions. They gnaw at him as he goes to sleep at night, and they are waiting, bedside, when he wakes up in the morning.

“Every day, I’m my biggest critic,” he said. “It’s always been like that. I will always be a guy who second-guesses everything I do; second-guesses everything we do to see what we can do better. 

“Is there a system, or usage of personnel, or tactics or whatever it is that we can change? It’s always a balance between the personnel you have, the type of players you have and the system available, but absolutely, we do that on a daily basis. When I wake up in the morning, I try to do what’s best for the team; not for me. That’s my approach when things are going well or when things are not going well. That did not change in the last stretch.”

Tourigny and his staff have identified plenty of issues during this 0-7-1 stretch. The Coyotes are taking too many penalties (they’re fourth in the NHL with 643 minutes). Bad starts plagued them early in the skid. They thought they had fixed the issue, and then it reared its head again in a loss against Carolina on Friday in which Arizona surrendered two goals in the first five minutes of the game.

“When we are at our best as a team, we’re confident we can win the game 2-1,” he said. “We’re confident to play really good defense and that will lead to good results. Right now, we feel we have to score and we feel we have to do a little bit more and that’s not the best thing for us. Less is more for us. We need to let our skill take over but we need to play defense first. I think the guys have the right intention, but when they get in the heat of the moment, maybe they’re squeezing the sticks and we try to do a little bit too much.”

Tourigny knows that there have been questions about the team’s leadership during this stretch. Where is the impact of Jason Zucker, Alex Kerfoot, Matt Dumba and Nick Bjugstad, veterans who were brought in to provide that critical voice? Where is the leadership of Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse and Nick Schmaltz, three players whom Tourigny highlighted in his discussion with PHNX Sports about the captaincy.

Where is the coaching staff’s impact when the team gets undisciplined in coverages, or by taking too many penalties, or by starting poorly?

“When you have this kind of a sequence, it’s everybody’s responsibility,” he said. “There’s not a chance one guy or two guys or five guys will get us out of it. It’s not about how good your leader is. It’s a team. One individual performance can make a difference one night, but it’s all of us all together, pulling the same direction. If we have 20 guys who play their A-plus game one night, then we’ll get out of it.”

It has been noted in many circles that the start of the Coyotes’ skid coincided with the press release from the Smith Group, requesting that the NHL “initiate an expansion process with the ultimate purpose of bringing an NHL franchise to Utah” while also making “clear its immediate ability to welcome an NHL team to Utah, using Delta Center as an interim home arena for an NHL franchise.” 

The Coyotes are facing an existential crisis in Arizona. Relocation rumors are swirling once again. It’s easy to say that the players should block it out and perform. It’s far more difficult in practice when you consider the impact it has on their daily lives, and the lives of their families.

“Who knows how much it is impacting us,” Tourigny said. “I don’t know. The players don’t know. You don’t know. When distractions happen, you don’t know how much it’s part of it, but we’ve been through distractions before. We’ve battled through. We found a way. 

“Is this one different? I don’t know, but one thing is sure: You don’t lose seven, eight games overnight. I think it’s a build-up of things. It started with one loss and then two losses and it piled on. In that stretch, we had games we could have won. We had games where we lost the lead in the third. We had games where we deserved better, but we didn’t find a way to close the deal so now it’s a monster.” 

Last season when the Coyotes completed a 13-point improvement from the previous season, Tourigny had pages and pages of notes, outlining areas where his team and his staff needed to improve as he entered the final year of his contract. That approach will remain when the Coyotes’ 2023-24 season concludes on April 17.

“I will need to take a step back when everything is settled, but I’m not satisfied with what’s going on right now. I’m not satisfied about a lot of things,” he said. “That will never change. That’s who I am. That’s the way I’m built. I don’t know if I will ever be satisfied.”

In the meantime, Tourigny is preaching unity as the only path out of this dark maze. 

“We’re in the trenches together,” he said. “It’s not about pointing fingers and saying, ‘Hey, the leader has to do more.’ That’s a really good way to fail and to not get out of it. When you have tough times, you need to be in this together even more so. 

“I’m with the players. I believe in them. I like them. I’m always on the players’ side and that will never change.”


Arizona is 0-7-1 since the Smith Entertainment Group announced its desire to enter the NHL expansion process with an “immediate ability to welcome an NHL team to Utah, using Delta Center as an interim home arena for an NHL franchise.”

A look at the Coyotes over this eight-game losing streak during which Arizona has been outscored 36-17.

Clayton Keller8257Minus 4
Matias Maccelli8123Minus 4
Nick Schmaltz8123Minus 4
Alex Kerfoot8123Minus 6
Lawson Crouse8101Minus 7
Sean Durzi8101Minus 11
Nick Bjugstad8000Minus 7
Logan Cooley8314Even
Jason Zucker8145Minus 4
Michael Carcone5000Minus 7
Jack McBain8022Plus 1
Dylan Guenther8336Plus 2
Barrett Hayton5011Minus 2
JJ Moser8033Minus 5
Juuso Välimäki8123Minus 3
Matt Dumba8101Minus 3
Michael Kesselring8011Plus 1
Travis Dermott7112Minus 4
Liam O’Brien4000Minus 3
Josh Brown3111Even
Adam Ružička2000Even
Boldface signifies leader in category
GoalieGames Shots againstGoals againstSave percentageRecord
Connor Ingram514919.8720-3-1
Karel Vejmelka514216.8990-3

Top photo of André Tourigny via Getty Images

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