Max Domi is gearing up for his third National Hockey League campaign, and he’s clearly excited about the direction of his franchise for 2017-18 and beyond.
The Arizona Coyotes forward did the media rounds on Tuesday, helping to promote diabetes awareness through the Light It Up campaign with Ascensia Diabetes and the Contour Next One smart meter and app.
The Coyotes made some significant changes during the offseason, not the least of which was finally parting ways with 40-year-old franchise legend Shane Doan.
“It’s going to be very weird,” said Domi, 22, on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 of the approaching training camp that will be without the veteran leader. “That organization would be nothing without Shane Doan. He’s been the face of that thing for so long. I don’t know if hockey would still be in Arizona if it wasn’t for him. What he’s done for the league and that franchise is unbelievable.
“To have front-row seats and watching how he’s handled himself on the ice, off the ice, with the community, the people that work around the rink, just random people on the street, his family – he’s a special, special guy. He’s someone I look up to. If you can be a fraction of the person he is, then you’re doing alright.
“I’m excited for that. I think he’ll find something that he’ll absolutely kill it at. We’re excited to see what he does. We’re happy and extremely honored to have shared a brief part of his long, long career and it’s something that I’ll cherish for a long time.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson may be the next in line for the team’s captaincy, but Domi and others on the roster will be counted on to fill the void.
“It’s always going to be a team,” Domi mentioned on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. “The way you’ve got to look at it is everyone is going to step up in different situations, and everyone is going to hold each other accountable. There’s no real one leader on a team. The whole captain thing is overrated. Yeah, it says a lot and everyone kind of looks up to you, but everyone in that locker room is a leader and everyone handles the situation differently and makes that team go. It takes 23 guys, it doesn’t take one.
“It’s unfortunate to see a guy like Doaner that was literally the driver of the ship for 20 years go, but we’re lucky enough to have a full team that can fulfill a very small fraction of what he did for us.
“It’s exciting, and I’m excited for this new era, so to speak, in Arizona.”
One of the more interesting questions during Domi’s extensive radio tour, which included a number of TSN stations across the country, came during his time with Toronto’s TSN 1050.
Domi spent his junior career with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, a franchise with a lot of winning on its resume.
The Coyotes, needless to say, haven’t been as successful.
Domi was asked comparatively about the culture of winning and what that means to a dressing room.
“It’s two different leagues, so you can’t really compare the two,” qualified Domi initially. “In London, everything is winning. You can do whatever you want, but you come to the rink and you’re going to win. If you don’t do that, then things are going to change. But we’re going to win. And every single guy was on board. There was no individuality. It was just straight team. You’re going to come to the rink. You’re going to work hard. You’re going to do whatever you’re asked to do. It’s business.
“It’s the same thing in Arizona, really. I say that it’s two different leagues because you’re required to do all that stuff in the NHL, regardless of where you’re playing. But for whatever reason, we were a little bit behind in some aspects.
“You watch a team like Chicago, and the confidence that a team like that has – they know they’re going to win every night. Pittsburgh, same thing. You go in, you’re a little nervous to play against a team like that because of the confidence they walk around with, the swagger they have on the ice, the plays, the preparation they’ve had. That’s an elite franchise. We can be that. There’s no question about it. We have the personnel to do that. We’ve just got to find a way to get there.”
If the Coyotes can continue to make progress toward that winning environment, Domi seems to feel it’ll shine a light on what’s perhaps an underappreciated hockey market.
That was reflected in an answer he provided to Vancouver’s TSN 1040 about what it’s like playing in Arizona.
He absolutely loves it.
“It’s just so laid back over there,” Domi relayed. “Everyone is so nice. The food is great. You look up and you’re not going to find a cloud if you look for one, so it’s awesome…
“And you know what? The fan base is unbelievable. They don’t get nearly enough credit. We just haven’t been able to perform to where we should be able to right now, so that’s on us. When we figure that out, then I’m sure you guys will start to notice that we get a lot more fans than you guys think we do.
“Our fans deserve a lot of credit and I think this year we’ll give them something to cheer for.”
In order to give the fans something for which to cheer, the Coyotes need to start winning more games on the ice. General manager John Chayka made a host of modifications designed to help that process along, and Domi’s enthusiasm was palpable in each interview.
“I can’t wait. It’s really exciting,” said Domi on TSN 1040. “I think we’re at the top of the list for most moves in one offseason. Management did a great job in bringing in a guy like Tocch. We had a great coach with Dave Tippett, and his assistants Newell Brown and Jim Playfair. They were unbelievable guys. Learned a lot from all three of them. I wish them nothing but the best.
“But to bring a guy like Tocch in is exciting for a player like myself and the kind of guys we have on our team. He plays a fast game. He’s won three Cups himself – two as a coach and one as a player. You can’t really ask for more from a coach than that. He’s a guy that has winning pedigree and that’s what it’s all about. To learn from him every day is something that we’re going to take a lot of pride in and we’re going to understand how lucky we are to have that guy around. We’ll ask him a lot of questions and just observe what he does. It should go a long way.
“Obviously on the ice aspect, bringing in a guy like Derek Stepan – who’s a legitimate No. 1 center – and hasn’t missed the playoffs in his entire career. That right there is a pretty cool thing to have on your belt.
“A guy like Hjalmarsson, who’s won multiple Stanley Cups, you can’t ask for much more than that. To pair with a guy like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who’s a Top 10, Top 5 – in my opinion, he’s the best defenseman in the league. That’s great to have.
“And a goalie in Antti Raanta. I mean, it’s tough to see guys move on, but you know what? It’s all positive stuff and all really excited about this year coming up and I can’t wait to get down there.”
The Coyotes will open their regular season schedule on the road against the Anaheim Ducks on October 5