Without purposefully going into detail, Arizona Coyotes’ president Anthony LeBlanc simply said there was an alteration in philosophy, and a change was needed. That’s the politically correct way of saying, without the bombastic style of Donald Trump, you’re fired.
In a move which was surprising, but not totally shocking, the Arizona Coyotes said to now former general manager Don Maloney that we have a change in direction, and this is where you get off the bus. After nine seasons as the Coyotes’ GM and missing the playoffs the last four years, Arizona management said they had enough. Maloney was the first head to roll Monday in the after-math of teams not qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and several more are expected to follow.
A principal reason LeBlanc cited was teams like the Islanders, Ducks, Predators, and the Panthers as clubs in the lower third among NHL teams spending for free agents, and still qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. In a business where the mantra is “win now, or else,” Maloney became a victim of a sustained drought, and a protracted experience of poor performances.
“People say we improved, and there’s a future here,” said captain Shane Doan Monday morning as the Coyotes cleaned out their lockers in the Gila River Arena for the summer. “When you miss the playoff four years in a row, you can’t be that close. In sports when you don’t win, there are changes.”
In arriving at the decision to part ways with Maloney, LeBlanc hinted that the franchise did not receive value from which the players Maloney signed. While Brad Richardson, a free agent signed last season and his enjoyed the best production (11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points) of his career, these were not the kind of numbers which could start a Coyotes’ ascendancy. By compassion, Richardson’s previous best season was the 2009-10 campaign in which he registered 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) for the Los Angeles Kings.
Another Disappointing Season
Maloney’s high-water mark with the Arizona franchise came with a competitive Western Conference finals against the Kings in 2012. That was the highest point the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise reached, and since, the Coyotes have watched the playoffs on television.
“It’s disappointing,” said center Martin Hanzal. “We were a little better than last year, but that doesn’t make any difference. You want to win now, and winning means getting into the playoffs.”
So LeBlanc and team owner Andrew Barroway will run through their collective Black Book and see which names surface. At this point, the Coyotes will not have an interim general manager, but expect to have Maloney’s replacement at his desk before the June 24-25 draft at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
One beneficiary of the Maloney move could be coach Dave Tippett. With two years remaining on his contract, Tippett is said to gain more control of player personnel decisions. That fact may come to light Tuesday morning. That’s when Tippett is schedule to meet with the media.
For now, the Coyotes, after the sting of another losing season, will try and move forward again. This seems like a broken record in the desert, but the relative progress made over the dreadful 2014-15 season, appears marginal in comparison to the ultimate goal of gaining a seat at the Stanley Cup table.
“It hurts not making the playoffs,” said Max Domi. “Let’s hope I’m talking to you again next year, but at a later time than early April.”
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.