The Arizona Coyotes announced via Twitter and NHL.com that they have parted ways with assistant general manager Steve Sullivan.
The move comes as the Coyotes battle to cling onto a playoff spot in the West Division. Sullivan oversaw a tumultuous time in Coyotes history. They hired him as a development coach for the team in 2014. In 2016, they promoted him to director of player development. The following year, he became assistant general manager of the Coyotes and general manager of their AHL Franchise, the Tucson Roadrunners.
Promotion to Interim General Manager
On July 26, 2020, the Coyotes promoted Sullivan to interim general manager following the departure of John Chayka. He held that position until the team hired Bill Armstrong from the St Louis Blues on Sept. 17, 2020. A part of the agreement in hiring Armstrong stipulated he would have no hand in the Coyotes 2020 Draft selections. Therefore, Sullivan would handle the Draft.
It’s unclear what authority the Coyotes gave Sullivan to make trades or sign contracts during his time as interim general manager. During his time, he signed only three contracts (Blake Speers, Lane Pederson and Adin Hill). The big contract that Sullivan did not sign was for Taylor Hall, whom Chayka had acquired in a blockbuster trade earlier in the season. Sullivan also made no trades to acquire additional draft resources, meaning that the Coyotes entered the 2020 NHL Draft without a pick until the fourth round.
The 2020 NHL Draft Controversy
At the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Coyotes selected Mitchell Miller. There had been some negative character rumors about Miller swirling, and at first glance, it looked like these rumors had caused an otherwise skilled young hockey player to slide in the draft. However, not long after his selection, the full truth about who he was became more well known. Reports flooded Twitter about how Miller had pleaded guilty and sentenced to 25 hours of community service for misdemeanors related to a bullying incident in violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act in Feb. 2016.
As graphic details regarding the incident and Miller’s subsequent handling of it became common public knowledge, there were calls from around the hockey community to renounce the pick. After initially stating they believed they were in a position to help Miller, the Coyotes subsequently renounced the pick on Oct. 29, 2020.
Miller had sent a letter to all 31 NHL teams, so Sullivan should have been aware of the incident in question. With Armstrong officially not involved in the draft, the responsibility for this pick, and the fallout in the wake of it, came on Sullivan’s watch. For the Coyotes, it left them with another lost draft pick and a black mark on the franchise that will not be easily forgotten.
The details regarding Sullivan’s dismissal are currently scant. The press release was short and gave no details regarding his firing other than the team opting not to fill his position at this point in time. It is unknown if the decision to part ways with Sullivan has to do with the fallout from the Miller Incident or with the relative inaction with regards to transactions leading up to the draft.