When the news come over the wire that the Arizona Coyotes ownership fired general manager Don Maloney, it was very surprising. This was a big mistake by the Coyotes ownership. Maloney a seasoned GM, who spent nine years as the Coyotes GM, has the organization poised to go from a rebuild phase to a Pacific division contender.
The Coyotes ownership’s financial commitment in recent years in terms of player payroll has been minimal, as Arizona is a salary cap floor team. In fact last off-season the Coyotes acquired retired (and Hall of Famer) Chris Pronger from the Philadelphia Flyers to land his $4.9 million cap hit to aid them in their quest to have as low of a player payroll as possible. Pronger is on the Coyotes salary cap books for next year as well at the same number. Such a move speaks volumes to ownership’s commitment. But despite that, Maloney has put this franchise in a strong position in terms of the future, with his analytics short-comings aside.
One of the most unfair firings I've ever seen today w/ Don Maloney. Made the most of an impossible situation & loaded ARI with young talent
— Steve Mears (@MearsyNHL) April 12, 2016
The 2015-16 Season
Going into this past season most NHL experts viewed Arizona as a bottom-five team in the league. The Coyotes were a nice surprise this year going 35-39-8 with 78 points. The Coyotes are not that far away from being one of the top three teams in the Pacific.
So how does a team over-achieve and the GM lose his job? When you consider that the Coyotes had to scramble between the pipes due to Mike Smith’s injuries – he only started 32 games – Arizona’s record is even more impressive. The Coyotes clearly took a step in their development as a team, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair all had terrific seasons. But yet Maloney is out?
Best Pipeline in the Sport
The latest team rankings by Hockeys Future had the Coyotes ranked number one in terms of the NHL prospect pools. When one of the top prospect sites says your organization has the best farm system in the sport, then your GM is doing something right. This franchise’s current plan is about building for the future and Maloney has thrived in filling up the cupboard.
Again, how does the GM lose his job when he has stockpiled all of this young talent? Keep in mind hockey fans, the next wave is coming soon to Arizona in Dylan Strome, Henrik Samuelsson and Brendon Perlini as well.
#Coyotes have a very bright future ahead. Possible that @stromer19 & @10_CD join the Pack next season. pic.twitter.com/xcsKOiMp0t
— Rich Nairn (@RichNairn9) April 10, 2016
Maloney has made some key trades, and he hit a big home run when he moved Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers in 2015. By taking on half of Yandle’s salary Maloney received a killer return from the Blue Shirts. Keep in mind, at the time of the trade, Yandle was a little more than a year away from being an unrestricted free agent.
For Yandle, Arizona received in return Duclair, the Rangers second round pick in 2015 (the Coyotes flipped this pick to Calgary for two third round picks) and the Blue Shirts first round pick this year in 2016. Yandle is a really good blue liner but to land a return with that kind of value and volume for a player who is not that far away from free agency, was a tremendous job done by Maloney.
Duclair looks like a top forward to build around for the next ten years. If Maloney just received Duclair alone for Yandle it would have been a great trade for Arizona. But to also land future second and first round draft picks, this trade becomes a bonanza for the Coyotes. Quietly, Maloney also added a first round pick last year for pending UFA Antonnie Vermette from the Chicago Blackhawks. Pretty good return in that under-the-radar move as well. Vermette ended up resigning with the Coyotes this past summer, after he won a Stanley Cup in Chicago.
Surprised #AZ fired Maloney. In last 2 years he drafted a stud in Domi and got great hauls for Yandle and Vermette. #Coyotes
— Net Front Presence (@NetFrontPresnce) April 11, 2016
Am I saying Don Maloney is the best GM in the NHL? No I am not saying that at all. I am sure Maloney has a short coming or two as a GM, and most do. But the bottom line is this organization is flushed with future talent and Maloney was the architect under very difficult circumstances. Over the next year or two when the Coyotes are flourishing in the NHL, Coyotes fans are going to have to thank Don Maloney for that.