As the dust begins to settle in the desert from the shocking Arizona Coyotes front office mess, the Coyotes general manager search has started. While the team did announce that former assistant general manager, Steve Sullivan would be taking over on an interim basis, it’s unclear who will be assigned on a permanent basis.
Arizona Coyotes Need a New General Manager
John Chayka made an abrupt and surprising move to terminate his contract with the Coyotes. The team named Steve Sullivan as the new general manager on an interim basis. Sullivan has acted as the assistant general manager for the past three years. He also has been running the team’s Tucson Roadrunners AHL affiliate acting as the general manager there.
Many critics of Chayka were saying with the new ownership in place and a new CEO hired they need an experienced general manager with hockey sense. Enter Steve Sullivan. He began as the team’s development coach in 2014-15. Sullivan knows the prospects in the organization first hand. He also is a veteran of a 16-year NHL career where he potted 747 points with 290 goals.
The team’s current leading goal-scorer, Conor Garland worked his way through the Tucson Roadrunners to the NHL. Over 68 games between the Coyotes and Roadrunners during the 2018-19 season, Garland managed 25 goals. His tenacity and hustle has exemplified him as a player for the future.
Who Will be Sullivan’s Competition For The Job
There will be a couple of other candidates for the new general manager opening besides Sullivan. While the NHL is still promoting Peter Chiarelli to be a general manager somewhere, does he really fit in Arizona? His past has some really controversial trades. Take for instance, the Tyler Seguin debacle and sending Hall packing to the New Jersey Devils. The latter trade could hit home hard with Hall if Chiarelli is considered. It could certainly hinder their chances of signing Hall.
Another option would be Sean Burke. He was a former assistant general manager at about the same time that Chayka was moving up the organization’s executive ladder. Burke is currently an exec with Hockey Canada and goalie consultant for the Montreal Canadiens. In his playing days, he was in the Phoenix net for 211 games with a 92-78-29 record. His .919 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against-average were excellent. Burke has some talents and is locally known. Many thought that when Chayka was elevated, the job should have been Burke’s.
Even though Shane Doan may not be general manager material, he certainly deserves a place in the Coyotes’ organization. If Sullivan is given the permanent general manager position that would leave an opening for Sullivan’s old job in Tucson.
Doan is a Coyotes legend and his popularity is off the charts. But, can he run a team and evaluate young talent? Doan’s loyalty goes without mentioning. He was treated unfairly and not re-signed when he still thought he could play. Ironically, it was Chayka who gave Doan the boot. Now that Chayka is gone, Doan may be able to move up in the organization with a role like this. He has been working in the NHL’s hockey operations department.
What This Means for the Future
The Coyotes organization needs stability. It was certainly thought that when new owner Alex Meruelo bought the team about a year ago, things would settle down. There never seems to be a lack of controversy surrounding this team. Chayka’s antics certainly didn’t help.
Xavier Gutierrez was appointed as the new President/CEO and his top assignment is to address the long-overdue arena situation.
There have been some recent rumblings that the team is looking into some arena possibilities. Even staying at Gila River Arena being one of them. Meruelo has ties to construction and owns a couple of gambling casinos. The possibility of a new facility in the Scottsdale area is considered to be a top choice. It would address the fanbase’s complaints of a long commute from the East Valley to the Glendale site they now use. A public financed arena would not be a popular decision. Private financing would appeal better to local voters and Gutierrez needs to find some investors to get that done.
While all of the drama has perhaps distracted the Coyotes’ focus on the qualifying series they are about to undertake, the players need to focus. The front office situation will be resolved. Beating the Nashville Predators must be their top priority. If they can accomplish that and move to the ‘real’ playoffs, this team could get past the tabloid news and really make a splash.
They haven’t made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012. It’s about time the Coyotes made some positive news for a change.