Don Maloney joked that the way things used to be for him with the Phoenix Coyotes may never be better than they were before.
After all, with the NHL in control of the team but not involved in the day-to-day operations, he had a considerable amount of freedom to make decisions, provided they fit within a league-mandated budget.
That said, Maloney says the new arrangement, with a stable ownership group, is a better way to go, even if he now has a “boss” as well as higher expectations.
Because, well, the benefit of a bit more financial backing as well as stability will go a long way.
“We know this can work in Arizona, but you have to have a good product, you have to win, you have to get in the playoffs,” Maloney told Arizona Sports 620’s Bickley with Marotta Thursday. “You don’t have to win a Cup every year, and I’ve said this forever and ever, but you have to be competitive.”
Maloney added that the last couple years of the ownership saga had been especially trying, as everyone wanted to know where the team would be playing. He said the preference was always to stay in Arizona, but at some point a decision just needed to be made.
And now that it has and the Coyotes are staying in the desert, it will be much easier to bring in new talent.
“When it came down to free agent time, you’d probably strike the top five, six, seven guys off your list immediately,” Maloney said. “Guys that had all kind of options, we weren’t an option; there was just too much uncertainty.”
So, Maloney said the team would instead need to find good values, such as veteran Ray Whitney.
“We were really at a stage where we had to find the best of the second-tier free agent and convince him to come in with a great coach and a great coaching staff,” he said. “And it’s not too tough to live in Arizona come October through April and May, either.”
Sometimes that works, but sometimes it doesn’t. After all, the top free agents are the top free agents for a reason.
As of now there have been no indications that the Coyotes will suddenly boast one of the highest payrolls in the league, and to expect them to spend like the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers would be a little unfair. However, the Coyotes do seem to have plenty to offer, so one could expect a change in how the team does business.
Because the goal is to win, and the once-present obstacles are no longer standing in the team’s way.
“That’s why Dave Tippett is here, that’s why I’m here and Shane Doan is here,” he said. “We just thought it was really difficult for us to be a playoff team, consistently, with no strong ownership.
“We just had too many things working against us; not only was attracting new players, it was keeping our own players.”
Maloney said many of his players would have preferred to stay but did not want to risk being relocated to a city they did not want to play in.
“So long story short, it was a good experience,” he said. “But that’s a thing in the past — we have come in and win now.”
Gone are the excuses and the “woe is me” attitude that may have permeated the building, as the new ownership group affords Maloney new opportunities.
“They understand the game, they know the resources you need to have a successful franchise,” he said. “That’s not to say we’re going to race out and start spending millions of dollars, but if the deal comes along — the right deal — as we grow this franchise, then the resources will be there to give us a better chance to win, and that’s what we’re all about here.”