New Coyotes assistant GM attracted to team’s vision, long-term upside

Sep 16, 2021, 4:25 PM
Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong and assistant general manager John Ferguson (Screens...
Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong and assistant general manager John Ferguson (Screenshot)

It’s no real secret what direction the Arizona Coyotes are heading in.

General manager Bill Armstrong has shifted the team into a full-fledged rebuild, trading a handful of his top players in exchange for draft picks, taking on players with hefty salaries in exchange for future selections as well. Including conditional picks, the Coyotes have three first-round picks and five second-rounders in 2022. There’s also an extra third-rounder in 2023 and two more second-round selections in 2024, on top of an extra third-rounder and fourth-round pick that year too.

With the way the Coyotes have, more or less, gutted their roster without adding proven names in free agency or on the trade market, the most expected outcome is that they will be struggling for the next few seasons while growing young talent.

New assistant general manager John Ferguson, who will also be the GM of the team’s AHL affiliate, spoke to the shift taking place.

“What’s gone on here previously has not worked,” he said Thursday. “That can be a little bit harsh, but you are what your record says you are and there are lots of areas that Billy has addressed and will need to be addressed on or off the ice. He’s well on his way and I’m here to help. We have a bright future here. I can’t give you a timeline, certainly I’ll leave that to others, but a level of respect needs to be earned in any business, especially in this business.”

Ferguson commented on what he’s seen Armstrong achieve in his first season on the job and the mission statement from the front office.

“It was obvious since Bill came aboard there was a clear plan in place, commitment from ownership to do what was necessary, to build a group that can win and win long term,” he said. “That’s very intriguing to me. The upside is huge. It is a great challenge. I understand that, we all understand that. But an equally greater opportunity with a huge upside.”

In his position, Ferguson will be even more important than the everyday assistant GM, as his position for the Tucson Roadrunners will potentially mean that he will be overseeing some of those draft picks rolling through his AHL roster. That’s something Ferguson had experience with in Boston, where he spent the last seven seasons for the Bruins as executive director of player personnel and the GM of their AHL affiliate.

He spoke on what his vision is for an AHL team.

“In a nutshell, it’s develop NHL players in a competitively successful environment and we live that day in and day out,” Ferguson said. “That being said, we’re in the pros, you play to win, you need to learn to win. These players need to learn how to be part of a winning team and that’s gonna put them in (a) good [position] to move up and hopefully when they are moved up, they’re ready to stay.”

Armstrong noted he has spent the last 20 years in front offices trying to hire Ferguson.

“I think just over the years of watching him work and who he worked with and the success he had running strong American (Hockey) League teams that produced NHL players, that’s a key,” Armstrong said.

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