Arizona Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney made one thing clear while on the air with Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning: He is not to be confused with Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie.
Despite what Coyotes fans may think, Hinkie’s affinity for tanking has not influenced Maloney’s long-term vision for the franchise in the aftermath of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
“I’ve been asked that before and I think it’s such a silly question, or a silly concept rather,” said Maloney regarding whether the organization is tanking in order to improve its lottery chances. “Call Dave Tippett up. You think he gives a damn about this draft and who’s coming? He’s going into the game and trying to give the team the best chance to win. Ask Shane Doan or Oliver Ekman-Larsson or any of the players we have. You think they’re going in thinking, ‘Gee, guys, let’s blow this game cause we’re going to get this player that no one has ever heard of.’ It’s insane.”
Instead, Maloney preferred to use the word “reboot” after realizing the organization was trending the in wrong direction having missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last three seasons, including this year’s woeful 47-point campaign, which is the third-worst total in the NHL.
“We didn’t expect to be here,” he said. “We certainly thought we could be much more competitive. When it became clear that we weren’t, after missing the playoffs barely two years ago and last year but missing by a country mile this year, internally, we had a lot of soul searching and realized this isn’t working.”
In order to make it work, the Coyotes shifted into asset collection mode, shipping center Antoine Vermitte to Chicago and defensemen Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek to New York and St. Louis, respectively. In exchange, the Coyotes received defenseman Klas Dalbeck and a 2015 first-round pick from the Blackhawks; forward Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a 2015 second-round pick, and a 2016 first-round pick from the Rangers; and 19-year old center Maxim Letunov from the Blues.
Though the trades sending Vermitte and Michalek were expected, the deal sending Yandle — the team’s leading scorer — to New York was one that caught many in the organization by surprise. Perhaps most affected by the reports of Yandle’s departure was Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who according to Maloney, was reportedly “shaken” by the news.
“I think everybody understood that Antoine Vermette and Zbynek Michalek are good players, good playoff players, but that they were going to get traded. When the Yandle trade came up, Keith and Shane are very close friends, and [the trade] is one that hit him hard.
“I get it, I understand it, but we’re not in the Girl Scout business. We’re in the business of winning. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re getting paid. Shane’s a pro, he’ll get through it, he’ll understand it when he sees where this can take us. We still need leadership and how we’re going to play in this organization, but you can’t deny that he was pretty shook up the last couple days seeing very good friends and teammates that had survived the ‘war’, so to speak, over the last four or five years here. To see them head out the door, it was tough for him.”
Though a woefully disappointing 2014-15 season will linger for at least another month, Maloney offered consolation — however empty — to fans seeking better days ahead.
“We’re still going to compete, we’re going to play hard,” said Maloney. “I don’t care if you’re Buffalo or Edmonton, you’ve got players and you’ve got coaches who are paid to win hockey games, and that’s the approach. You really can’t do it any other way.”